Adobe-full-color Adobe-white Adobe-black logo-white Adobe-full Adobe Behance arrow-down arrow-right LineCreated with Sketch. close-tablet-03 close-tablet-05 comment dropdown-close dropdown-open facebook instagram linkedin rss search share twitter

Getting Hired

How to Get Hired When You Are Just Starting Out

No experience? No problem. Side projects and tailored applications can help overcome your lack of work history.


At 99U, we often share best practices and insights from the world’s most productive creatives, but what about those of us just getting started? How do you fill out “past experience” on an application when, frankly, you don’t have any?

We talked to Career Advisors from art and design colleges around the globe about resourceful ways to package any amount of experience on your CV, application or in an interview. Here are our top tips for promoting your “student” status and jumpstarting your creative career.

1. Include personal projects to bulk up your resume.

Don’t limit yourself to the confines of a traditional resume. Recognize that under “Skills” you can list everything from Photoshop to silk-screening, that studio time can be just as important as past employment, and that unpaid side projects show dedication, initiative, and responsibility. If the majority of your experience is personal, studio, or classroom work, add more of a description than you normally would, explaining the kind of timeline you were working with and why you chose the subject matter.

comics

Above: Illustrator Simon Prades effectively displays personal work and side projects in his online portfolio.

2. Don’t just list the facts; tell your story instead.

Whether you’re looking to freelance or join a creative company, business is all about relationships, so recruiters, clients, and hiring managers want to know who you are and not just what you’ve done. Including a bio on your website or in your portfolio is a great way to share your back-story and highlight what you stand for.

Your bio should address the following five questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. How did I get here?
  4. Why can you trust me?
  5. What do we share in common?

For more insight on how to craft a bio, read 99U’s The Resume Is Dead The Bio Is King.

3. Showcase your creative process by sharing iterations and mockups.

Show prospective clients and collaborators how you think by including the rough sketches, prototypes, mockups and mood boards that led up to your finished piece. In addition to showcasing your creative process, this will help define your role within a given project – something that’s especially important within the realm of creative collaboration.

yodaprogress

For example, if your portfolio includes a website, specify whether you built the entire thing, worked on the graphics, coded the frontend, etc. Bonus points for including captions under each asset you display that explains where you got your ideas, how you made decisions along the way, and what impact they had on your finished piece.

Above: Illustrator Tyler Jacobson includes sketches and iterations that bring his process to life. 

4. Hiring managers expect tailored applications. Do your research before hitting send.

Before submitting an application make note of your target company’s style – you can gather this from their website, campaigns, client list, and the content they share on Twitter and Facebook. As many recent (successful) “Hire Me Campaigns”  have taught us – in some cases the medium can be your most important message. Want to get a job as a community manager? Create a Twitter campaign. If your specialty is information architecture, turn your skills section into an infographic. If working at Vimeo is your dream job, make a video resume.

Targeting your portfolio toward a specific company gives you an opportunity to showcase your skills, initiative, and passion for the company in question.

 

addidas_small

AboveFlorian Holstein, a Creative Director who was in love with design and sports, created an interactive website to showcase his skills and land himself a job at his dream company, Adidas. 

5. Don’t be afraid to mention your idols, mentors, or creatives you admire in an interview.

Refining your knowledge of established creatives in your industry can really add to your interview repertoire. Musicians often promote themselves by referencing the artists they grew up listening to or the albums that shaped them. This can be applied to any industry.

Picture two candidates with similar education and experience (little to none) interview for the same photo assistant job. The hiring manager asks, “So why did you choose to major in photography?”

Candidate A responds with the typical “because it seemed interesting and I wanted to get a job as a photographer.”

Candidate B says, “I’ve been obsessed with fashion photography my whole life. I used to tear Annie Leibovitz’ portraits out of my sister’s Vanity Fair and today I really admire the work of photographers like Steven Meisel and Mario Testino and the risks they’re unafraid to take.”

Candidate B has a clear advantage, making up for what they may lack in experience by articulating their passion for their field and knowledge of established artists and trends.

What’s Your Take?

How did you land your first job? Any tips to add?

Jenn Tardif

Jenn is a Product & Marketing Manager at Adobe and a Yoga Teacher. Formerly, she was the Associate Director of Partnerships for Behance and the Sr. Marketing Manager for The Drake Hotel. Say hello on Twitter.

Comments (52)
  • Aaron Morton

    great article Jenn, working with creatives I know first hand how difficult it is for creatives starting out. But your article has highlighted what is required; being proactive and USING that creativity that they possess in order to get the job; not just telling the client they are good, showing them!

    Thanks Jenn

    Aaron Morton

  • Luis Manuel Then Alvarez

    It’s a little difficult to “be creative” talking with a creative.
    Excellent article. I’ll review my resume with this step by step.

    Regards.

  • Emma, Inc.

    Great article. Our creative team just hosted a group of marketing and design students for a Q&A about finding work after graduation, and we touched on so many of these ideas. We’ll be sending this link as a follow-up!

  • Robyn Garrett

    Awesome article. I’m always hiring and some of these ideas would really blow the competition out of the water. Love the “medium is the message” idea.

  • Bob Prosen

    Landing a job in today’s economy requires you to think and act differently. If you’re wed to the traditional way of job-hunting you’re destined to compete with
    everyone else chasing the same few opportunities.

    The most effective way to get a job is to think like an employer. Sounds simple but many people don’t appreciate the importance or know how to do it.

    Before beginning your search you have to understand why all companies hire. It’s to solve problems and your challenge is to position yourself as the solution. In other words, hiring you allows the company to solve problems faster, better and cheaper than they could without you. Here’s how to start.

    Step 1 – Identify your skills and expertise.

    Step 2 – Find the companies you want to work for and research them to uncover their problems. Use the Internet, Google alerts, read press releases and speak with current and former employees.

    Your ability to uncover your target employers’ problems and
    position yourself as the solution is what will get you hired.

    Here are just a few potential problem areas. Completing projects on time and on budget, improve product quality, improve customer service, increase sales, reduce costs, enhance online marketing, etc.

    Step 3 – Identify the hiring manager.

    Step 4 – Create a personal marketing plan to get your solutions in the hands of the hiring manager.

    Step 5 – Develop a “One-Sheet” resume, to separate you from the crowd, along with a set of compelling cover letters that show your experience solving similar problems.

    Step 6 – Follow up is essential to getting an interview. Be persistent but not a
    pest.

    As a former executive with several Fortune companies I know how leaders think. People who have followed this process have gotten hired.

    Good luck and never give up!

    Bob Prosen –
    CEO
    The Prosen Center for Business Advancement
    http://www.mycareeraccelerator.com

    P.S. And yes, this works for recent college grads as well.
    P.S.S. Market yourself to the companies you want to work for whether or not they have an opening.

  • Bob Prosen

    Landing a job in today’s economy requires you to think and act differently. If you’re wed to the traditional way of job-hunting you’re destined to compete with everyone else chasing the same few opportunities.

    The most effective way to get a job is to think like an employer. Sounds simple but many people don’t appreciate the importance or know how to do it.

    Before beginning your search you have to understand why all companies hire. It’s to solve problems and your challenge is to position yourself as the solution. In other words, hiring you allows the company to solve problems faster, better and cheaper than they could without you. Here’s how to start.

    Step 1 – Identify your skills and expertise.

    Step 2 – Find the companies you want to work for and research them to uncover their problems. Use the Internet, Google alerts, read press releases and speak with current and former employees.

    Your ability to uncover your target employers’ problems and
    position yourself as the solution is what will get you hired.

    Here are just a few potential problem areas.
    Completing projects on time and on budget, improve product quality, improve
    customer service, increase sales, reduce costs, enhance online marketing, etc.

    Step 3 – Identify the hiring manager.

    Step 4 – Create a personal marketing plan to get your solutions in the hands of the hiring manager.

    Step 5 – Develop a “One-Sheet” resume, to separate you from the crowd, along with a set of compelling cover letters that show your experience solving similar problems.

    Step 6 – Follow up is essential to getting an interview. Be persistent but not a
    pest.

    As a former executive with several Fortune companies I know how leaders think. People who have followed this process have gotten hired.

    Good luck and never give up!

    Bob Prosen –
    CEO
    The Prosen Center for Business Advancement
    http://www.mycareeraccelerator.com

    P.S.And yes, this works for recent college grads as well.
    P.S.S. Market yourself to the companies you want to work for whether or not they have an opening.

  • Aaron Morton

    Hi Luis,

    I don’t mean being creative like turning up in a chicken outfit because you think no one else will, I mean thinking about how you can stand out by showing your work in a light that is different from your competitors. A friend of mine wanted to get his resume noticed for a short film he had done. He sent it in a briefcase with the emblem of the film etched on the briefcase…He got noticed.

    Aaron Morton

  • Dayna @kaleidoscopebrain

    Awesome article! I am a creative starting out and I will definitely apply these tips. Thanks!

  • Kate Disbro

    I did a lot of ‘cold call’ emailing for informational interviews when I was a senior in college. It was great to have a variety of creatives look at my book, practice my presentation and interview skills. Don’t be shy!

  • Fahim MD

    Great read. If your new in this field and starting out please read this article!

  • Steve

    If you’re new in this field, you might want to spellcheck everything.

  • Sebastian Zetko

    There are few tips, that seems obvious, but still you don’t think about it until they’re pointed out – like showing mockups, and showing who you are, not just what you do … anyhow, thanx for the article.

  • Alwyn Jose

    Really an Awesome article for people like me ! Thank u

  • Kimberly Taylor

    What are thoughts on ‘creative’ approaches in a ‘non-creative’ career? I want to get across my ambition and drive, but also maintain professionalism.

  • Tolu Falae

    I absolutely love this. I’ve always seen myself as an artist. No the kind that knows how to draw or sing or dance…but some kind of artist. That’s why I love you guys. I love being creative and I’ve found that the reason companies like me is I’m different from their usual candidates. I think being creative and personalizing every task and project is important. Innovation isn’t driven by just being smart. Ad that’s something I’ve always appreciated about the arts. They embrace nonconformity, integrity, and even attitude.

  • autotrafficconspiracy

    thank you to taking time to write this important post and for making some thing worth reading throug

  • Scott Dylan

    Love this article.

  • Jason

    Recording every small bit of work in you portfolio will help one to get an job easily.

  • Seth

    As a follower of the site for over 2 1/2 years and a job searcher for about as long I’ve got to say that I still need some help. Quite desperately at this point. I’ve been applying for work in Creative Resarch, Strategy, and Insight .. as well as some copywriting adverts.

    I took a break from the job search September 2011 to get an MA in Sociology in London thinking it couldn’t hurt my chances. I’ve had interviews and met people, etc. Even a little experience a couple years back, but nothing else came of it. Any suggestions, or better yet work, would be great! I’m beginning to feel as though I’m slipping through the cracks, and I feel like I could be an asset if I could just get a shot. It’s defeating. Thanks

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/1237

  • Samuel Delesque

    Good advice. Creating the medium is definetely the best cover letter a creative can show.

  • Mike

    I think most of this is utter bullshit. I’ve been an unemployed entry level designer only working freelance to get by. Apparently none of my freelance matters towards gaining a job. When really it’s who you know, not the hoops you jump through.

  • Mike

    Nice ideas but none of these actually work, been out in the job world for a couple years.

  • Dave

    Agreed. Article states they talked to “career advisors from art and design colleges”. Take a lesson from the business schools: all they tout is “networking”, and for good reason. “Knowing a guy” will get you in, not graphic designing your damn resume.

  • Peteman

    I think its hard reading this article if you’re a recent graduate, or been long-term unemployed and your patience is running out. But there is truth in this article. No art-director wants to know you’ve been painting your neighbours fence all summer or you’ve been working in a bar the last year. They understand you need to live but they want to hear about what you have been doing creatively ie self-initiated projects, approaching companies to do work for them, learning new software or techniques. This is experience no matter how you look at it and at the end of the day every employer wants their prospective employees to have a degree of experience that goes hand in hand with their creative potential graduate or unemployed.

    It’s unfortunate the current climate we find ourselves with so many designers graduating and those being made redundant or finding it hard freelance – but if you don’t have the skills or the determination then you will find it harder and harder to succeed.

    I see some great self-initiated / personal work on Béhance and other sites and I personally have continued to show off my own on my site http://www.peteman.net as I feel that where I work currently doesn’t fulfil my portfolio needs to move up the career ladder. I do limit these self-initiated design and illustrated works to a degree and most of it will go in my blog on my Facebook or Twitter pages. I think you need to be careful about which self-initiated projects you show.

  • Luisa Ambros

    Because of the importance of networking, I would say one more thing: Do the best as student and with every job. Show your interest, do all projects like you were hired by a client (even you were not). Teachers usually have a great importance as advisers for hiring persons; and satisfied clients recommends you to their friends (which can be an agency director).

1 2
blog comments powered by Disqus

More articles on Getting Hired