Friday, February 27, 2009

Take the Long View on Your Job Search

Not that you don't already know this, but this economy officially blows ... and it's going to last awhile. Especially in our industry.

The hardest hit? You. (Or at least it feels that way.)

So, what should you do? Stay in school (or go back)? Find a job in another industry? Try even harder?


You need to do whatever is right for you – with one huge caveat. Continue your job search while you do whatever else you need to do. Just make sure you take the long view on your career.
  • Interview at places that don't currently have openings.
  • Get involved in local industry organizations and meet as many people as possible.
  • Regularly follow up with people you've met. Build relationships.
  • Continue to build/improve your portfolio.
  • Do creative work for non-profits that otherwise couldn't afford creative services.
  • Keep your skills sharp.
Think of this as setting yourself up for a job in three, six or 12 months. And if you get one earlier than that, bonus. Eventually, hiring will pick back up and you want to be top-of-mind when it starts. (I know the first three people I'm going after when I'm ready to add staff – one's in college and one graduated a year ago.)

The key is persistence. With this economy, unfortunately, you have to change your expectations. It's going to be a long, hard search process. Prepare yourself for that fact.

There is no better way to make a living than as a creative. After all these years, I still find myself thinking "I can't believe I get paid to do this."

And you will too. You just have to stick with it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Your Instructor Isn't the Only One Grading Your Assignments

It's time to change the way you look at class assignments.

You're not doing them for the grade. Or your instructor. Or, worse yet, just to get them done.

You're doing them for your portfolio.

Because when it comes down to it, creative directors don't care about your grades, your instructor, or your school. They care about the content of your portfolio. Period.

And where do those portfolio pieces come from? Mostly from class assignments.

So when starting an assignment, think about how it will fit into your portfolio. Will it show creative growth? Or will it show boring repetition? Will it show new skills? Or that you only have a few tools at your disposal? Will it show the kind of work you are passionate about? Or simply show what you did?

Create work that shows your true capabilities. Go beyond the assignment and put more into it than required. And once you've received your grade, go back and make it even better. (Yes, improve it even after you've received your grade.)

Trust me, your instructors will appreciate it.

And, more importantly, creative directors will too.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Follow Your Connections to the End

Last year at the ADDY Awards, an art director named Matt introduced himself to me.

He then thanked me for helping him land his current job – three years ago.

It may seem odd that he received help from someone he had never met, but it's not unusual. Smart networking and consistent follow through include contacting many people you've never met. And you have to be persistent to continue the chain of connections until you reach your goal.

Matt was ready for a job change and our mutual friend Greg told him to contact me. I trust Greg's judgement so I talked to Matt on the phone and told him to send me his portfolio.

His work was outstanding and very specialized. I happened to know the perfect place for him. I sent him to a guy I didn't know at the time (but do now). Matt followed up with with that connection and got the job.

In the end, Matt landed his job by connecting with Greg, who connected him to me, who connected him to his current boss.

The sad thing is most people never follow through and make that second or third connection.

More often than not, someone will tell me they advised a friend to contact me and I'll never hear from that person. In fact, I'm usually surprised when I do.

Be smart. Follow each connection until the end. 

You never know which connection is going to lead you to that elusive job. Just ask Matt.