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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

May 26, 2013

Use Social for Your Job Search

By On 16:26
Many of us regularly use social media. It’s an easy way to entertain and be entertained, even when it leans to the  embarrassing. Posting a picture on Facebook from the bachelor party that shows you duck-facing the camera with a bottle of champagne in hand is likely to get a laugh from your friends — none of whom are actually in the market to hire you.

When you’re job hunting, it’s a great idea to work with social media. This means taking advantage of the great communication tools available on the Internet to help you find the ideal job, at the ideal salary, in the ideal location. That could mean:

  1.  writing an industry-related blog or being a regular contributor to one,
  2. participating in online discussion groups, or 
  3. sharing videos that demonstrate your abilities.
What's encouraging is that employers actually are sitting by their computers, waiting to hear from you. Joining discussions about your field of interest,  answering or asking questions that contribute to the discussion, is the best use of social media for your job search.

If you are a graphic designer, your Facebook updates and discussions could feature topical content: good design or typography found in your community, posts from your blog, and interesting news about the field.

Another way to make an impression is to use YouTube to showcase your editing and multimedia skills or to showcase a video portfolio, or create tutorials for others in your industry . It’s not that easy to convey personality in text alone (i.e. a resume and cover letter), video offers a great way to use audio, video and creative editing to introduce yourself.

May 21, 2013

DIY Professional Development

By On 06:14

I know it's practically unheard of in our field, but some companies don't offer professional development opportunities. If you're in that unfortunate boat you’ll need to work a bit harder to keep advancing your skills.

Why Professional Development?
As graphic/ web designers and communications professionals we must always be learning and developing our skills. Although the messages that we craft are largely unchanged, our (software) tools advance at increasing speed, and the technology (hardware) tools keep pace with that break-neck pace. So we've got to stay current to compete and remain marketable.

Get Cheap/Free Professional Development

  • Don’t Ignore Webinars! Professional development isn’t just about software and hardware. We also need to keep on top of techniques, conversations, and the theory of design. When you get invitations via email, check them out. As you may have learned, many free webinars are sales pitches, but not all of them. Look for ones that are directly linked to your area or interest: social media management, working with analytics, media development within a specific CMS, etc. 
  • Listen to Your Professional Networks! Professional groups on LinkedIn often post feedback on industry webinars, seminars, and conventions. I pay attention to what they have to say, and ask if they’ve attended an event that interests me.
  • Sign up for the newsletter! After finding and participating in a free webinar, sign up for the newsletter—you can always cancel if you’re inundated with useless messages. Arterz Interactive- http://www.artez.com/  is a great social media/marketing group that I follow on FB because that first excellent, free webinar that I attended two years ago.
  • Join more than one professional organization! I joined AIGA as a student and was excited to see all of the events that I got to attend at a free or reduced rate. Today, I work at a university and am a member of these organizations: Women In MarylandHigher Ed (WIMHE) , EduCause, Sloane-C Consortium. Membership gives me access to a ton of free webinars, seminars and networking opportunities.
  • Take a class! MOOCs are huge and offer free opportunities for professional development. Coursera is one of the largest MOOCs, but you can also check out (free or inexpensive) tutorial series from Lynda.com or Envato.  

Get them to Shell Out! Professional development is very important for you and your organization. If an upcoming seminar, webinar or conference is on your radar, find out if your company will pay for it. If they need some gentle prodding, list the benefits of attending your respective development activity. Here's a great list of reasons to attend The Annual meeting & Exhibition from the *American College of Nurse-Midwives:
“The ACNM Annual Meeting is the premier opportunity for midwives, students, and other women’s health care providers to polish professional and clinical skills, learn the latest evidence-based research, share knowledge and experiences, and celebrate the work that midwives are doing to advance maternity and women's health care.The educational line-up includes direct clinical practice matters, updates on changing state and national laws, regulations and quality initiatives, and ongoing efforts to improve access to safe maternity care globally. Attending the ACNM Annual Meeting is one of the best ways to learn about developments in midwifery and women's health and earn CEUs. Attendees can earn as many as 30 hours of credit.”
* Full disclosure: I'm former graphic designer for this professional organization. 

May 15, 2013

Be Prepared: The Phone Interview

By On 05:20
The last time I wrote about phone interviews I had just flubbed one by being unprepared. Today, I write as someone who just conducted a series of phone interviews and now have a better perspective from which to report.

I was recently in the market for an assistant Instructional Media Developer with great design sensibilities, the ability to craft messages for a target audience, some video or  motion graphics background, and a good grasp of Adobe Creative Suite.  I selected 3 applicants for phone interviews and told them that I would contact them to get a better idea of their "experience and professional goals," which I spelled that out in the email. Sadly, only one of  the applicants was sufficiently prepared to answer my questions.

I asked the following questions, these are pretty common ones in our field:

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself. This question is meant to illicit a response that incorporates education, and professional goals. It is rarely a chance for you to talk about your hobbies or siblings. Yes, one of the interviewees started telling me about how she's  the middle child. I had to reign her in and restate the question.
  2. Tell me about your ability with "X" software or skill (describe the experience or give a rating of 1-10). Since my job description included some mention of script writing and story-boarding, I added these to the list--which included software, platforms, other skills, and conceptual design . The interviewees all had some limited experience in scripting and story-boarding, but only one elaborated on the experience by telling me more about a specific project.
    The lesson here is to always be prepared to elaborate or give concrete examples during an interview.
  3. Regarding your resume, please tell me about why you made this design decision. There should be a concrete reason for every decision on your personal marketing materials. One applicant had a 2-page resume that included only 2 sentences on the second page--this person didn't realize that the text flowed to the second page after her most recent content update. I advised this person to apply for jobs using a PDF resume in future, to avoid formatting mishaps.
  4. Tell me about your professional goals: During the interviews, I kept a checklist of 7 different career paths that I think would benefit from experience in instructional media development. When the interviewee mentioned one or the other of the fields I simply added a check mark on my questionnaire and left it at that. This was my tie-breaker question (not that I needed it).

  5. Do you have any questions for me? The correct answer is "Yes...!" Are there any opportunities for professional development? Can you tell me about the culture of your company? Tell me about your style of management. Etc. Just remember to avoid the questions about salary, bennies, and time off.

May 13, 2013

Five Resume Mistakes

By On 06:54

These common resume mistakes make it hard to get into the call-back pile. Avoid these if you want to be taken seriously

1. Unattractive Formatting - Presentation matters as much as content.
Think about it like this: if you had a huge stack of resumes on your desk, would you be more likely to pick up the easy-to-read, well-formatted one, or the confusing one? Exactly! Create your resume in sections, keep the information clean and organized.
2. Grammatical Errors and Typos - Most hiring managers will stop reading as soon as they reach one of these ugly little mistakes. Not only does it show your lack of written communication skills, it also tells them that you don’t really care about the job.
3. Cutesie/ Unprofessional Email Address
4. Missing Accomplishments - Include accomplishments with-or instead of--your duties list.
5. Long-Winded Resumes - There are many opinions on resume length. It's my strong belief that a single pager is sufficient in our field. Be concise, and go for quality not quantity.

Adapted from an article on the SimplyHired Blog. Get more details at blog.simplyhired.com

May 10, 2013

Typography in New Orleans

By On 05:44
The look of Letterpress on glass. Known by some as the elevator to heaven :)

May 7, 2013

Alumni Give Back?

By On 05:20
Once again it's graduation season. My Alma Mater continues to host several events to keep the alumni interested and involved. They're also making strides to connect graduates with current students for mentorships and networking opportunities. Bravo, University of Baltimore!

the internship challenge graphicMy current employer, another Maryland university, is taking it a step further by asking  their successful alums to take the Internship Challenge.

We all know that there's a certain level of (alma mater) nepotism--where graduates of a school seek to actively hire fellow graduates or students--in the professional world. Frankly, I'm a huge fan of this! I know that graduates of my undergrad and grad programs are adept creating effective design and communications--keeping the audience, message and media in the forefront of design (this just isn't true of graduates of the geographically close, and highly acclaimed art school in the region).

The Internship Challenge takes this nepotism to another level. Instead of presupposing that fellow grads are prepared for the professional world, it gives them the tools and skills to compete. The Alumni offer paid  (or unpaid) internships to current students. This gives them college credit AND real-world experience that helps them get hired above other applicants who lack the professional experience.

I just presented the model to my alumni association in the hopes that they are able to mimic it and give UB students a further leg up over their competition.