Job-seeking tips for designers: How to appeal to potential employers

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For college graduates entering the design fields, in particular aspiring interactive media and Web designers, a job search that ends well starts with socializing. Communicating and networking – in person, not just social networking online – is an important way for students to start building a foundation for their careers.

Also crucial are innovative thinking and showing a great portfolio of work, according to the academic  affairs and career services departments at The Art Institutes system of schools, a source for design and media arts graduates. 

Terry Bailey, academic director of the Web Design & Interactive Media (WDIM) programs at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood, tells her students that aspiring Web designers must not only excel in all things Web, but they must also hone their communication skills.

“Employers need to see that an employee can represent them well by speaking and writing well,” she says. Industry professionals, like those who serve on the WDIM program’s Professional Advisory Committee and help to ensure courses are staying industry-relevant, need to know that if the new employee sends an email to clients, it will be grammatically correct and coherent. “The employer wants to be assured that a new employee can stand up in front of a client and give an articulate and convincing presentation.”

Join professional clubs and organizations. This is another tip Bailey gives to the bachelor of science and associate of science candidates in Web Design & Interactive Media programs. “This is how Web designers meet the other people in the industry they will need in their career down the line,” she explains. “Connections can help someone new find a job. They can also help someone who is working freelance or for a young company to put a team together.” By getting out and meeting people, individuals also have the opportunity to sharpen the personal interaction adeptness she promotes.

Patrick Baird, academic director of the Web Design & Interactive Media programs at The Art Institute of California – Sunnyvale in the Silicon Valley, advises students and job candidates to go beyond the expected to really wow a potential employer.
“Students need to go above just showing technical skill,” says Baird. It is generally a given and no longer the only qualification required to land a job.  “A great way to demonstrate exceptional ability is to problem solve: Identify a problem and find a solution,” Baird adds.

As the director of the Career Services department at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood, Bill Kilby works with local employers and counsels graduating students. He notes that “employers respond well to portfolios that demonstrate a similar design aesthetic  to the employer’s company and show work of comparable quality.”

“When putting together a portfolio site,” Kilby recommends,”be sure and lead with your strongest work, include only current, industry-quality work and make sure you have a captivating homepage design.”

Final tips from Kilby that apply to many job seekers in the design fields: Be creative and motivated.
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