What I Wish I Knew About My Job Search: Insights from Five Recent Graduates

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Later this afternoon, the Portfolio Center will be welcoming back five recent graduates: Michael Alexander - Film and Video (2013), Kendra DeKuiper - Fashion Design (2012), Gigg Hemwattakit - Graphic Design (2010), Mark Leja - Film and Video (2013) and Hannah Rebernick - Graphic Design (2013).

They will be speaking as a panel about things they’ve learned about the job search since being out in the world after graduation from 4-5 PM in 623 S. Wabash, Room 311.

However, we were able to get a few tips in writing from them which we have included below. Enjoy!

From Michael…

  1. Create a professional web presence and business cards.
  2. Check freelance sites and job postings daily.
  3. Attend industry night and other events with people who have what you want and put yourself out there despite being uncomfortable.

From Kendra…

  1. Don’t think too narrowly. There are a lot of great jobs out there. All the jobs I have worked since finishing school had been design related, just not always fashion.
  2. Make as many connections as you can with fellow artists, designers, or others in your concentration. Those connections could be so helpful after school or down the road.
  3. Don’t get discouraged on your search. It takes time to work up to your dream job and that’s okay. 

From Gigg…

  1. Do lots of research about companies that you want to work for.
  2. Participate to your design community.
  3. Be nice to everyone!

From Mark…

  1. Utilize the Internet to find job opportunities.
  2. No job is beneath you.
  3. Build a large group of Producer and Director contacts, and Production Manager and Coordinators. They are the ones who hire.

From Hannah…

  1. Treat (the job search) like a job, it takes lot of time to do a good job with applications and interviews, if you’re not treating it seriously and putting the time into writing a personalized cover letter, then what’s the point?
  2. Have realistic expectations. I got a little crushed when my first interview at an upscale studio didn’t turn into a full time offer before I even graduated, but that wasn’t realistic, you need a solid first job, you can always move up from there. 

Wise words from some folks out there doing it!

Turning Tacos into Networking

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Hey Columbia, Dustin here at the front desk of the Portfolio Center with some quick thoughts before we all check out for Spring Break.

With Graduation looming, a lot of us are likely encountering this word ‘networking’ more and more and just as often being confounded by what exactly it means. It’s vague, important sounding, and we’ve been told it is absolutely necessary for success. But still, what is it? With this in mind, I thought I’d share my own recent experience with networking and tacos.

For my Writer’s Portfolio class, yes this came from a class, I was assigned to contact and interview someone who had a job that I wanted to have myself. Dream Job was the assignment name. After several weeks of talking with my co-workers, getting suggestions, and making email contact with my interviewee, Ben Tanzer btw, a great author and equally great person, I found myself (way under-dressed) at a party for his new book’s release.

Who else was at the party? A ton of people from the writing and publishing scene in Chicago and elsewhere and absolutely nobody that I knew. So, after listening to the readings and saying hi to Ben, I was ready to go home, content with the night. But instead, I decided to introduce myself to someone standing nearby. Turns out we had both done NaNoWriMo before and were both in the middle of writing some big projects. He then introduced me to someone else, then someone else. By the end of the night, it was just me, the author I was there to interview, and three or four of his fellow writers and editors, all of whom were more than willing to talk to me not just about writing and books, but as an equal, an experience I won’t forget.

This led to a long, hilarious, and eye-opening conversation between us all in the lobby of the hotel the party had been held in, before finally being capped off by myself, Ben the author, and his friend, a writer from Kentucky, all walking down the street for midnight tacos at Five Faces. It was the best networking experience I have had thus far, mainly because it showed me how simply the whole process can snowball. And just so it’s clear, I hadn’t even done the interview with Ben yet, this was all just an added event I decided to check out last minute.

So my point with all of this? As one of my new-found acquaintances put it, any opportunity, no matter how small, is better than no opportunity at all. This whole night came from a class assignment, and a random literary event on top of that. So if you’re in the position I have been, not feeling fully immersed in your industry or just wondering how to get your network going more, don’t fret. Search out any opportunity you can, treat class projects like this one as something more, a real chance for you to grow, and I think you’ll be surprised by what happens. Just don’t treat anyone like you want to get something out of them and odds are they’ll treat you well back.

And most importantly, when somebody new to your network asks if you want to go get tacos with them at midnight, Hell yes you do!

Why Follow-Up is So Important to your Career

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You worked so hard in preparation for Industry Night and Graduation, maybe even pulled an all-nighter or two?  You showed your work, the response and feedback were great, but did you follow-up with the people you met? 

 

Many professionals come to Industry Night in search of new talent, and while they may not have a job to offer you right on the spot, they took the time to look at your work & want to hear from you.  You may think they are too busy or don’t want your correspondence, but the truth is… they do. 

 

According to the latest statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking. If you work in a creative industry, that rate is even higher.  If you’re not following-up with the people you meet, your chances are slim to none that you will be further recruited.  You must take initiative. 

 

So why aren’t you following up?

 

Maybe you were afraid of seeming to aggressive, weren’t sure what to say, or were distracted by the beginning of summer. In any case, it doesn’t matter…it’s not too late to start writing those thank you cards!

Some general tips…

  • Follow-up in a timely fashion.
  • Create a contact log for your records.
  • Keep your follow-up brief, to the point, and professional.
  • Focus your follow-up around something you discussed that night. If you can’t remember anything specific, thank them for their time & feedback.
  • Continue following-up regularly, but don’t overdo it.

Types of follow-up…

Handwritten thank you….

This is everyone’s favorite :-)

  • Writing a thank you note gets you noticed, it demonstrates a show of gratitude. Professionals know that if you appreciate an opportunity, you will appreciate a potential job.
  • Thank you notes also give you a chance to reiterate your interest in what the person you met with does and how you might enjoy working with him/her in the future.
  • Send thank you notes to every person you met, even if he/she is currently working somewhere that you think may not be a good fit for you.  People change jobs often and that contact’s next position may be exactly where you’d like to be.  Include your business card so they can keep it & remember you.

 

By Phone:

  • If you are nervous, consider developing a short script about what you want to say.  Make the phone call from a place where you can talk calmly and not have distractions.
  • If you get voicemail, leave a short message & let the contact know you’ll also follow-up via email. 
  • If the person answers, be prepared to quickly say thank you & offer to stay in touch. 

 

By E-mail:

  • Keep your email short and to the point. A simple thank you with all of your contact information is all that’s needed.  Be sure you have a signature on every email so your information is at hand should someone want to reach out.
  • Be sure to spell-check and proofread your e-mail before sending it.
  • Remember to check your email regularly.

 

By Social Media:

  • LinkedIn is considered the “professionals choice” for connecting with potential employers. 
  • Consider adding links to your signature that connect directly to your Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram accounts.  That way, if a professional is interested in knowing you outside of LinkedIN, they have the option.  Some professionals reserve Facebook & other social networking platforms for friends & family only.  

 

In any job market, the person who continues to show interest after that “initial first contact” is the one who grows his/her job opportunities.  So go follow-up, network, and seek opportunities that pay you to do what you love!

Avoiding the Summer Snoozefest

Summer is a time for Instagram at the beach, music festivals, mimosas at brunch and short shorts abound.

OR it’s a time for Tumblr in your bed with the blinds closed and gummy worms for breakfast because your bank account is a little too low to actually do any of the aforementioned. Or maybe you simply just lack the willpower to get yourself out of the apartment.

We have three weeks left of the semester and a whole summer ahead of us. So how can you make sure that the thrill of endless time doesn’t die down two weeks in? Well, I’ve come with some ideas for you…

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Network Your Heart Out

Hi all, Maddie here. I wanted to fill you in on last weeks Career Friday meeting here at the Portfolio Center. Our topic was networking, which can be thought of generally two ways. Either people brush off the idea of formal networking since communication comes easily to them, or even the thought of the word will make a person nauseous due to fear of saying good things about themselves to other professionals. I’ve personally been in both places.

No matter how you feel about the idea of networking, there are a few pieces to always remember while having a professional conversation. Here at the Portfolio Center, we’ve narrowed it down to three things.

  1. Prepare
  2. Make an Impression
  3. Follow Up

There, not so daunting now, is it?

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