Applying for jobs in an art or design field is different than applying for many other kinds of jobs. First, you need to have a strong portfolio. It takes a lot of time, work, and experience to craft a good portfolio. In a tough hiring climate, a fresh-out-of-college portfolio has an even tighter margin of expectation than normal. Second, it’s generally a good idea to have a portfolio website. Not so many years ago, that meant you had to build it yourself or pay for someone to build it for you because pop-up site places like Behance and others didn’t exist or were not yet widely known. It should also be noted here that art majors are among the most expensive majors. On top of education costs, there are a lot of supplies, equipment, and, for design professions, software, hardware, the cost of keeping up living expenses during an un-paying or low-paying internship if you took one, and the like. So factoring that plus the ticking clock on student loan repayment, trying to finagle a bit of basic Flash (this dates me) or Dreamweaver were the option of choice. This is all only leading up to actually applying for jobs—many of which design firms emphatically state are merely temporary positions with the indeterminate hope of possibly becoming more permanent (also called “temporary-to-hire”). In a downturn economy, businesses shy away from any liability of truly committing to hiring a human person; creative businesses even more so because creativity is a skillset that’s difficult to measure. It’s understandable because they’re also trying to maintain cash flow to keep their business running and avoid going under.
After completing the prerequisites comes the “fun” of the application process. Firm X is old school, so you send a straight-forward cover letter and resume printed on your custom-designed letterhead along with a business card. Pre-recession, it was more commonplace to send what’s referred to as a “leave behind”—something tangible you created that shows either a part of your portfolio or your capabilities. I did that, and it does still happen; but much of HR departments runs through a digital environment anymore. So, it’s possible that’s becoming less common; because, well, they know you’re broke. Firm Y, who’s hiring an in-house designer, requires that you jump through a few specified hoops by sending images at exactly a certain set of dimensions, no larger than a certain number of bytes, uploaded onto their server in a system that might crash five times in the course of updating your profile. Now that 18 hours has passed, you’ve successfully applied for two jobs. Congrats. Moving onto the next set of posted jobs, you begin composing cover letters in your sleep, detailing why you could become an asset to these various companies. Firm Z stipulates the number of images, the word count to describe the images, that your resume will be sent digitally only, and that you are under no circumstances to contact them about your application. Once you begin sending the resume, you discover that none of your custom-designed PDF files bearing your logo mark are compatible with their online application processes, so you’re left with arguing with Microsoft Word about how infuriating its bulleting system is. You’ve now applied for three jobs.
If you’ve been there, you know; hitting refresh on job posting websites is a depressing pastime.
Applying for creative positions most often isn’t a simple process of mailing a resume. For some places, yes, but since images are a part of your resume it’s all up in the air. Now, as is often the case after completing scores and scores of applications, you wait for a follow-up that never comes. It’s not that the “yes” never comes; the “no” doesn’t either. A firm following up on applications requires a human person to do that job. That costs money.
I had a song on repeat in my first run of applying for jobs. It’s perhaps one of the most depressingly hopeful songs in contemporary Christian music that I can think of, ironically included on Matthew West’s Happy album.
After so many unsuccessful applications, I was feeling hopeful that the adage of “who you know” could actually lead to a job at an amazing company. Even if it meant getting coffee for the firm’s impressive mogul, this was the sort of foot in the door people dream of having. In so many ways, this move was looking like something God was going to use to stretch our comfort zones and provide for us as well.
This is part 3 of 31 in a personal story participating in the Write 31 Days Challenge. To start at the beginning or to see all the posts in order, click here. If you want to follow along, follow on social media or subscribe as a reader to Eclectic Affinity.
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