You've got your design qualification; now how do you make it pay? Take heed of our tips to get your foot in the studio doors.
Once the euphoria of achieving your design qualification has passed, it's time to start thinking about the realities of getting a job in one of the most competitive industries on the planet. Don't be all that surprised, then, if potential employers aren't fighting over each other to hire you - it's a crowded market out there.
It's essential therefore to you make yourself stand out from the herd. Whether it's an eye-catching business card, blistering online portfolio or professional-looking CV, there is a multitude of ways to stick out from the crowd. By following our ten tips to getting you're first creative job, you can maximise your chances of leaving a lasting impression and open doors to your dream career path.
1. Balance your CV
Because art directors will be paying close attention to the layout of your CV as much as the content, it's a good idea to use a creative package to design it in. Think about the flow of your CV, and try and create a visually rich frame for the information contained in it.
Remember that a CV should be clear and easy to navigate, though. If you bury your skills in complex design fonts and difficult-to-read text, your CV will hit the recycle bin rather than the shortlist.
2. Include samples of work
By not including any samples of your work with your CV, you're pretty much guaranteeing that the recipient will not consider you for the post. Stills from motion graphics projects are perfect, unless you've been specifically asked to include a showreel. If you're emailing your CV and samples, send them as PDFs and keep the file sizes small. Beware, though: you're CV is not your portfolio, so don't go overboard with images.
3. Create an online portfolio
Building a small website is pretty simple stuff these days, and setting up a simple Wordpress blog is the minimum expected of a creative worker. Ensure your portfolio or blog is regularly updated with new work; prove you're a productive person with a passion for creativity. Once your site's up and running, use Twitter to pimp it, submit it to design blogs, and include the URL on all of your correspondence, business cards and CVs.
4. Check your spelling
Visually creative folks aren't generally known as grammatical experts, and there's nothing more frustrating than coming across an intriguing CV only to find it littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Just about all text editors and lay out apps like Quark and InDesign have spell-checking capabilities, but that's no replacement for giving it the once over yourself to spot contextual errors such as 'there/their' and 'its/it's'. If in doubt, get someone to read over it that knows their spelling and grammar.
5. Ensure you stamp your personality
Keeping things simple is not the same as making things dull. A CV, portfolio, blog or website is a reflection of your disposition and persona, and the recipient will be scanning it, consciously or not, for elements that distinguish you from the other hundreds they have to wade through. Make your work stand out with an idiosyncratic design, personal touches and a genuine sense of involvement and commitment to the industry.
6. Get out there
Work experience may seem like slave labour, but it's a core CV builder and can open many doors. Even if there's no place for you at the moment, a week's work experience will put you on the shortlist when any new roles do occur. If you can prove to a potential employer that you're not only experienced, but you have the passion and commitment to work for free, then you're on solid ground.
7. Meet and greet
Get involved in the industry - even if it's just as a punter. Creative industry events such as the D&AD's lecture series, Design Museum shows and conferences act as fertile networking ground. Get out there and shake some hands. There's also nothing wrong with cold-calling; just except that creative studios tend to be busy places. Call and ask if you can send in some work samples, then hit them with your CV and a portfolio link.
8. First impressions count
Make sure you present yourself as professionally as possible - from your general demeanour to your business card. When meeting potential employers - at an interview or otherwise - be calm, clear and collected. Creative people celebrate eccentricities and kooks, but they value professionalism and straight talking, and a reliable worker is preferable to a talented yet difficult one. Remember you're aiming to work in a professional industry, not a creative playpen.
9. Become A Brand
If you're unemployed - of freelance as the creative industry terms it - become your own personal brand. Not only will this help garner you freelance work, but it'll help potential employers remember you and the skills you posses. Think of your personal brand as a professional job: have a clear, unified visual look to your site, CV and portfolio, register a URL and set up a bespoke email address. And don't worry if you're still freelancing from your parents' house. That's what PO Box addresses were invented for.
10. Spread the word
Twitter, MySpace, Facebook: there is an array of online offerings for you to market yourself on. Check out Computer Arts' Twitter to see the industry heavyweights you should be following. Join forums like Computer Arts' and add comments and track backs from your site to others like CpLuv.com.
In the tangible world, send out press packs, business cards and samples of your work to companies you admire. Get their attention, and don't be afraid to follow up with a phone call - but be polite and remember these people are busy!