Almost every day, I get two things: a request to critique a screenplay, and an inquiry about how to work at my agency, Flipeleven Creative, or another creative organization.
This week my colleague Becca Ahlf posted about being a creative job seeker. At the same time, I was working on this article, which examines the creative job hunt the opposite perspective: those who do the hiring.
When it comes to scouting fresh creative talent, there are three essential behaviors I look for in anyone I recommend my bosses interview. The same goes for picking my private creative collaborators and (often) for the script consultees I add to my roster.
I know these practices work because they helped me land my current job and previous creative positions I’ve held. Plus, other professionals I know seek these qualities among their pool of applicants.
You’d be surprised how few applicants actually exhibit all three. When they do, trust me: I take notice.
I don’t care about the diploma on your wall. Really, I don’t. 95% of people with college degrees in a field still aren’t good at doing what they studied (especially in the creative fields). So if you relied on your professors to make sure you learned what you needed to know . . . it’s time to realign your thinking and get busy on your own.
How many websites have you designed and developed, and where can I see them? How many music videos have you shot, and what are the Vimeo links? How many jingles have you written, and where can I hear them?
The creative fields are totally predicated on what you can do.
If you haven’t done much client work outside of class projects—get some clients. If your friend’s band needs a website, make them an awesome site for free or fifty bucks. Smaller gigs, well executed, lead to bigger gigs. You won’t start out with a big client (and I definitely won’t let you practice on mine!). Start with someone in your immediate circle. Start right now.
Only then can we talk.
Chances are you, high school and college culture taught you nothing about this. It’s because school is still industrialized. Schools encourage you to sit down, shut up, and conform, lest the almighty corporate HR punish you for thinking on your own.
Ironically, the creative fields don’t reward conformity. They reward what’s new, different, awesome.
Newsflash: those are all synonyms for audacity.
Audacity starts with your product. Build an innovative portfolio site or wow your dream agency with an incredible (and unusual) calling card. Take it upon yourself, and eliminate the word “risk” from your vocabulary.
Then increase your audacity with polite persistence. Continue to follow up until you get a firm “yes or no” response. What’s the line, you ask, between persistence and just plain pestering? Repeated impersonal interactions is pestering, but building a thoughtful relationship is admirable persistence.
Go even further by inviting industry professionals to lunch or (if you’re poor) take them out for coffee to “pick their brain” about your chosen field. The first couple might not respond. But eventually, someone will admire your audacity and take you up on it.
Be persistent until you’ve secured five or six of these talks.
Then get five or six more.
By this, I don’t mean that you’re on the market. I mean that you’re readily available to interact with me outside your job search. That means you show up at networking events where I hang out. You grab coffee with me every couple months to stay updated on life and share news about your search. You populate your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook with news of what you’re learning and which first-time clients you’re serving.
In a recent JourneyCraft post, author-illustrator Mike Rohde noted that just “being there” around the same speakers at multiple conferences helped him build relationships that later led to his first illustration gig. If that sounds exhausting, indeed it can be. But isn’t your creative pursuit your greatest passion? Isn’t it what you already do with your friends on your own time?
If not, I’d suggest you begin exploring other lines of work.
Too often, job applicants make me into some kind of “project”—firing me overly-professional emails, resumes, and interview requests, etc. without bothering to know either my individual personality or Flipeleven’s.
Be a real person in my life. Show your skills as part of a warm, ongoing professional friendship. When the time comes, I just might hire you.
That’s how real business gets done.
Creative job-hunting need not be difficult, but it will require persistence, ingenuity and a proactive spirit that many dreamers simply do not have. So pair your dream with action. Share your action with audacity. And back up your audacity with availability.
It might be the most extensive, exhausting experience of your life. But if all that hard work helps you land a job you love . . . I guarantee you’ll be so glad you put in the effort.
To all of you who are searching for that perfect creative job: I know how it feels. I have been there. Now, I’m on the “receiving end” of others’ requests. I hope these tips help you up your game in the marketplace and start connecting with the kind of people who are looking for person you are.
It’s not impossible to get hired in the creative fields or build up a freelance business. But the marketplace belongs to those who DO. Those who SHARE. Those who CONNECT.
Now is the best time to start.
What about you? What techniques helped you land the creative gig you love? What hurdles have you faced, and how did you handle them?
If you need more inspiration for creative resumes, try these tips from NextWeb!