10 Tips To Get Your Work Noticed (and Land a Job!) at Design Studios and Ad Agencies

Nubby Twiglet | 10 Tips To Get Your Work Noticed (and Land a Job!) at Design Studios and Ad Agencies

As the year winds down and you have some free time to reflect, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what steps you can take to land your dream job.

The thing is, there’s nothing worse than putting in some serious effort when applying for a job only to receive the tired response of, “You’re not quite what we are looking for” or worse yet, no response at all. As creatives, we want our work to get noticed by the right people. I often receive emails from recent design graduates asking how they can land their first professional position but the competition for spots at design studios and ad agencies can be notoriously tough.

Today, I’m sharing 10 tips gathered from personal experience — over the course of seven years, I worked full-time and freelanced at a total of seven spots ranging in size from less than 10 employees to a few hundred. Each experience was slightly different but I used similar techniques to get into each.

10 Helpful Tips

1. Do your homework.

Before walking into an interview, take the time to research your employer. What is their visual style like? How do they communicate on their website? Is their copy buttoned-up or humorous? In a sea of creative studios, what do they stand for? Do they mostly work with corporate clients or small businesses? All of these pieces of information are cues for how you should present yourself and your work. Even if it means pulling an all-nighter, re-jig your presentation for a particular interview and study up. If it’s undeniable that you “get” their style (and sense of humor), you’ll be a shoe-in because they already know that you’re a good fit. I’d obsessed over Cinco’s work for years before I ever had an interview and because I knew their work well (and referenced it), I was able to get into one of Portland’s best agencies.

2. Design a resume that stands out.

When applying for a creative presentation at a studio, a standard Word document won’t make the cut. This is the perfect opportunity to show off your personality and turn a traditionally boring document on its head. In need of inspiration? Check out this roundup. Don’t go too crazy with the design, though — the bottom line is that legibility matters most. Before sending out your resumé, print it. Are the fonts you chose easy on the eyes? Does the hierarchy of information make sense?

3. Replace school projects with real world client work.

Start freelancing as early as possible to gain actual client work. Employers want to see what you can do outside of the very structured confines of school. Can you handle difficult clients, sometimes ridiculous timelines and still deliver beautiful work? Because honestly, this is what the world outside of school looks like. Client work conveys that you are a self-starter and took the initiative to create a well-rounded portfolio. Not every project is going to pay well in the beginning but think about it as an investment in your future. I did many $200.00 logos while I was in school but that work later helped me get into the door of my first few jobs.

4. Expand upon each project.

Even if you’re hired to just do a logo, take the time to do a full build-out on your own. During my first few years of freelancing, my clients had small budgets so I’d often take their logos and build them into a full suite of collateral free of charge to create a much stronger visual presentation. An example of this was Semiospectacle who only had a budget for a logo at the time.

5. Brush up on skills affordably.

If your skillset isn’t quite up to par with the job you’re applying for, study online affordably. If you need to dive deeper into the Creative Suite and learn every little tip and trick about a particular program, Lynda is fantastic. If you want to learn a particular skill like hand-lettering or logo design, Skillshare is great.

6. Take the time to mock up your work.

Don’t just show a logo and flat graphics on a portfolio page because they offer no context. Instead, take the time to show a more complete visual story. Search out appropriate templates to give your work some dimension and relevance. For instance, if you designed a logo for a coffee shop, show it on a mug, a sign and across a suite of collateral. It shows that you understand the art of presentation, which agencies in particular appreciate….because once you get in the door, you’ll be helping to build out a whole lot of pitches. You can play up the outcome with templates from Creative Market, Pixeden and Live Surface.

7. Develop self-initiated projects.

If you haven’t found the ideal mix of clients to build the portfolio of your dreams, that’s okay. Take the initiative and create a few self-initiated projects. Self-initiated simply means that you weren’t hired for a project but built it out for fun. As long as you’re clear about this in the description and not trying to mislead anyone, these types of projects can show off different styles and skills to potential employers. If you’re looking for ideas to create well-rounded, amazingly branded projects, Good Design Makes Me Happy is a great source for inspiration.

8. Polish up your web presence.

Remember, your interviewer can Google you in 5 seconds flat. Give them something good to look at! In your online portfolio, include more information about yourself, your accolades and an extended selection of projects if you have them. Before I launched my design studio, I used Cargo Collective as a platform but WordPress and Squarespace also work well.

9. Spell check, use proper grammar….and if all else fails, hire a copywriter.

Nothing is a bigger turn-off for a potential employer than opening a resume or portfolio and spotting one spelling error after another. It’s sloppy and conveys a lack of attention to detail. Whether you’re formatting your resume, the bio on your website or descriptions for your portfolio projects, always run spell check. In InDesign, go to Edit > Spelling > Check Spelling.

10. Always say thank you.

Manners go a long way. After an interview, send a simple thank you the next day. An email or a card are both perfectly fine. Studios are busy places and the fact that the interviewers blocked time out of their busy schedules to meet you means that you’re a definite contender. If you have impeccable taste and manners, they won’t be able to resist you!

I hope these tips help you land a position you love in the new year. Good luck!

Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

Welcome to Anatomy Of An Office. This series is dedicated to pulling together a functional yet stylish workspace with plenty of budget-friendly tips!

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

I don’t know about you but every time I tape visual inspiration directly to my walls, it reminds me a little too much of my high school-era bedroom. Back then, my walls were covered top to bottom in Marilyn Manson clippings and the look was chaotic at best. These days, I like my chaos a little more controlled.

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

When I moved into my office a few weeks ago and began taping more and more inspiration up next to my desk, I knew there had to be a better way. Joey came to the rescue with an easy and affordable solution to help you wrangle all your inspiration into one place. We used drywall as a base because it’s strong yet the surface is easy to push tacks through.

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

To make your own inspiration board, you’ll need:

Supplies

1. Drywall — we used a 36 x 32 inch piece leftover from construction
2. Four 1 x 2 inch pine boards — these will be used to build a frame for your drywall piece
3. Canvas from an art supply store — this is your pinning surface
4. Screws — these are used to affix the drywall to the frame
5. Staples — these are used to attach your canvas to the frame
6. Eye hooks — these are used to support the wire of your inspiration board
7. Metal clamps — these are used to tie off the wire and keep it from sliding loose
8. Wire — this used to hang your masterpiece

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

Details:

Once you’ve cut your drywall to the desired size, build a wood frame in the same exact dimensions. Next, affix the drywall to your frame in each corner with screws. Once your drywall and frame are adjoined, wrap it in canvas and fasten the canvas to the back of the frame with a staple gun. Finally, insert an eye hook directly above the frame so you can hang it. Metal clamps will keep the wire from sliding loose.

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #5: Build Your Own Inspiration Board

That’s it! Enjoy!

The Week In Pictures: 11.21.14

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

I hope you had a great week! I’m packing for an extended trip with stops in Palm Springs, LA, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland. There’s been a lot of juggling going on behind the scenes this week with late nights filled with formatting report cards and packaging design files but it’s always that way…I’m trying to live up to my life’s motto of working hard and playing hard. ;)

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Sometimes I am powerless to random impulse purchases like this hand sculpture. I grew up watching a lot of Addams Family re-runs so naturally, it reminds me of Thing. What should it hold? Rings? Rubber bands? Business cards? Give me some ideas!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

One of the best things about this week was getting an inspiration board installed. I’ll be sharing more about how you can make your own on a budget next Tuesday.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Pulling together the inspiration board was a fun creative exercise. Digging through years of ephemera and magazine clippings unearthed a lot of gems.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

On Monday, I joined my aunt for some errand running and the next thing I knew, I had an orange Eiffel Tower in my shopping cart. Totally ridiculous…but right at home in my office.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

One of the perks of being a designer is getting to work with creative folks who inspire you to live a more full, adventurous life. Kitty Cavalier is one of those people and she surprised me with an autographed copy of the book we designed together earlier this year.

I’m off to wrap up some projects so I can join my grandparents for a night out on the town. They seem to out-party me every night of the week…and they’re in their 80s. I’m not worthy. ;) Have an amazing weekend! I’m going to miss out on Thanksgiving this year (I’ll be in Australia) so I’ll be living vicariously through all of you. I hope you have something fun planned with family and friends. Sending lots of love your way!

Link Love: 11.20.14

Nubby Twiglet | Link Love: Superfried

• Do you need a business plan?

• I can’t believe these photos exist. Just another day of giving a kangaroo and llama a bath…in New York City?!

• How can you create a clear brand and message when you do so many different things?

• Stay motivated and reach your goals by setting up an awards system.

• Behold the art series quotes on shit.

• I really want to stay in this apartment built inside of a plane. Oh, and it has 8 bathrooms!

• When is the right time to go freelance?

• The relative scale of the planets in our solar system can best be summed up with pieces of fruit.

• If you’re curious about how to overlay lettering on an image, June Letters has a great tutorial.

• Who really designed the Virgin logo?

• What happens when evolution meets Photoshop? Haha!

• I love the idea of making oversized photo booth prints on a budget.


Image: Superfried.

Anatomy Of An Office #4: 5 Benefits Of Having A Creative Workspace Outside Of Your Home

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #4: The 5 Benefits Of Having A Creative Workspace Outside Of Your Home

Welcome to Anatomy Of An Office. This series is dedicated to pulling together a functional yet stylish workspace with plenty of budget-friendly tips!

I used to think that having a dedicated workspace away from home was completely unnecessary. I’d hear what I considered to be the same old tired clichés about increased productivity, less distractions and a better overall work / life balance.

After I quit my agency job a year and a half ago, I was happy to be home, to avoid a commute and to get some much needed solitude (most of the offices I’d worked in had open seating plans). Every morning, I crossed the hall from my bedroom to a nicely decorated home office. Life was good. And to be honest, I never bought into the idea of a work / life balance anyway. I didn’t see the point of leaving home every day to dive into work, only to escape it when the clock struck 6 pm…because I loved it. And to be in demand in a competitive field, I felt that it was important to live and breathe my work.

Even with my extreme view, everything worked out fine…but it was just fine. Sure, I was avoiding an extra rent bill every month but I began to wonder if I was really producing as much as I could be. Because let’s face it, when your job is to be creative at all times and you’re distracted by the pile of dirty laundry, a stack of dishes and the mailman, it’s hard to mentally click back over into “the zone.”

Still, even with nagging feelings about my current situation beginning to creep in, I was on the fence about finding a dedicated office. I’d been saving towards a big future goal and making a dent in my progress just to have an Instagrammable, pretty space seemed lame. I told myself that I could create from anywhere — I’d done just that from a couch in Berlin, a tiny bedroom in Vancouver and a kitchen table in Amsterdam during the prior six months.

Then, it happened. I met a couple at my neighbor’s house party and they pointed at the building across the street. They’d just taken over the lease and it was quickly filling up with creatives. I was intrigued. The thought of walking to work, having a space to spread out, make a mess and call my own began to seem more appealing. A few months later, as we were walking by one night, we ran into them again. After a quick tour of the building, I was convinced. Everyone else was an artisan — pottery, jewelry-making, weaving and letter pressing were all happening inside of those walls. It was good to get outside of the graphic design bubble.

A month went by and more traveling ensued — I bounced from the west coast to the east coast and back again and when I got home, I found an email stuck in my spam folder offering me a space. French doors. Exposed brick walls. Very high ceilings. I sat on it a few days….was this really a necessity? What would I do with it? Then, the ideas started flooding in. I talked it over with Joey and my family. I could finally get an intern. I could teach in-person classes I’d been dreaming about. I could do more involved photo shoots. I signed the lease and moved Branch in.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” —Steve Jobs

Once you’ve made a commitment, how do you really know if something is right? The truth is, it doesn’t matter how great something looks on paper. Until you’ve actually settled in, you don’t…until you actually go to work and spend a full day in the environment. It turned out to be a smoother transition that I’d envisioned. A few hours in, I felt right at home. Or at least, right at home at work.

Nubby Twiglet | Anatomy Of An Office #4: The 5 Benefits Of Having A Creative Workspace Outside Of Your Home

5 reasons why a dedicated workspace outside of your home is a good idea:

1. More productivity equals more money.

Even if you’re highly productive at home like I was, there are always distractions creeping in. I put in long hours but I wasn’t always operating at my highest level. I’d roll out of bed, start work between 7 and 8 am and by late afternoon, disheveled and tired, I’d take a break to watch Dr. Phil (because when you don’t leave the house very much, other people’s problems give you a reality check that things really aren’t so bad). An hour later, I was easing back into work, losing track of when I was supposed to eat lunch or dinner because my day didn’t have a clear structure. It was a matter of getting as much done as quickly as possible but every time I’d stop to grab a snack or get the mail, I’d get sidetracked and lose another 15 minutes.

The other side of the productivity coin is a little harder to pinpoint but I believe that when you put the wheels in motion to take a big step, the universe rewards you for moving outside of your comfort zone (or in my case, my house). Two weeks after signing my lease, I got offered one of Branch’s largest projects to date and just the deposit alone covered my entire year of rent. Who knows, the job might have happened anyway but I took it as a sign that I’d gained momentum by physically (and mentally!) leaving the house.

2. Having a private hangout allows you to create without constraints.

Don’t get me wrong, I made plenty of messes at home. What I noticed, though is that they never stuck around — I felt the urge to clean up and get everything back in order by the end of the day. There was a part of me that felt held back, partially due to space and distractions. When you’re trying to take a photo and your pet squirrel runs into your shot, it’s just not going to work. Now, I walk into my office every morning, set down my cup of coffee, light a candle, make a to-do list, look out the window at traffic zooming by…and feel ready to not only get work done but to explore new ideas without interruptions, unwanted feedback or a feeling of needing to clean up the second a project is finished.

3. A structured environment in turn gives structure to your life.

Working from home, I was always on. There was always something more I could do to promote or grow my business and since it was so conveniently located across the hall (truly a blessing and a curse), I took full advantage of it. Never having an escape can make you really tired. Now, I head into the office at 9 am. Some nights, I do stay late but when I leave, I put my phone in my purse and tuck away my laptop. I get a good night’s sleep and deal with whatever is left the next day. Having a change in environment from work and home gives me a mental break — I’m more relaxed on my downtime because I’m not being nagged by work in the next room. And, the best part? Once I leave the office for the night, I don’t send another email unless it’s an emergency. It’s a pretty freeing feeling.

4. Set business hours mean there’s less room for procrastination.

When I worked from home, my days could stretch on forever. There was no real beginning or end because if I didn’t get my to-do list done during the day, I could just tack on a few extra hours at night. Now, I start work at 9 am, go home for lunch at 1 pm and leave for the night between 6 and 7 pm. There are still some crazy late nights when I’m catching up before traveling but otherwise, I leave and go meet friends or go home and eat dinner. When you give yourself very firm time constraints, it’s amazing how much more you can get done. End of story.

5. If you have a bad day, you can shut the door and leave.

Okay, I know this is a bit of a stretch but it’s true. When you’re home, it’s nearly impossible to get away from work. It follows you around like a nagging mother, day and night. If I had any bad feedback or a call that didn’t go as planned, I couldn’t escape it. Now? I just close my office door, turn off the light and take off. The act of closing the door and walking away is more symbolic than anything but it’s still effective. There’s something very zen about leaving it all behind, knowing that there’s a fresh start waiting tomorrow.


What about you? Do you work from home? Have you had your own office space? Which did you prefer? What are the pros and cons for you?

What I Wore: Olive

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Olive

To me, there’s nothing better than Fall fashion. Maybe it’s because the change of seasons reminds me of all those years of going back to school (I didn’t officially graduate from college until I was 27). Chunky, cozy knits and wool blends are great, as are all those very Fall (and Winter-centric) hues like olive, oxblood, pumpkin, mustard and navy.

Back in the late 90s in high school, I desperately wanted a bomber jacket but all the styles I found at my local army surplus store were just too baggy for my frame. I’m glad the trend has had a recent resurgence — this Zara version is perfectly cropped and basic enough to move from dressier looks to jeans. I’ve been wearing it everywhere lately, including this look to the Reed College campus.

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Olive

These are some of my favorite olive-hued items right now:

1. F21 waffle-knit sweater, 2. F21 utility jacket, 3. Zara parka, 4. Zara bomber jacket, 5. Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses and 6. F21 knit beanie.

Nubby Twiglet | What I Wore: Olive

I wore: Zara bomber jacket, Banana Republic wool wrap skirt (very old), H&M socks and Dries van Noten wedges (2008).

Have a great Monday!

The Week In Pictures: 11.14.14

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Hey, how was your week? It’s been freezing here most of the week so I’ve been hiding out in my office next to a space heater, digging myself out of piles of client work….but that’s okay because Australia is happening in 10 days! I’ve never been to Sydney before and that’s our first stop. Seriously can’t wait.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Over the weekend, I walked through a new neighborhood and spotted this beauty of a car. If Blogcademy was in need of a company car, this would surely be it…though I can only imagine what a bitch parking would be. ;)

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

I’ve been in my office nearly two weeks now and I never knew how much of a difference having a dedicated space could make on my outlook. I’m excited to get out of bed every morning and go to work. It’s not that I wasn’t before but now, just having the routine of actually getting ready every morning (instead of looking like a creepy recluse) shifts my whole day. Pulling myself together, walking down the street and opening the door to my own space where I can watch the city go by gets my creative juices flowing.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

The highlight of my weekend was sitting in the lounge at Heidi’s, eating breakfast with my grandparents, Betty and Sharky. It’s hard to believe that they’ve been married for 65 years…and there’s no signs of them slowing down. My grandpa sipped a bloody mary as we all caught up on family gossip (always a good time). My grandparents are truly the sweetest people and I treasure each time I get to see them.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Over on the Branch-stagram, I started a new feature yesterday called #branchbooks where I’m sharing a must-read pick every week from my bookshelf. I hope you’ll follow along!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. I’ll be huddled under blankets wrapping up last-minute Blogcademy things (we’re in the midst of redesigning our website AGAIN) and beginning the packing process. I hope you have something far more eventful planned!