Design Agency Job Hunting TipsPosted on 02
“It’s not a pink slip, it’s a blank page.”
This is the tag line of ‘Lemonade‘, a short film that I saw earlier this year about 16 advertising professionals who lost their jobs after the 2008 recession and then ‘found their calling’. Although I didn’t technically get a pink slip, I certainly got a blank page after parting ways with my previous employer.
I was left with 2 weeks to find a new job before being booted back to Australia due to Visa restrictions. I considered my options very carefully and finally decided to stay in NYC as my time was not done here, plus I had a girlfriend here. I set my goal; I had to find a job within 2 weeks.
Below I’ve outlined what I did for the first two weeks and some job hunting tips I learned along the way.
First week without a job (July 13 – July 19)
- Researched my Visa options so I could stay in the USA. Saw an immigration attorney.
- Blogged, Tweeted and Facebooked about my situation and then replied to the hundreds of messages of support. HUGE, HUGE thank you! Seriously.
- Wrote & designed my CV. Updated my LinkedIn profile.
- Put together an up-to-date private portfolio. I unfortunately can’t show this publicly due to NDAs.
- Researched agencies that I would like to work for.
- Prowled job boards for open positions.
- Seriously stressed out.
Second week without a job (July 19 – 23)
- Wrote cover letters, emailed my CV & portfolio to specific agencies.
- Continued researching, prowling job boards & agencies.
- Worked on my personal freelance projects.
- Attended 5 interviews for 3 separate companies.
- Looked for a new apartment to move into with my girlfriend. (Coincidentally, my lease was also up the same time I lost my job.)
Although this doesn’t look like much when listed in dot points, anyone who has tried looking for a job, knows it is a full time job. Add that in with looking for a new apartment and needless to say, things got pretty hectic. Though this craziness was not necessarily a bad thing, as I seriously learned a lot during this time, stuff I didn’t know when I wrote these articles:
- How To Get Your First Job
- How To Get A Job In Social Media
- How and Where To Get Paid Freelance Work As A Student
- A First Hand Guide On How To Start Freelancing
Anyway, these are some of the new things I’ve learned in the past few weeks…
Things I’ve Learned
Your job is never secure
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article comparing freelance life vs agency life and in it I stated that one of the benefits of agency life was the steady income, however, what I failed to mention was the false sense of security that you get by having that job. You can lose your job at any time. This time around I was lucky enough to have my freelance work & savings to fall back on, but yeah be prepared & have back up.
Always keep your CV + portfolio up to date
I hadn’t updated my CV for a number of years which left me scrambling at the last minute to put everything together. I wish I had kept my CV and LinkedIn profile up-to-date as it would have saved me a few valuable days. Same goes with my private portfolio. I also need to listen to my own advice and refresh my public portfolio too.
Designers with digital-know-how are in more demand
Agencies receive hundreds of CV’s and portfolios a week. Many of them from extremely talented designers with beautiful, amazing portfolios. Although amazing, many of them lack knowledge in the areas of digital and interactive design. By this, I mean the knowledge of web design, mobile design and how people interactive with them using different platforms and technologies.
If you know to create custom websites from scratch, know how to work from wire frames, know the principles of user experience, can develop unique brand strategies and a have sound knowledge of existing & emerging web / mobile technologies, then you’re definitely going to be more employable than a designer with a pretty portfolio. Just ask any Creative Director.
Know what job position you are looking for
I had no idea what type of ‘graphic designer’ I was… seriously. ‘Graphic designer’ is such a vague term and agencies use a whole different vocabulary than what freelancers would be used to, and even then, there is no standard term for each position. Was I an interactive designer, a visual designer, a senior designer, a web designer, a creative director, a social media strategist? I soon found out that I was all of these things, it just depended on the agency.
Do the research to find out what each job title means within each company and even if you don’t think you have all listed qualifications, still apply… just make sure it’s for the right position.
Contact agencies without open positions
Agencies who have job vacancies listed on their website literally get hundreds of applicants. This is time consuming for them to go through and more often than not, you won’t hear back from them for at least a few weeks, if at all. On a three week deadline this isn’t ideal. A lot of the places I got interviews & call backs were actually from places that weren’t advertising.
Jobs are plentiful but so are candidates.
There are many job boards out there, however there are also many candidates who apply for these jobs and like stated above, this makes the hiring process time consuming. Instead, I would recommend to find the agencies you would like to work for and then aim your target at them. It worked better for me anyway.
Contact HR Directors directly
Rather than applying to the career pages of agency websites I also found that if you contacted the Creative Recruiter / HR Director of agencies, they would be more likely to respond. Even more so if you knew someone in the company or knew a friend that knew someone in the company. Bridging that connection between 1st, 2nd or 3rd tier relationships is a huge help and the best way to do that is via looking up company profiles on LinkedIn or by asking your already established network.
Update: I also want to take this time to send a HUGE thank you out to the talented designer & developer Jerlyn Thomas for her continued efforts in supporting a fellow unemployed designer, even while on the search herself!
A Wonderful New Job + Apartment
With all this said, I am pleased to announce that I did find a job after 2 weeks and am now employed at The Wonder Factory as a permanent freelance designer, which may lead to a full time position if everything works out. At TWF I am continuing to work with Fortune 100 brands, namely brands under Time Inc. (Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, etc.) Most of the work will be visual design, UX & strategy for the web, iPad and mobile platforms. Also, be sure to check out TWF’s wonderful office space, shown above.
On a similar note, I also just signed a lease for a new apartment in Midtown, NYC where I will be moving in with my girlfriend of 2 months. A crazy move, but why not?
A new chapter begins.