How to get a job in design

Getting a first job in design is all about creating 'brand me', says Mark Davis, co-founder of creative studio me&dave.

There are nearly 180,000 arts and design students in the UK right now. This summer a large proportion of them will graduate and start looking for jobs. Anyone facing the prospect of leaving their studies for the harsh world of employment – or let’s face it, unemployment – is probably well aware of these stark realities.

At me&dave we see the sharp end of it every day. We run an ad for a junior design role and we receive upwards of 50 applications, all of them from bright, creative designers with degrees from good colleges and all of them keen to get that first break in design.

We know these designers don’t need more discouraging statistics about how tough it is to get a job; they need advice on how to get one. This is why two or three times a year we go and talk to students at our local college – Shillington – about what they need to do to stand out from the crowd.

Our advice is simple: if you want to prove that you have the ideas, creativity and sheer guts to enhance one of our client’s brands start by selling the most important brand of all: Brand Me.

The CV as Amazon page

Every designer knows not to send a CV as a Word doc, but we want applicants to do more – to look beyond the obvious. We love the ‘Amaz-ing’ CV pulled together by French digital designer Philippe Dubost. This spoof of an Amazon page ticked so many boxes that it clocked up a million page views in just eight days and gave him the chance to choose from an array of enticing job prospects.

It wasn’t just a clever idea, to play with the idea of selling himself, Amazon-style: he did such a good job, displaying technical ability, attention to detail and a sense of humour, that he captured the attention of the public as well as the company directors he was aiming for. As director of a creative studio, I need to know that a potential employee can do just that: after all, if you can do it for yourself, you can do it for our clients.

Put it in the post

Some of the best applications dispense altogether with the convention of the written CV. In a world where email and digital delivery has become ubiquitous, it is now the hard copy, ideally personally delivered, which excites and provides stand-out.

Look at Kenyan designer Omondi Abudho’s fold-out box CV below – witty proof, surely, that he could ‘think outside the box’. Other great examples include a chocolate bar CV, demonstrating to the target employer that the candidate was the ‘missing ingredient’; and an order pad CV, dreamed up by a designer for his waiter friend, which was so popular that the designer now runs a website creating CV templates.

Think of your audience

The trouble is, as a prominent newspaper editor deluged with CVs once pointed out, that candidates tend to think of what they want to show, not what a potential employer wants to see. That’s why so many CVs are too long – and why even more are full of impressive facts, but lack the passion and excitement to actually get read. Catering to the client base is what any great company does – and in this case, the client base is the hirer, and the applicant ignores that hirer at their peril.

Another great example is Victor Petit, who realised that the best way to break into the communications industry was to do just that: to communicate. So, on the back of a conventional CV, he placed a photo of himself, with a QR code where the mouth should be. Scan it, place the phone appropriately, and a video of Petit’s mouth comes up – and talks to you. You can see iy in action below.

Petit put the customer at the centre of his thinking, and grabbed their attention with the best subliminal message any company or individual can offer: I have what you need.

A great agency needs to stay ahead of the game, proving continually that they have the recipe for success. The primary ingredient is the people in the agency, and that is why agencies like me&dave insist on such high standards for applications. If an applicant can’t brand themselves, how can we trust them to brand our clients successfully?

Brand Lynsay

Lynsay Clark is a designer at me&dave. She got the job after taking a radical approach to her job application.

“I saw Mark lecturing at Shillington College, where I studied design, and he emphasised the importance of branding ourselves in job applications. So, when I got down to the final two for a role at me&dave I was determined to send an application that stood out.  

"In the first interview they had talked about the hotel sector being important to them, so I used hotels as the theme for my application. I created a handmade box, which contained the message 'I heard you want to get into hotels; I might have the key' and a set of the sort of key hooks you’d find behind the concierge’s desk in an old-fashioned hotel, hung with cards, each with a descriptive word about me and an explanation of what I could do for the agency.

"It was couriered to me&dave by a friend of mine, and I think they were quite surprised when it first arrived! But it was successful. It got me the job of my dreams. I think it shows that if you’re hard-working and you care then you can succeed. Ultimately, you need talent, but personality is also vital.”

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