What do employers really want?

There comes a point in a creative career when pure design skill alone is no longer the sole reason for success. Like all professions, the coal-face work is more often done by juniors on entry-level wages. For middle and senior-weight creatives, earning a bigger crust involves more experience and skill.

"The main skills that will send you to a higher salary range are the ability to lead teams, and the ability to communicate and sell creative concepts to clients," says Mitch Paone, the founder and chief creative officer at New York agency DIA.

"Having an understanding of animation, photography, film, music and interaction gives you a broad creative range for communicating and executing a creative concept, and makes you more valuable. Great design chops alone can only get you so far."

Employers want to recruit staff who will drive the company and grow with it. Management qualities, strong communication skills and the ability to take responsibility for your decisions are all just as valued as a bulging folio.

"Properly leading a group of creatives is a very difficult task," he says. "You need to be sensitive, encouraging and respectful in order to coax the best work out of people. Meanwhile, you need to ensure you are respected as a leader and your point of view directs the larger creative vision for the team's work."

Paone says that a creative's folio is always the main calling card for employment. That said, a well-rounded CV often tells a deeper story about you.

"I personally look for extracurricular activities, whether it's in a resumé or discussed during an interview," says Paone. "These things always bring a unique perspective to creative work. For example, someone who knows a lot about music theory can come up with a much more informed brand concept for a film-scoring company than someone with no music experience."

Words: Tom Dennis Illustration: Luke Brookes (opens in new tab)

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts (opens in new tab) issue 229.

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