Ask the Pros: How do you feel about promo pieces?

Ask the Pros: How do you feel about promo pieces?
After our terrific Ask the Pros: Live! event (get caught up on the great advice our panel had to share), we're back with more of the online version. To help prepare you for the real world, our Ask the Pros series is here to answer some of your most common questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication and media art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work. 

Read on for today's question about sending out promo pieces .... 

I'm going to graduate in a year and have been jotting down a list of magazines I would love to work at. Can I and should I send them promotional pieces in case they have any job openings?

PRO: David Curcurito - Design Director, Esquire
Get your samples online, get your website up and running! Start blasting your email blasts!! Be persistent and contact not only the magazines you love but get in touch with every magazine that's out there! Before I landed the D/D job at Esquire, I was constantly updating the editorial talent director at Hearst. For years I'd let him know what I was working on, what I was really proud of, and for years I didn't hear shit. Eventually he called to try out for the D/D job at Esquire. It's good to let people know you're out there even if the opportunities aren't immediately present. Because you know ... jobs open up, people are promoted, fired etc., people go back to their home planets. Just be patient, you may have to take a job that isn't your first choice but approach everything as if it WAS your first choice. It's funny, you never know which path leads to your dream, so take them all. As a wise man said, "You want to be a monk, you've got to cook a lot of rice". Good luck!

PRO: Daniel Añez - graphic designer, Review & Herald Publishing Association
Absolutely, I think if you have a great creative and engaging promotional piece, potential employers will consider you when a position opens up. I personally sent almost 30 applications to places where I just wanted to apply even though they were not requesting designers.

PRO: Linda Rubes, Art Direction and Design  
Yes, you can, but chances that you'll land a job straight out of school are rather slim, and will depend very much on your level of practical experience -- but it does happen. And yes, I think you should -- certainly you have nothing to lose. But I must warn you to be prepared that it's quite possible you might not receive the response you desire.
     It seems to me that the best folks, the ones that get hired, are the ones that have done internships. I've seen young designers that have done multiple internships before they even graduate from art school or college. Your best bet is to try to pursue an internship at the magazines on your list, as well as any other magazines that offer an intern program. It seems that everyone wants to work at a glamourous, big name publication, but there is plenty of great work being done at the local and regional level as well. Don't overlook those opportunites, they can provide you with the background you need to break into a more competitive market.
      Since you're still a student, your first objective should be to investigate the internship program at your school. Additionally, you might try reaching out to your local SPD or AIGA chapter to see if they can offer you any leads. Any kind of practical experience is good for your resume, so if your school has a newspaper or literary magazine, that's also a great way to get some practical experience while you're still in school.
       If you can't find a connection to the magazines that you would love to work at, of course you can try a cold call. Just make sure that your inquiry is targeted and strategic. That is to say, make a case for why you will be a good hire for that magazine specifically. Let them know what skills and knowledge you posess that sets you apart from the rest and what will make you particularly valuable to them. If you're a whiz at Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. chances are someone is going to be much more interested. If you know how to work in Adobe DPS, you're golden--it seems that everyone in town is looking for skilled tablet designers.
       Send samples of your work but edit yourself well -- send only your best work and limit the number of pieces. Send a link to your online portfolio if you have one.
       You might try looking on the masthead for contact info, and consider sending your inquiry to more than one individual in the art department to increase the chance of someone actually paying attention to it. And you might consider contacting the HR department as well.

PRO: Edward Levine - Creative Director, Psychology Today Magazine  
Absolutely! I would also suggest you make it clear in your samples and promotional material that you are still a student and graduating soon, so it doesn't get lost in other promotional material from professional agencies, studios, and designers offering their services. If possible, it's always best if you can meet with the hiring creative in-person to get personal feedback and/or offer to intern even if they don't have an opening for an intern posted. When a position opens up, you would then be an attractive candidate who already knows the ropes.

Thanks to our terrific panel of pros for their great advice! 

Check out our previous Ask the Pros questions below. And email us if you've got a question.
- What job sites should I be checking?

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