20 Tips For Getting Your Dream Job

It's a simple fact that there are more designers than there are jobs in design. Every year, a new wave of hopefuls emerges from colleges around the country to ensure the situation will only become more difficult. There's some good news, though. Anecdotal evidence from the desks of creative directors around the world suggests that only 20 per cent of the applications they see are worth considering.

This is bad news for employers, as they have a lot of sifting to do, but for any designer worth his or her salt it considerably narrows the field. You are, in effect, only competing with the rest of that 20 per cent. The trick is to ensure you don't get lost in the creative tsunami caused by the other 80 - and that's what the wisdom collected here is intended to ensure. Creative directors, specialist recruitment agencies, advertising giants - the people you're trying to reach - explain how to go about reaching them.

01: Be your own brand
Jonathan Ford, creative partner, Pearlfisher
"Think of yourself as a brand. Who do you want to appeal to? Do you simply want to get a job, or are you looking for a career? What are you looking to achieve? What differentiates the people you're talking to? Does your message fit with them? The worst thing you can do if you're applying to a creative agency is send out a blanket CV, which dumbs down your message to the lowest common denominator."

02: Nail balanced prose
Martin Brown, creative director, Wolff Olins
"The most common form [of CV] I get is an email PDF, and I go straight to the work. If I find the work exciting, then I read the CV. Obviously, the way the email is worded is important - it needs to be short and enthusiastic. If you're approaching companies you revere, that needs to come across without being gushing. It's a difficult balance to strike."

03: Choose your school carefully
Mike Radcliffe, managing director, Represent
"There are a lot of designers who don't end up working in design when they graduate, particularly those who don't come from a renowned college. The London lot tend to pick up the cream [of the work]. There are some good colleges outside London - Glasgow did well this year, Kingston is always really good, and Falmouth too."

04: Be in demand
Alan Herron, creative director, True North
"There's a problem: everyone wants to be a designer; everyone wants to be the centre-forward, to win the awards. Behind that, there are all the support people. Artwork has become a bit of a forgotten craft - nobody wants to do it. I'd like to see people who specialise in the production side of things and are happy doing that. We would snap people like that up."

05 : Be professional
Nathan Mayatt, managing director, Workstation
"No matter what level you're at, it's about work ethic; it's about how you conduct yourself. In an upturned market, people sometimes bite the hand that feeds them. Networks and contacts mean that, often, the best people you see at the top are down to earth. They haven't burnt bridges as they've gone through their careers. You'd be amazed how many people seem to forget that."

06: Stand out
Adam Devey Smith, managing partner, The One Off
"Do something to stand out. We got a light bulb with a CV on it, and when you plugged it into a socket it illuminated the CV onto the wall - good design. Another was a mock-up of office junior software from Microsoft - beautifully created and very cared for. They both got jobs. Four years later they're still here and doing really well."

07: Get placements
David Annetts, creative director, Design Bridge
"For graduates, as ever, get placements and then make yourself indispensable. One third of our studio (including four current team heads) was recruited in this way. If you have the right skills and attitude, sooner or later you'll be in the right place at the right time."

08: Persevere
Lars Harmsen, creative director, Magma Brand Design
"Be patient, but not lazy. If it doesn't happen today, it might happen tomorrow, so grab the phone and call again and again. Yes, I know, Berlin is damn cool, but you'll be among a thousand others who try to catch the same quick brown fox. Avoid big fish bowls - go where you'll find a good job."

09: Don't play games
Nathan Mayatt, managing director, Workstation
"In an interview, be honest and be yourself. People who try to play the interview game just don't come across as who they are. People try to second guess, give answers they think interviewers want to hear. This can backfire terribly. If you're not happy, you can't focus on your creativity."

10: Understand the 50/50 law
Adrian Talbot, design director/team leader, Intro UK
"It's 50 per cent about your work and 50 per cent about you. Be yourself and, if someone doesn't take to you, don't take it personally. Don't promise what you can't deliver - if you're keen and capable, it'll show. Don't list 'listening to music' and 'going to the cinema' as interests on your CV."

11: Be accessible
Alan Herron, creative director, True North
"If I can be bothered to wade through an email or visit a website, it needs to be immediate. A PDF is actually fairly good from that point of view. If it's multi-layered then they've already lost my attention. If someone sends me a disc, I just don't open it."

12: Know your limitations
Steve Crompton, CEO, The Creamery
"Understand your limitations and apply for the roles that suit your style and level of creativity. Be honest with yourself. Make sure your portfolio is put together well and make sure the CV is short and punchy, with a profile and your skills listed in the first half. If you are junior, don't apply for a creative director's role."

13: Streamline your portfolio
Richard Bultitude, interactive manager, Siren Design
"If there's work in your portfolio that you're not happy with, don't show it. Less is more. Too many times I've been shown a huge array of work, in which some has brought the rest down. It's better to show three strong pieces than a mixed bag of six. Any example of a project where you went beyond the brief is a great case study, especially if it's something that you were involved with from start to finish."

14: Grow up
Mike Radcliffe, managing director, Represent
"Trying to be kooky and a bit crazy often misses the mark. 'Sit down with a cup of tea using this tea bag I've sent you' - that was all a bit corny when I was starting out. It lacks maturity and feels like interviewees have no idea what it's like to work in the real world."

15: Experience as much as possible
Kris Manchester, creative director, and Philippe Meunier, creative chief, Sid Lee
Kris: "It's now time to reprogram our brains to live, breathe and be creative as if there were no boundaries - the end result may just be a more effective set of tools that help us to generate truly [savoured] consumer experiences." Philippe: "When you craft, stay authentic to who you are, do what you feel is right. But make sure you get out and experience as many things as you can. Lastly, make your mum and dad proud."

16: Network like crazy
Jackie Vicary, director, Gabriele Skelton
"Remember, personality is as important as those big ideas! Network like crazy and make as much use of your contacts as you can. It's not what you know, but who you know. If you're lucky enough to get an interview, familiarise yourself with their work and be prepared when you get asked, 'Why do you think I should employ you?'"

17: Tell a story
Nathan Mayatt, managing director, Workstation
"An absolute priority is the portfolio - a portfolio where you don't stick absolutely everything in. This goes particularly for juniors, who often do a lot of different types of work and think that everything they've done should go in it. It shouldn't. It's a story; it's representing you as an individual and that's exactly what it should do, rather than being a cacophony of images.

18: Fix your weaknesses
Jon Contino, founder, Onetwentysix
"It's good to focus on your stronger points but, before you even start going out, focus on your weak points and see if you can produce something that's relatively good compared to your other work. A well-rounded portfolio reflects someone who sees design as the main aspect, rather than a certain type of design."

19: Aim high
Martin Brown, creative director, Wolff Olins
"The advice I always give graduates is that the first job is incredibly important, so aim as high as you can. Try to work for people you revere and companies you respect. That first name makes such a difference for your second job. So, even if it's incredibly tough to get into those companies or work for gurus, that has to be your first port of call.

20: Take it on the chin
Ian Brassett, creative director, M&C Saatchi
"You learn more from a tough crit, so don't be disheartened. If someone flicks through your book saying, 'That's okay,' you really haven't learnt anything. And this may seem obvious, but take a pad and jot down what they say. Chances are you'll forget something otherwise. It also makes you seem on-the-ball and the person interviewing feel ultra-important."

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