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Each year about this time I get a wave of inquiries from aspiring young designers, web crafters, illustrators, and graphics student who all want to come to work for either Showker Graphic Arts & Design, or the Design & Publishing Center.
__ I have a tattered file folder right here with more than 100 resumes we've received in the past year. Our email box accumulates dozens and dozens of position seekers who all attempt to catch my attention to get a job.

Here are some tips to those of you who are hitting the pavement this spring in search of employment in the world of graphic arts and design. If you come prepared with the answers to these questions, I cannot guarantee a position, but I believe more doors will be open to your quest.

Standing out...
will always get your further than standing up

GRADUATES from all kinds of schools in all walks of life are agonizing over their career path these days. In a marketplace where 80% of the business is done in-house, and just about anyone with a desktop computer can think they're a designer, the belts are tightening, and opportunities are diminishing. Yes, if you listen to the radio and read the trade pubs you'll think it's a job-hunters market -- but not for the graphic designer.
__ Standing up when they call your name is not enough. What you really need to do is stand out. The ones who stand out are the ones who cut through the noise and offer the promise of rewards the employers are looking for.

Understand the function of a resume
The major function of a resume is to get you an interview -- however beware of the resume trainers and tipsters. The visual field is very different from the normal job market. Many prospective creative employers won't care about where you went and what you did. You'll need to stand out, and performance is the only thing that will save you.

Know your mark
Identify potential employers and send, your resume or letter of introductionto them. NEVER shotgun. I get these canned resumes, probably mass duplicated at the Kinko's and they're directly in the trash. You are marketing yourself. Remember no marketer ever sold anything to anyone who didn't need or want the service. Learn more about the company before you actually go for the interview. If you don't take this important step, they'll know it.

Have a strong portfolio
Many people misunderstand the nature of a "strong" portfolio. You noted in my "Tips" column, I say "Three of the best pieces." That's true. But you really need three killer pieces that are 'positioned' to what that particular prospective needs and wants. (See "Know Your Mark" above.) So this is a dilemma. Every prospective employer will have different needs and wants. The best way to cater to this situation is with a good electronic portfolio.
__ Nine out of ten electronic portfolios dictate to me what the student or candidate wants to be seen. Nope, that's the wrong approach. Mainly because I want to see what I want to see. I don't give a hill of beans about what the candidate thought I would want. So the primary objectives of a good electronic portfolio are choice, and clarity.
__ Since you don't want to produce a new portfolio for every single prospective interview, you'll want to build in as much diversity as you can. Take your strongest points and boil them down to three or four 'tracks' the viewer can take. Run the odds that of those four, at least one will get the viewer's attention.
__ Make the arrival as clean and inviting as you possibly can. Don't focus on yourself -- remember: they don't care about you. All they care about is how they will benefit from hiring you. This is an important distinction.
__ And make it clean. It needs to be instantly clear what you are offering, and how to proceed into that track. If you lose them on the arrival, you've lost them.
__ Present thumbnails. Don't swamp the screen with what you think is your most important work. The lag time might kill you, and you'll risk second guessing that the image you throw is the one they want. Offer thumbnails.
__ So already we've established a hierarchy -- an arrival with distinct tracks, and 2nd arrivals in those tracks that present thumbnails.
__ Present technique. Each piece should be accompanied by a 15 to 25 word statement about the piece. Who was the client? How was it done... more importantly why it was done and why you chose to do it that way. This exercise not only adds interest to the piece, but gives the reader a glimpse into who you are and what value you can bring to the prospective's table.
__ This folio doesn't have to be extravagant. Clarity is the main objective. The viewer should never have to work for the outcome. They should flow smoothly and easily into the track they select. They should be able to view most or all of the folio in five minutes or so. If they linger, you've got it made. But if they exit prematurely you're lost.
__ Finally, once you've developed the folio as you think it should be, take it around and show it off. See if people meet it with the desired results. See if they are compelled to ask questions and dig deeper into the discovery path. This is the true test.

A quick postcard, or letter will do it, and it doesn't have to be elaborate. Hand written is best. Follow up within FOUR days. Thank the person you spoke with for their time and if you're interested in the job, say so. Even if you don't get the job, this opens an opportunity to stay in touch.

Self-presentation is everything
Remember it's a selling proposition. The one shred of light the prospective employer is looking for is the answer or an answer to some need or problem the employer has. If you hit the mark, you're most certainly in. The more attractive your "product offering" is to the prospective employers, the better the chance will be.

Exude your own special confidence and performance
You should not display arrogance, but you should be bright, upbeat and confident. (Arrogant people do not get hired. I've never hired an arrogant person. If there's a reason to be arrogant, I'll see it without your help.) The visual communications industry is upbeat. If you're not, then you won't seem to fit. I've received hundreds of blah resumes, all written from the "resume book" or Kinko's 'How to Write A Resume' and about 99% of them didn't make it out of the 'to read' file. The best resume I ever got was one written by hand, not bragging about accomplishments, but declaring how hard and how creatively the candidate would work for me. It was a bit flip, and slightly on the weird side. But its presentation and voice convinced me that I really had to have this person working for me. I knew he would bring good things to the firm. He was hired, and stayed five years -- great years!

Armed with these tools, you should do well. If you don't, then go back and ask why. Work on your act, refine and clarify. Then go for it again.

See "Tips for Graduates"


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