"Ask the Pros: Live!" :: What We Learned

SPD-U continued its busy fall with our "Ask the Pros: Live!" event a week ago, Wednesday, October 24. Our truly awesome group of panelists (pictured above, from left: Jen Sharpe, Elliot Stokes, David Curcurito, Dennis Huynh, Jamie Bartolacci and Yuko Shimizu) had all kinds of terrific, honest advice and shared lots of juicy tidbits from their own experience job hunting or hiring. If you weren't able to make it, here's some snippets of wisdom that was shared:

Talent > Degree
If you attend a design school, that's great and you should take every advantage of it that you can. But if your school doesn't specialize in design or if you don't even have a design degree, it's not that big a deal ... BFA or not, it's your talent and portfolio that matters.

HR Sites Aren't Just a Black Hole
While it might seem like applications through a company's careers website never get a response, we learned that every single resume/application that comes through Time Inc gets seen by one of their HR associates. The problem is they see hundreds a day and they're just as tough as any Design Director (each associate specializes in a certain type of job, so they know what to look for), and they filter you out based on how design-focused your application is. So play up the internships and design work (in an honest way, of course!).

Don't Be a Diva
Employers want someone who works with a good attitude, passion and some humility. Confidence is great, but don't let it go to your head ... it can cost you a job despite how good your skills might be.

Forget the Precious Portfolios
While they can appreciate the craft in a one-of-a-kind bound book, several of our panelists talked about how they often felt nervous handling these "precious" portfolios for fear of breaking the spine or bending a page. Don't make your interviewer nervous! They prefer the simpler portfolio with pages you can easily interchange so you can tailor your portfolio to each job you interview for. Just keep it clean and neat and professional looking.

Editorial Illustration Requires Reaching Out
Our panelists said they still love promotional postcards and look at promo emails too. Many of them get trashed, but if they like your work, they hang on to it ... you may not get immediate results, but it can definitely lead to future work. Illustrator Yuko Shimizu also suggested calling magazines and asking about portfolio dropoffs or to get a meeting with someone. And Elliot Stokes told a story about how he got a sweet illustration gig by responding to an art director's brief reply email with a personalized small booklet of his drawings.

Tablet Design Is a Good Way In
Because we're still in the beginning of magazine design on the tablet and because there are several methods of making it happen, most magazines don't expect you to have any tablet design experience ... they're just looking for solid design skills, expertise with InDesign and eagerness to learn. They're willing to teach you from there. And if you can make it work as a freelancer, there's a lot of opportunity out there.

And one bonus tip:

Become an SPD Student Member!!
There were numerous times that night our panelists mentioned ways to prepare yourself as a strong job applicant and SPD Student Membership offers many solutions to do just that. It shows you have a strong interest in publication design; you get access to our SPD Job Board (which will soon be going behind a members-only wall) and the InaNet mailing list; you get a discounted rate for Joseph Caserto's "Designing for the iPad" online course to help you get a leg up on tablet design; AND you get 3 free entries in our Student Design Competition which offers internships, cash and software as the winning prizes (and those internships often lead to jobs, just like our own panelist and former winner Elliot Stokes!)

Thanks again to our wonderful panelists for sharing all their great advice!

If you weren't able to join us, hopefully you'll be able to attend a future event  ... look for more events in the spring. And if you did join us, be sure to fill out our survey to let us know what you thought!

Thanks to Nicole Zigmont and Travis Bonila for contributing to this post. And to Ian Doherty and Judi Pena for their photos.
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