Author Archives: John Donahue

John Donahue

About John Donahue

John Donahue is an independent marketing consultant specializing in creative solutions. You can connect with him on twitter @jdonahue135

Nov09

Tips for Perfecting a Portfolio

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Arguably the most important part of getting a job in any creative field is having a solid body of work. Creating and maintaining this ever-changing resource is of paramount importance for career advancement. Although it seems like a daunting task, it can be kept simple by consistently following a few steps.

 Consume as much quality content as you can

There is a good chance that whatever idea you have has already been thought of before. There are simply too many people in the world to have completely original ideas all the time; it’s just a numbers game. But no one who wants a job in a creative field got into this to think about numbers. The trick to keeping ideas fresh is to stop worrying about how similar your ideas are to others, and start thinking of ways to do the same thing differently. The only way to achieve this type of thinking is to see what’s out there. Make consuming content your hobby, and coming up with fresh ideas will become easy.

Start simple when working on a project

Get small details right when starting a project. The creative process is long and unforgiving, and what you start out with will rarely be included in the finished project. Getting a good groundwork right away will be sure to prevent frustration later. If you can keep focus on perfecting one aspect in the short term, it will help to keep the project from getting convoluted in the long term.

Perfect a finished project through excessive editing

You need to have your best work possible if you want to succeed in a very competitive field. Once you think you’re done with a project, start the creative process again. Look at every word or image and evaluate it. Every single aspect of your project must have the same focus and correct context in order for it to be portfolio-ready.

Know when to kill a project

This is by far the most difficult thing to master when creating content. You need to be willing and able to see when a project just won’t work out. There is no easy way to do this as it forces you to be objective about your own work. Finding someone whom you trust to be honest with you can be a huge asset, and if you can manage to have thick skin you will have a notable advantage over your competition.

Position your Portfolio effectively

This includes both the place employers can find your portfolio, and the content in it. The preferred format for a portfolio is online, and it is important to have your website reflect your work. As for the work itself, you are going to want to frame it so that any potential employers see your best work first. Even after all of the editing and perfecting of work, you are still going to have projects that are simply better than others. If you can promote these first, you will have a much better shot at getting hired.

Oct08

How to Avoid Dishonest Job Listings

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Marketing and related fields have a weird tendency to attract misleading job listings, especially at the entry level. This phenomenon tends to be much more prevalent in marketing than other fields. For example, I don’t think paralegal applicants ever interview for a job that turns out to be selling knives door-to-door. Unfortunately, many companies have loose definitions of marketing, and their jobs end up being a waste of time. It is very important to be able to filter these positions out in order to find quality internship and career opportunities.

Here are some red flags to watch out for when job hunting:

1. The phrase “Brand Ambassador” is used

This was one of my first “marketing” jobs, and I got it the summer before my senior year of college. The main responsibility of a Brand Ambassador is to generate leads for the sales side of a company. My job entailed going to fairs and asking people for personal information so sales reps could cold-call them (under the guise of a contest). I don’t want to name names but this company was in the basement finishing industry and their mascot was a pink jungle cat. So after many hours of low pay and no professional development, I moved on. Brand Ambassador jobs are a fine way to make money over a summer or in between classes, but they offer almost no real worthwhile experience for a creative job seeker.

2. Company reviews are polarizing

There are some great resources out there to check if jobs are legitimate, and one of my favorites has to be job review websites. They are easily the best place to find out if the company you are applying to is worth your time. The companies that are scams will have both over-the-top positive reviews and very negative ones, with nothing in between. I found this example on glassdoor.com. All of the positive reviews are very generic and say the same things, implying that the same person wrote them. Any company that possibly hires review writers is not worth your time.

3. The pay includes commission

The nature of marketing is to compliment sales. Some companies ignore this fact and simply refer to entry-level sales jobs as marketing positions. Marketing professionals should never be paid in commission because they don’t sell a product, they sell a brand. In fact, if a job description even contains the word “sales,” it probably isn’t a marketing job.

4. The job listing is on a database

This is not a real red flag as much as it is a need for caution. There are a lot of great listings on sites like indeed, monster, and sometimes even craigslist. However, there are many more bad listings to sift through on these sites than directly on a companies website.

There is an exception to this rule: for a database that only has legitimate job listings click here.

Sep16

Popular Job-Seeking Tips That You Should Ignore: The Resume

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There are thousands of articles out there with great tips on how to get a job. These tips are invaluable and they’ve helped many people. Here are a few of those tips, and why as a creative job seeker you should ignore them:

Bad Advice: Don’t use a template

The main argument against using a template is that employers will see right through it. For graphic designers this is good advice because it gives you a chance to show off your skills and make your resume a true reflection of yourself. For non-graphic designers this either makes your resume boring and text heavy or, if you try to use limited design capabilities, an unclear and abstract mess. Both of these scenarios are likely to get your resume thrown out in seconds.

Better Advice: Use a template, but change it enough to make it not look like a template.

It turns out that if you aren’t a graphic designer chances are the people who make resume templates are better than you at designing resumes. You can build off the designs given and cater them to the way you want to present yourself without it looking too cheap.

Bad Advice: You don’t need an “Interests” section

Remember that poster you had in your freshman dorm room? The one of that movie that was universally liked or that inspirational quote that seemed really deep? You hung that poster so strangers would talk to you about how awesome the Boondock Saints are or how Marilyn Monroe was SO ahead of her time. That is basically what an “Interests” section of your resume is: a conversation starter.

Better Advice: Have a short interests section at the end of your resume

An employer is not only looking to hire the right person for the job, they also want to be able to relate to and like that person. That starts with common ground, and an “Interests” section is the best way to find that.

Bad Advice: Don’t be afraid to have more than one page

This tip can be useful in certain situations, like if you have had multiple jobs over a span of around 10 years. Chances are if you’re looking for an internship or entry-level position, this isn’t you. As I briefly touched on in the “Template” section, the look of your resume matters. If you have to sacrifice some information to get it down to a page, so be it. As long as the most important information is kept, it shouldn’t matter.

Better Advice: Keep your resume to one page until you absolutely can’t add another single word

Mess with the margins. Change the font size. Go through every single line and delete any redundant words. Get creative.

Note: Every job is different. What works for one might not work for another. Do some research about the job you want, and tailor your strategy to that job. Don’t base your entire job-seeking strategy on a set of tips, but try something different until you find something that works for you.

Sep08

Career Spotlight: Devin Romeo

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Devin Romeo is a young graphic designer who works for a sports social media website called Sports 195. He has recently started working on web design for this site and we talked to him about the experience of working an entry level design job.

Creative Interns: What are your responsibilities as an entry-level designer?

Devin Romeo: I am responsible for designing parts of the website, which can include anything from what a news module looks like, to a UI element, to an intro page. It can be anything that involves that website. And a part of me does print designs for a co-brand we have. I also design brochures and pamphlets, so I kind of do everything.

CI: How did you come to work at Sports 195?

DR: I actually looked it up on Monster. At the time I was primarily a print designer but I had just finished an internship in web design and ended up liking it. I looked up this job and it said that they were looking for a graphic designer with a preference in web design. It was entry-level which turned out to be a good transition to learn how to do web design, and how to be involved with a web-based company. It allowed a lot of room for growth and it went as far into web design that I personally wanted to go.

CI: What advice do you have for recent graduates trying to get a graphic design job?

DR: In the creative world you have to not just stand out, but stand out in a good way. Don’t go over the top, but you have to be noticeable and memorable, and everything has to be clean. Make sure your work represents who you are. Apply to as many places as possible and make sure the first things these businesses see is the best that you have. Make a great personal website. People want to see visuals. I had a resume and I had attachments but my actual website was very primitive, so I ended up having to do a lot of persuading. When I finally got my job I was at the other end of the spectrum looking at applicants. The first thing my creative director would look at was the applicant’s website. If a website didn’t look good, or it had bugs, or you could tell they had used a template he almost just threw it away immediately.

CI: What is the most unexpected thing about working in web design?

DR: It was probably the turnaround on projects. You would spend weeks putting in work to build a page and it looks incredible and you’re so happy with what you’ve done and you finally send it out, only to not hear back about it for weeks. The reason is that it might look nice and it might fit all the criteria but you have to worry about developers. They have to look at previous coding, create new style sheets and override old style sheets, and there’s so much more. I still don’t know half of what happens on the back end, but there’s so much time involved outside of designing the page to make a website work.

CI: What prepared you the most for a graphic design position?

DR: I think that as much as college helped prepared me for my career, my first internship absolutely prepared me the most. When you have an internship you aren’t worried about a grade, you’re worried about a client, who is worth a lot to that company, so you’re on the line for a number of reasons.

CI: Take me through a typical day at work for you.

DR: When I get in I will usually be working on something that’s left over from the day before. That could be a page we’re working on or a specific element of a page. If I don’t have anything to do, which is rare, I speak directly to my Art Director and he will give me work. Everything goes through him. Usually I’m given 2-3 projects a day. On the rare occasion I’ll be given one huge project or a number of miniature projects. I’ll work on them for the entire day and take lunch whenever I want to, and leave sometime after 5:30. My schedule is very flexible. It’s a laid back environment but it’s still very demanding.

CI: What influenced your career choice the most?

DR: My grandfather. He was a pioneer in the creative industry. During his prime he designed logos for brands, scoreboards at major stadiums, and so much more. It is just inspiring that someone I know has done all that. I want to follow in his footsteps and, more or less, change the way the world is looked at. Which is essentially what graphic design is. That’s what he did and that is what I want to do.