Takeaways from AIGA Austin Panel on Finding Work

I recently attended the AIGA Austin Chapter discussion panel titled Finding Work. There were some nice tips that I’ll share here. The speakers were all very helpful and engaging with the audience.


Print Designers and Programmers Need Each Other

If you’re a print designer wanting to do more web work, go to programmer networking events. They are desperately looking for people to do the “pretty graphic stuff”. Vice versa if you are a programmer looking for more projects. Many company owners who are potential clients will start looking for contractors by way of art/logo/business cards first and then ask their graphic designer for a website.

Top 5 Portfolio Pieces

When interviewing with a higher end agency, bring your top 5 portfolio pieces. No more. Be very passionate about the outcome of those pieces. Be sure you know why you made your design decisions. Share insight on why you designed it that way and be ready to defend your design decisions.

Know Your Interviewer

Take the time to do a little background checking. If possible bring portfolio examples that are related to your interviewer’s past projects. Also do your homework on the company. Have a real answer when they say “why do you want to work here”. Also doing your homework on the company will uncover any red flags like high turnover rate.

Make a Scorecard

Make a scorecard for analyzing potential new employers/clients to help you judge them. They brought this up with talking about filling out RFPs (request for proposals). But then went on to talk about how this score card idea could be applied to many areas of “landing the deal” and knowing if it’s worth your time to go after it. Here are a couple of examples. If looking for a new company to be employed by, judge them on the following: number of employees, growth rate, turnover rate, positive/negative reviews on Glassdoor.com, potential for career growth, ect. Or if you are freelancer and looking for clients, judge them on the following: number of employees, possible income you can get from them, if they have a large network for referring you, their business experience level, etc.

Other Quick Tips

  • PR companies typically pull in higher income clients and need to outsource most of the production work. Be sure they know you.
  • Make it obvious you are passionate about the industry. Write you toughs on a blog, Twitter and LinkedIn. They will probably look for you there.
  • Directors are judging if they can bring you into the room with the client.
  • If you’re interested in working at a company that doesn’t have an opening you can ask for an “information interview”. It’s a way of introducing yourself.
  • Send updates of your recent work to directors and HR people. They like to be in-tune with the talent pool out there.
  • Mail them a physical Thank You Note.
  • Setup Google Alert for all your past clients and potential employers. You will receive updates when every they are mentioned on the web.

A couple more questions I wanted to ask them but did not have time are, “What are your thoughts on a generalist verses a specialist” and “What are you thoughts on a potential hire who’s online portfolio is presented as a company”.

What are your thoughs?

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