Friday, February 15

So you want a job? - Discussion #5

I have a tendency to copy down little scraps of wisdom I find here and there on loose sheets of scrap paper. (Yes, a notebook chained to my ankle would be a wise investment.). I often find these little notes to myself months and years later stacked in piles of mail, stuffed in books or drawers. In the midst of sorting through another of my endless piles of things, “I can’t throw out but never seem to find the time to file,” I came across the following list:

The Top 10 Skills Employers Want
1. Communication Skills
2. Computer & Technical Aptitudes
3. Leadership
4. Teamwork
5. Interpersonal Abilities
6. Professional Personal Traits
7. Critical Thinking
8. Intelligence and Common Sense
9. Willingness to Learn
10. Work-related Experience

I can’t take credit for the creation of this list but I thought it was important enough to copy down and remember. It may have been lifted straight from the Career Services Department right here on campus — if so, thank you very much. I’ve decided to share it with you all and it has become the catalyst for this blog entry.

I think many CD students work really hard under the misconception that all you need to get a great job is a strong portfolio. If my book looks good I am there like a fly on …sh…sugar. Please don’t misconstrue my sentiments here, a great book can get you in the door and keep you there but it isn’t the only criteria for landing your dream job.

To illustrate my point let’s take a look at this misconception from the perspective of a studio owner, hiring committee, and/or art/creative director. You will need to develop a little art director empathy here so put on your “I’m the Boss Hats.”

A Not So Untypical Scenario:

“The following drama and characters are purely fictional. They are not based on actual people or events.” I just love when they say that in the beginning of cop shows.

You’re a KUCD grad, you’ve been out of school several years and you’re a very busy and successful art director at Jackpot Design and Marketing. Jackpot is well regarded for its high quality of design work and stellar reputation in the business and design communities and on most days you enjoy your job. You are used to the high stress frenetic pace—in fact you thrive on it. As crass as it may sound, your main job responsibility is to generate strong design and visual communications for clients in a timely-manner for which your company will be paid and turn a profit. These profits are how you get paid your generous salary because your boss and company CEO, Ima Pennypincher, realizes that you’re worth every shiny cent.

Jackpot Design has taken on several new and lucrative accounts and you’ve been working double shifts for the last 6 months to meet your deadlines. This has taken a real toll on your social life and you feel like you have joined a design monastery. Ms. Pennypincher has just given you permission to hire and train an entry-level junior designer at the bottom of the designer pay scale. You argued for someone with experience, but even with new clients she SWEARS —with an eye roll— that the company can’t afford that. Anyway, at this point, the potential of any extra help is welcome news. You are well aware that Ms. Pennypincher pays eagle-eyed attention to extra costs, downtime, missed deadlines and mistakes that an inexperienced designer can bring to the plate—all potentially reducing the company’s profit margin. You will be directly responsible for this new hire. If the person you hire doesn’t work out you’re the scapegoat and Ms. Pennypincher will have your hide.

Thoughts of what you need in a young designer start to gel. You realize this person may need to be open to some drudge work to get started, answering phones, photo and design research, and following your very specific design instruction. Not too creative to begin but if you see creative and professional potential the job has possibilities. This person may need to put in extra hours immediately—without whining—as your “right-hand” until they are up to speed and can take on more responsibility. You want to hire someone that can be sure footed in three months and self-sufficient in terms of direction in a year.

Realizing that taking the time to screen and hire a new staff member is time that you are in short supply you email your old Profs in KUCD. They post the job in the office and direct you to Career Services as well. One of your old professors offers to announce the job opportunity at Senior Portfolio Review. They collect resume and sample sheets and mail them to you. You receive employment information from 25 CD seniors and you pare down your short-list to 7 employment candidates. Why did you screen out the first 18 people? Do you think that as a busy art director you had time to really “read” 25 resumes?

Generally the very quick “look and skim” of the resume and sample sheet pile is the method of choice. Some reasons people are screened at this stage are as mundane as they didn’t seem like a good fit. If you are confident in the quality of your resume and sample sheet you shouldn’t take this personally. It is somewhat out of your control. But remember a resume can start to give clues about everything from #3: Leadership to #10: Work Related Experience. These areas aren’t out of your control but take some planning and follow through while you are still in school.

Outside of just poor design, #2: Computer and Technical Aptitude and #6: Professional Personal Traits come into play on your resume. In our field marginal attention to organization in a layout, lack of attention to typographic detail and awkward computer skills in a poorly crafted resume can eliminate you immediately in the “look and skim” stage. These deficits all have something to say about what an art director would expect from an on-the-job novice.

So I will be generous and say that “you” the art director actually “read” eight resumes and paired the pile down to six. Awkward writing, misspelled words and poor grammar eliminated the next 2 people under #1: Communication Skills. Writing skills fall under this category.

So the countdown begins with six phone calls. The work looked good in the sample sheets. These resumes actually identified important design and professional qualifications beyond the standard list of computer programs the applicant knows how to use. You visualize a cognizant people not a lifeless computer drones.

One person’s voicemail message berates you with a litany of curse words and tells you to leave an “F”ing message and they might get back to you. Ooopsie, you hang up without leaving a message and six potential candidates just narrowed to five.

You have five interviews scheduled on an open day the following week. In your mind you have two terrific candidates and three really good candidates. It is going to be a tight day so these interviews need to go as scheduled.

So after a crazy day of interviews you decide: one book was super, two books were really good and one not so good—well let's say the work wasn’t bad but the cat hair, booger-like adhesive and die-cuts that looked they were cut out with a grass clippers really didn’t help. That person looked great on paper but you were skeezed-out at the poor presentation of their work. Deficiencies in #6 and #8 eliminated another candidate.

The third interview was late because they got lost, hmm… That person had a really nice book too. But you think of #6: Professional Personal Traits, #7: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving and #8: Intelligence and Common Sense. You just aren’t late for an interview. Period. If they didn’t know where the place was, they should have recognized the problem early and addressed it before it became your problem. You had to play catch-up the whole rest of the day.

Tomorrow you will probably check in on recommendations of your potential hires but before you go home you just can’t resist going on My Space and punching in your candidates’ names. Ooopsie! You find a photo of super-portfolio-person dancing on a table in skivvies with a cigarette in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. Well this one just got eliminated on #8: Intelligence and Common Sense. Just because they like to have a good time? Probably not. For publicizing it in an open forum and not thinking about the consequences? Yep.

You decide to give them a second chance and the next day you call one of your old Profs that the applicant has listed as a reference. (It is good form to ask permission of the people you are using as references.) The Prof emails you back telling you that the person didn’t request that the Prof be a reference so they can’t comment due to privacy issues. Red flag. Down to two.

So you are disappointed that you eliminated what you thought was your strongest portfolio. So you call the references of the other two candidates. They both have really solid books but all of the work isn’t exceptional. One candidate seemed a little nervous but nice, but they had really made an effort to ask questions. You liked that. The other spoke well, was confident and had a comfortable sense of humor. They have pretty equal quality portfolios and so far stack up well on the Top Ten Skills an Employer Wants List. This is a tough decision. Some pieces shine while others are just good. They both used Profs and their internships as references. You call and find out that they were both really good students, hardworking and on time for class or work, they take direction well, have been willing to learn new skills (#9), revise projects to make them better and got along really well with everyone in their classes (#5). Other things are pressing so you get back to the tasks of the day.

The next day you receive in the mail, a handwritten personally designed thank you card from one of your two final candidates, the shy one. The candidate thanked you for your time and suggestions on their work. The candidate requested an opportunity to come in and work freelance as a field test. The card comments on how impressed they were with Jackpot’s Design work that they saw and read while waiting in the lobby for their interview. The candidate remembered that you said Friday morning is usually a little less crazy so they would call at that time. They even hoped that your cat was feeling better and you remembered mentioning that in the interview. You’re swamped. You make a snap decision, you turn the card over and there is contact information. You call. “Hey thanks so much for the card, we don’t get them often. Can you come in tomorrow and work? I’d like you to freelance for the week on a test drive.”

So here’s my question to begin discussion. You’re in the driver seat. You’re the boss. You make the decisions. (But don’t forget Ms. Pennypincher.) Write your own Top 10 Skills Employers Want List. Is this list thorough? What’s missing? What might you add? Outside of a great portfolio, what do you think would be great traits for a young designer to have? What might be the worst? If you had the responsibility of hiring someone you had to work with closely everyday what would you want them to be like? Describe the perfect employee.


Anonymous said...

Top 10 Skills Employers Want:
1. Creativity
2. Hard-working
3. Coopperative nature
4. Technical Skills
5. Common Sense
6. Professionlism
7. Leadership
8. Responsible
9. Willingness to learn
10. ____

The list that was originally posted is pretty thorough except for the fact that it is forgetting creativity. (It was noted however that the young designer will most likely NOT have that much responisibility in terms of actually designing, however I still think that it is an important design quality to have s an artist. No one wants the banal stuff you see every day and the more you can think 'outside the box' in terms of juxapositions of ideas/medium/ etc, the better in my mind.)

I think the worst traits for a young designer to have are.....
1) the fact that they think they already know everything already. Too often do I see people (students) in our classes who cease to take professors' and other students' advice in their work. I don't know whether it's an ego thing that they don't want to feel like they are losing their creative 'rights' if they take someone elses' advice, OR whether they just feel that they have nothing to learn as a designer. Either way, there are loads of these types of designers out there and I think it's a weak trait to have in a personality—not only in graphic design, but in life— if you think you have no more to learn, then you are probably very far from that point in your life.

Another weak trait would be 2) Professionalism in general. Everything from basic and appropriate attire to conversations held in the workplace can fall under this category. Some desirable people can lose opportunities by simply saying the "wrong thing" at the wrong time. This is a much needed life skill that should be taught- "Learn to Bite Your Tongue 101"


Anonymous said...

1. Ability to adapt
2. Knowledge of software
3. Strong portfolio
4. The right attitude
5. Communication skills
6. Ability to lead/follow
7. Creativeness
8. Hard working
9. Professional
10.Have what the company wants

Not sure how great my list is, but I think that these are things I would want to have in an employee.

The biggest thing for me that would cause a problem is ego. I hate ego. It's one thing to be good at what you do, but to take it so far as to boast about it and brag is too much. Sure, companies want you to be good at what you do, but you have to willing to make sacrifices and learn to do what is best for the company.


Anonymous said...

Top 10 Skills Employers Want:
1. Social Skills
2. Strong Portfolio
3. Knowledge of software
4. Positive Attitude
5. Artistically Inclined
6. Versatile
7. Creativity
8. Willing to learn/experience
9. Sense of Humor!
10. Able to take orders/criticism

Well, it was quite hard to actually put these in order, especially towards the end. Yet a very good idea to start thinking about the list since graduation is not far away.
I believe social skills and personality in general is a quality most employers, anywhere, will look for upon hiring. If your employer does not think they could get along and work with you nine to five, five days a week, they might be turned away.
BUT, in our area of work one must have a good sense of design and unique creativity in their own portfolio and work.
Also, whenever you get any type of job you should always be able to take orders from your manager, boss, director, or whomever in charge, whether you like it or not.
This comes with willingness to learn and experience new things. Even if it's the low end work, you always have to start somewhere. This ability helps your versatility of social skills and willingness to work in general.
...and it all comes with just a little sense of humor to get you up the ladder to where you want to be.
And it just so happens that the design ladder is a little taller than others.


Anonymous said...

Top Ten skills:

1) Creativity
2) ability to act on creativity
3) hardworking demeanor
4) ability to work effectively with others
5) ability to work effectively alone
6) professional attitude
7) leadership
8) willingness to learn
9) responsibility
10) confidence in position

Most are given essential qualities, but I should explain the others.

2) ability to act.: Just because someone is creative, doesn't mean that they can act on their creativity. Most of the time, it's not lack of skill that hurts someone's performance, but usually outside sources such asa stress or illness. If someone can work and be effective even under these conditions, than they are a good employee.

3 + 4) Working effectively in a group and alone: While it seems that these are conflictions, I feel that both are necessary. I've had to rely on groups before. Many times they work well. Other times I'm left holding the rope for the group. You can't change someone else's lack of work, only pick up what they left off.

Jonathan_Cronk_GDII/ Cunfer

(Don't know if I signed that right.)

Anonymous said...

tonight's top 10:
3.time management skills
4.technical knowledge on both PC and Mac
5.willingness to take harsh criticism
6.have a personality outside of design
7.not have a monotonous portfolio
8.being articulate
9.know design terminology
10.somewhat good people skills

my first three are pretty much complete essentials in anywhere in this profession and if you don't have them, well, maybe you should reconsider your career move. since when we leave here we most likely won't be designing right off the bat so having more or less "customer service" skills are going to be a bit more important than our "limited" design skills so being a people person will be vital. also showing that you have a life outside of design i think is really important. if you just eat sleep breathe design, than how will you grow creatively and experience other things that will help your design?


Anonymous said...

1. Communication Skills
2. Computer & Technical Aptitudes
3. Leadership
4. Teamwork
5. Interpersonal Abilities
6. Professional Personal Traits
7. Critical Thinking
8. Intelligence and Common Sense
9. Willingness to Learn
10. Work-related Experience

I would keep them just the way they are. I would just add stuff. I agree though with Gigi that creativity is a forgotten trait that is very important. I think I would put that as number 1. But anyway after reading this blog I think all of these traits are important and I think some out weigh more than others. For example having computer technical skills is important but I think its somthing that you accuire as you go. Its important but if you got the ideas and need a bit of a push to execute them then I see no problem with that because it shows your employer that you are willing to learn and get help to make your work better.It also shows that you are a human haha. The trait that I think is most important is def your communication skills. If I can not talk to someone and get my ideas through to them then its like wth. Yes you can have the best ideas but you also need the skills to communicate with your client and really get them across. I hope that I am making sense.
If I was the sugar mamma aka boss :-) one of the traits that would annoy the crap out of me and ties into the last discussion is the whole Ego thing. Yes I understand that you need to be confident with what you do and believe in yourself yada yada yada but if you come in and talk to me like you know more than I do and what you show me is not at all like you come off to be then see ya Bye bye have a nice trip. That might be a bit mean but I think it annoys alot of people including myself. Being confident but then showing that you dont know everything and accepting ideas and such is important and learning. There is more but I am not about to write a book!


Anonymous said...

1. Innovative approach to tasks
2. Good problem solving skills
3. Communication skills
4. Hard working
5. Sense of humor
6. Versatile
7. Confidence in their work
8. Able to work effectively alone and in a team
9. Responsible
10. Strong portfolio

I think the list is pretty thorough and to the point, but its very hard to narrow down characteristics of a good person to hire in 10 points. I feel that the greatest trait a young designer can have, is a great sense of humor and openness. If you can bring a good sense of humor to the table then your work and surrounding atmosphere will be much more enjoyable and will effect the quality of your design output. If your very open about ideas and what’s going on around you, your design will be much stronger and you will be less likely to meet a project you cannot handle. The worst trait a young designer can poses, is to not be a hard working and put 110% into your work. This doesn’t mean that graphic design needs to be your life, you can go out and enjoy life but you also need to be focused and make sure that the quality of your design is above what you would expect for your own project.

If I had the responsibility to hire someone I would work with every day, I would make sure they weren’t a dull person and full of excitement and personality. They would definitely have to be a focused individual and have a sense of independence about them so they aren’t relying on someone else all the time to help them with there design. They also should be well rounded in what they can design and bring their individual skills and style to the table. To me the person I described about in my list and in this paragraph, would be the perfect employee in my eyes.


Anonymous said...

1. open minded
2. broadly cultured
2. observant
3. able to speak up
4. hard working
5. enjoy designing
6. creativity
7. logical
8. Leadership
9. Administrative
10. a hard working positive attitude...are some things i would add to the list.

i think the worst traits a designer can have is being to arrogant and feel that they are already the best and they nor anyone else can be better than them. At the same time however a designer must be confident int their work and be willing to improve on things that they are'nt so good at.


Anonymous said...

Top 10 Skills:
1. creative - stands out
2. strong/appropriate portfolio
3. software competency
4. communicate effectively
5. work quickly/in a timely manner
6. intelligent
7. strong decision-making skills
8. can lead/follow/work in group
9. behave professionally
10. open to learning

worst traits:
1. whiniess - there are few faster ways to make your employer a co-workers despise you!
2. inability to meet deadlines


Anonymous said...

1. Creativity
2. Computer Skills
3. Hard Worker
4. Leadership
5. Responsibility/Common Sense
6. Strong Portfolio
7. Willingness to Learn
8. Communication Skills
9. Can Take Constuctive Criticism
10. Gets Along With Others

Although the list was pretty good, I feel that I would want some other traits in an employeer than what was given. If I were going to hire someone that I would be spending a good amount of time with, I would definately want to be able to get along with them and for them to be able to handle constuctive criticism. This way we don't clash heads and working with them will be more pleasent. I also agree with Gigi. I think that in this field, creativity is one of the most important traits. One of the worst traits, I think, would be a designer who is not willing to learn or break out of the box. There are always new skills to learn and new adventures to take. I feel that sometimes, to reach a successful design you need to push outside of your comfort zone.


Danielle said...

1. Confidence
2. Creativity
3. WIllingness to learn
4. Leadership skills
5. Ability to work well with others
6. Ability to work well as an individual
7. Responsible
8. Hardworking
9. Good social skills
10. Strong portfolio

I agree with a previous comment. I also believe that the original list left one thing out and that was creativity. Other then that, the list seemed thorough. But creativity is a trait that I would add.
I think all of these traits are extremely important to hiring a new employee, but being hardworking and responsible I think are the most important.

The worst traits for a young designer to have is for them to lack confidence. If a designer does not think they will ever be able to get the work done then chances are they won't. Being negative never helps. Another bad trait would be too much confidence or an ego. Yeah, you can think that your designs are better than others but if you constantly brag about it then it will effect your working environment. Let other's give you the compliments, don't constantly compliment yourself.
If I had to hire someone, they would be someone I can actually deal with for a long period of time. If they are always annoying you and you are stressed then that can lead to something not so good.


Anonymous said...

I think if I were told to find the perfect employer for a company I would first need to know how the company really worked. I think the "perfect employer" needs to really fit that particular company well.

My three top reasons for hiring someone:

First, I would need to think of the kind of work the person would need to be designing for the company. You don't want to hire someone that is really good at something the company normally doesn't do. A person may have great skills, but if it isn't close to the style that the company usually puts out, then it may just be harder teaching them how to work differently in the end. If they are flexible and can adapt easily to different styles, it is a major plus. (Although the good thing with this someone with a different style could help refresh the creativity in a place. So there also could be a good side to this).

Second of all, a very important trait is RELIABILITY. Someone who can produce good work, on time, everytime is definitely a keeper. Reliable in the sense of always being creative, punctual and efficent. If the person is a great designer and always reliable, that is someone I would definitely consider for hire.

Finally, I think personality is a big importance. Someone that is easy to work with, flexible, fun and professional will definietley be better to work with than someone who is rigid and protective over their design work. In an environment where people are closely working together, I think personality is a big deal. It helps with the work flow, it helps with explaining ideas and talking to clients, it also just creates a better environment for everyone to easily work in.

My Top 10 Things I Would Look For
If Hiring A Designer:

1. Great and Flexible Designer.
(who has a style that can fit the company best)
(in terms of being creative, punctual and efficient)
3. Personality.
(someone easy to work with, flexible, fun and professional)
4. A hard worker.
5. Someone with good technical skills.
6. Someone with good artistic skills.
7. Someone with a good grasp on new technology.
8. A good brainstormer.
9. Someone who can be trusted.
10. Someone who enjoys doing what they do.


Anonymous said...

1. Confidence
2. True desire for the position
3. Strong portfolio
4. Knowledge of programs
5. Unique
6. Determination
7. Flexible
8. Handling criticism
9. Adaptation
10. Respect

You really can tell a lot about someone by how they hold themselves. Being comfortable, able to crack a joke in an interview and really show your personality is a strong trait but I don’t think being shy is necessarily a bad thing either. You just have to make up for it in another way with something your confident about. Asking questions is always an easy one.
Employers always know if someone really wants the position and I think that is a big factor when it comes down to an interview. If the desire isn’t there, if the interest never comes, then obviously it’s going to effect everything you do and they already know it.
Your portfolio is something you’ve been going at for four years and holds so much weight in determining if you get the job or not. The reason I put confidence and desire first is because I think that’s what employers will see right away. Confidence and desire really make the true first impression and then it comes down to talking about the portfolio or looking at it and that’s the third strongest determination in getting the job.


Anonymous said...

top ten things employer's want to see in you:

1. Dedication- no job left unfinished and creatvity
3. personable- relates well to co-workers
4. must take direction well but also be able to work independantly
5.technical skills
6.professional and well-spoken
7.humble and willing to learn from others
8. examples of good work in portfolio
9.common sense/ maturity
10. organizational skills

I think that most employers are looking for designers who have a balance of all these qualities. Employers want to hire designers that consistantly do good work and put in a lot of hours.