How to Find a Job in Graphic Arts

ends of used pencils in a stack ...

Recently a young graphic designer sought help in positioning herself to land a new job. She had landed her first and only job through some lucky breaks, and after growing and thriving in her current position, she was ready to move on. But she didn't know how.

At a loss for how to proceed, she wisely asked the advice of Rob Barth, founder of Barth and Co., a design firm in North Jersey. Having always worked for himself, Rob didn't feel he was the best person to ask and referred the young protege to one of his ex-employees, Jay Alejandro, who had recently landed as Creative Director at in New York City, after a successful stint at Boeing in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Jay's advice was so compelling, Rob sent it to me to share, with Jay's permission, for other young aspiring designers to consider in positioning themselves in today's marketplace. Here's their combined sage advice from both their own and other colleagues' experiences.List accomplishments, not capabilities. Knowing how to use Adobe Illustrator is a capability. Having experience using Illustrator to design a concept that landed a $1 million contract is an accomplishment. An accomplishment sets you apart from the hundreds of other trained designers who are also using a program that's now considered a basic talent in the field.

Describe your role, not your title. Your official title may seem ordinary, but you can categorize yourself by a specific skill as long as you're truthful in portraying what you can do. For instance, one designer's official business card title was "Multimedia Graphic Designer." On his resume, however, he described himself as a "UX Designer"--which was not only true, but differentiated him for software firms seeking that exact experience.

Have multiple resumes. It's too hard to write different resumes for each job application. Instead, write two to five different resumes for a few types of jobs that fit your profile. Using the above example, the designer had one resume highlighting software experience and another highlighting his role as a senior designer. The jobs listed on his resume were the same, but his descriptions focused on different experiences and projects at each job.

Don't be too cute. Designers can use their resumes to highlight their talents. I tend to discount designers with standard resumes, but Jay got his last job by sticking to basics, particularly when applying for corporate jobs. He defined his resume as "clean, but not boring."

> Find a job in graphic design

Unlike in other fields, designers should also have an online portfolio and/or web site to highlight samples of their work. is a good, free site to host a portfolio. was also helpful for one young artist in building her first website. A seasoned designer won't necessarily use the supplied templates, and one found a way to build pages that matched the style in the submitted portfolio. Just having the unique pages displayed talents that others might not have.

Of all the resume advice the veteran designers provided to their young protégé, this was perhaps the best from Jay: "Be smart and relevant, but don't lie."

The goal is to land a job that's right for you, matches your talent, will allow you to grow, and gives you an environment where you can thrive. That starts with being honest about what you can do, have done, and hope to do in your next position.

Even though you may not be a designer, when looking for your next position, you are literally trying to design your own future. Whether you're artistic or not, this advice is valid for all professions, and worth considering as you tailor your next resume and cover letter.
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