Thursday, May 1

Are you qualified? Discussion #10

So I will end this semester by sharing with you my biggest pet peeve from the year.

I experience deep pangs of angst every time I teach portfolio class when seniors submit the first draft of their resume. I cringe when I read the first item listed under Skills and Qualifications, “Proficient in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.” My first beef is that I hate the word proficient used in a resume. Yack! Connotatively the word proficient has come to mean: just OK or passable. Using a term like “confident,” or even better “excellent” are much more accurate and resonating words to consider. You don’t need to come off as obnoxious but you do need to sell yourself.

What breaks my heart even more is that after four years of —often grueling—design training the first, most important and sometimes the only thing many CD seniors think to tell a potential employer is that they know how to use computer programs. YOU ARE DESIGNERS! You design, you think, you create, you problem solve! Wouldn’t you expect that any student graduating from any design program anywhere should be
able to use the Adobe Creative Suite?

If I were an art director I would expect you to talk to me more about your design skills and professional qualifications in a very succinct manner and using vernacular of the industry. Write like a designer that knows the field! Yes you do need to mention your computer skills but they shouldn’t necessarily be the first and the only skills you list.

So what are the more important skills that you have acquired? How and why are you qualified to work for a design firm? A potential employer scans a resume and looks at your sample sheet looking for information
applicable to the position they are attempting to fill. If that employer likes what they see and read, you may be called in for an interview with your portfolio. What are they looking for in your
portfolio? Projects that back up the claims in your resume and further illustrate the work on your sample sheet. So you may get a callback by listing some really impressive qualifications but if your work doesn’t back up you claims it could be a really short interview.

I little aside here and then we will get back to writing your resume. A designer’s resume must be designed with an attuned sense of typography. It is the first place a potential employer “sees” your sensitivity and attention to detail. A resume doesn’t need to be overly designed using your entire closet of bells and whistles but if it doesn’t look professionally polished, tweaked and fine-tuned it won’t be read. This very fact makes our resumes different than most other professions. You would be amazed at how fast an art director can edit a pile of 50 resumes down to ten by just “looking” through the pile.

So after overhearing me obsessively nag about this for about the millionith time in portfolio class, I got an email from a senior basically saying that identifying these skills and qualifications was really hard. “How do you do this?” the person asked.

Here is the advice I gave that person and I am sharing with you as well. Step out of your student shoes and look at yourself and your projects as a seasoned art director. What do you see? As an art director — unless you really only want your own virtual design puppet that is just proficient in all the Adobe programs—what information would you want to read in a resume? List everything you can think of and you will start to identify your strengths as well your unique qualities.

Skills are things you can do. Besides computer skills you have developed hand-skills, craftsmanship skills, organizational skills, time-management skills, communication skills, and writing skills. I am sure you can think of some more. Depending on your concentrations, experiences and possibly a minor you probably have specialized skills unique to your experience.

Break your projects down and analyze these experiences. Write them down. Don’t worry too much about the verbiage yet after about fifteen rewrites that will come. To get started, think about your magazine and newsletter projects. What skills did you develop over the course of the semester? Are you now able to generate unique editorial concepts targeted to specific audiences? Have you become adept at creating integrated visual/verbal messages with impact? Are you now confident designing with an extensive amount of text for editorial material? Keep going—what did you learn how to do besides setting up printer spreads in InDesign.

Qualifications are things you are. You can list wonderful qualifications until the cows come home but be sure your demeanor carries them out and also be sure your job references back you up. When you list yourself as an excellent time manager but have never been on time for work it will generally come back to haunt you. For qualifications, analyze your class/work experience and generate qualifications based on that experience. Have you developed a strong work ethic? Do you take and use direction well? Do you have a strong eye for detail? Are you a team player? Do you have good manners? Are you courteous? Are you a people person? Are you trustworthy and responsible? What kind of worker-bee are you?

This is one of the hardest things you will have to do as you prepare for your emersion into THE REAL WORLD not only will you need to write your resume but you will need to speak to these issues when
interviewed. So when Ms. She-May-Soon-Be-The-Person-That Pays-Me asks, “You say here in your resume that you take and use direction well, is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Will you be ready?

So this is my discussion topic to end the semester, what professional skills and qualifications are you taking away from Graphics II this semester that you could use to market yourself to a potential employer?

Cheers and have a great summer! Ms. Dash