Apply & Conquer
A few friends and acquaintances often ask me: "How do you get so many opportunities/ interviews." I really didn't know how to answer this question well. I always played the card "oh you're a great designer you'll get an interview soon..." I truly mean it but I feel it seems to be the default thing to say or I'm giving the person pity (which I don't have — sorry). However, now that I've had more experience with interviews and such, I can now open up and tell people how I have had so many interviews (During the duration of June 2013 – October 2013, I've had about seven interviews). Here are some tips and tricks that seem to work.
Seems to be the obvious but there are a plethora of like designers who do not prepare themselves before they apply. How do you apply? For most designers and thinkers I highly suggest getting your personal branding, resume, and website to where you want it. If it's perfect in your eyes — it will look great to the public (most of the time, but just in case make sure you get a second pair of eyes). Also, I suggest that one should have a blog, twitter, and other forms of social media. Many people ask why I have so much social media. I simply tell them "It lets companies and businesses see who you are as a person instead of a portfolio and resume." The blog is the best thing, it's your safe-zone of where you can open up and show the random public who you are as a person. It adds some personality to that slick branding and website you have. Also, a lot of places like to browse at that kind of stuff; you never know they might bring it up in the interview ( possible common interests). Which makes the interview process a little easier but, we'll talk about that in the upcoming steps.
After you get your look and internet presence to where you want it; the next thing to do is make a list. Dream big: that's what makes designers so unique — our ability to dream. Add any company, agency, firm ect. to your list of places to apply. Nothing is too far of a reach. In fact, everything is equal opportunity.
After this, you've completed one of the most tedious tasks when applying; congratulations. You can grab yourself a nice beer, wine or dinner to toast for a successful branding, website, resume redesign and making a list of your dream places.
This is another vital thing to do prior to applying. Make sure you research the companies that you plan on applying to thoroughly. Knowing who they are as a company, what they believe in, big projects, and most of all their culture. I feel a job's culture is the biggest asset to a designer's career. Most apply blindly without looking at the company's culture and they get the job and it isn't anything that they expected. So be sure to learn about the company's culture.
Be a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Figure out the names of head recruiters, talent recruiters ect. (I suggest using LinkedIn). This will hopefully provide you an email and name. The name will be who you are writing the cover letter to when you apply. The email is valuable to possibly send directly to HR or UR (university relations). This is another vital thing to have because to HR people, it shows that you have done your research and know the company well enough to write/email directly to a specific person.
That's half the battle there. You must apply; it's as simple as that. Most places want self-starters; how can you sell yourself as a "self-starter," but not even bother to apply for the company? Most are nervous when applying for jobs or internships; especially if it's their dream job. My theory is to always be optimistic. I always say: "Shoot for the highest star; if you miss, there are other stars on the way down." Don't be afraid, have confidence in your work and who you are as a designer. As soon as you conquer that; you've defeated the biggest enemy in your way...yourself.
I have to say that the first application is always the hardest and most nerve-racking. It is, but fear not; it gets easier and easier as you apply. LinkedIn can help also. Some applications, I've notice that you can directly sync your LinkedIn to fill out your application faster — with this option, just make sure that you double check for awkward spacing, spelling, and if it's in the correct area. Send the resume and cover letter to the specific email address that you've researched prior (if possible). Set out a specific day and apply to your entire list or at least half of it. Now comes the hardest part... the wait. Make sure you keep busy in the next couple of days/weeks. Get your mind off of it but make sure you check your email and phone at least twice a day. Remember, you won't hear back from every company or you might get denied. To increase your chance of getting a job: apply to more companies. During the summer, I've applied to about 25-30 companies/firms/ agencies and I only heard back from maybe three.
"The interview," to many the sound of these words seem to be a daunting task— words that build up fear and anxiety. I, like most people freak out when these words are put together in a form of email or telephone confirmation. However, you've made it this far to get an interview. Remember the company wants you just as much as you want them. Also, don't put too much pressure on yourself— be calm and confidant. It's a win/win situation. If you get the gig then you work for a great company. However, if you don't get it... you go back to what you were doing prior to the interview. There are a plethora of kinds of interviews. Here is a list to name a few.
- Email: Here they'll give you a questionnaire and you have to answer it to the best of your ability, while still making yourself stand out from the rest of the applicants. This is usually the second round of interviews, but this isn't very common either.
- Phone Interview: I typically like to dress nice even on a phone interview. Just to build that extra boost of confidence. Also make sure you're in a place that's quiet and comfortable. I prefer a nice open place where I can pace back and forth while I talk. Also, I feel that standing while talking helps one think faster for answers. They can't see you smile so make sure your presence on the phone feels like you're smiling. Make them want to talk to you and want to know who you are as a person. Most of all, be you. For jobs, you may have to go through multiple phone interviews.The pro about the phone interview is that you will be able to hear one's excitement through their voice. By time you reach your final interview— the final interviewer already knows who you are and what you're about.
- Skype: Make sure you dress appropriately — this is where your research comes into play. If it's a more liberal company you can get away with a nice collared buttondown shirt with jeans. If it's a more conservative: break out those nice ties with a collared buttondown shirt with khakis or dress pants. With this — make sure you're at a place with strong wifi or internet. Here you can read someone's body language pretty well. Also be sure that there are no background noises or running programs on your computer. This will lower the chances of skype freezing up. Skype always finds a way to freeze on the ugliest face possible; so remember that.
- In-person: This one is the most nerve-racking but it's the best kind. Here you get to meet the person behind the phone/email. Here you can read one's body language, facial expressions, and excitement in their voice. What makes this the best interview is that you can bring in a few items with you. I suggest your portfolio, business card, resume, and sketchbook. Why a sketchbook? A lot of companies love to see your process and how you think. Also, a sketchbook is very personal; it's one's personal thoughts that are etched into the paper. I feel it adds some humility to who you are as a designer and it could set you apart from the other designers who bring in a resume, business card, portfolio and a leave behind.
Why I don't bring a leave behind? I'm too poor and cynical. That leave behind will cost me money; that money will most likely eventually reach the garbage can. It's not very sustainable to have a leave behind in my opinion. I also feel that one's presence and personality should be pretty memorable. Be you and sell yourself and remember they want you just as much as you want them... show a little confidence.
Now you wait for the possible good new or the possibility of the denial.
I thank those of you who have read this long post and dealt with my grammatical mistakes and typos. I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helped you. There are plenty of jobs in the design world, you just have to look for them. It's one of the few industries that haven't been affected by the recession. Never quit. Don't let denial letters and no callbacks bother you. Nothing can stop a strong ambition.