Written by Ben Mottershead
If you're reading this then chances are you've lost a job, recently been let go, or you're deciding to take the leap yourself. While every experience is personal to the individual there's something which doesn't change and that's how to effectively prepare for it.
I’ve been made redundant from two jobs in my career and quit one. It sucks! I was made redundant from my first junior position after 10 months and was still relatively inexperienced and I was made redundant from my second after working at the company for three years. Much more experienced. Much less difficult. I then quit a job due to burning out and my mental health suffering. I chose to do it for me and it was the best thing I could have done at that moment in time.
We often hold onto this notion that a job equates to security. To lose a job is scary because we have failed to make ourselves secure. However, losing a job also opens up numerous windows of possibility. You can move careers, you can move to a different city, a new environment, you can grow as a person, you become more resilient.
From experience, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re always ready to be jobless should the situation arise.
A lot of creatives talk about it. Few do it. Keeping your website updated at all times is crucial to avoiding in the moment panic. That's not to say you have to be using it frequently but you should make sure it always had your latest work, an up to date bio and an active blog. Having all these things will mean that if you ever come to find yourself without a job, you're already 80% there because you don't have to go into 2 am, drink all the coffee mode to try and get one up and running.
When you're crafting a website remember to tell the story of a project, show the process, you're involvement and use great mockups, or photography so people can visualise how the work will be seen by an audience.
Writing is also something you should consider. I'd aim to spend as much time on the copywriting of your website as you do with the actual visuals. Unlike the work, writing appears in every area of your website and can create a unified tone of voice. Think about what you want to say to an audience. Who are you, why should they care? create an authentic sound and show it off at every possible moment.
One of the biggest issues I've seen within the industry, particularly from young creatives, is the misunderstanding of what a CV is supposed to be. It's there to communicate information, information which needs to be read within a matter of seconds by people who have to go through hundreds of applicants. Imagine how bored they get!
Visually stimulate, but try and not use anything to visually heavy. Graphics, diagrams and photographs are some of the things you see most commonly used on CV's but they also take up the most space. Rating yourself 9/10 on Illustrator makes no sense as there's nothing to compare it to. What makes you 9/10? by who's standard? Instead of using graphs and unnecessary visuals see if there are other ways you can communicate your abilities as a creative and show off aesthetically!
Stick to a simple grid system, apply a great use of hierarchy and minimal, but effective use of colour. Show you understand how to design by guiding the person's eye, show you can bring attention to key areas by using colour and most importantly be super to the point when speaking about who you are, and what you do. These things will show what an awesome creative you are far more than jamming a million colours and cute diagrams onto an A4 page.
If you need to get feedback get feedback from a couple of informed people. Ideally, someone who is involved in the hiring process, and has a good grasp of grammar.
PDFolios! Probably the most hates thing to create in a creatives toolkit. Seriously, whoever decided that a PDFolio was needed alongside a website was just a cruel individual. That being said however you should have one, and maybe not even one. You could have a few for different scenarios depending on who you want to send them to. One of the main benefits of a PDFolio is that you don't have to have a functioning website to apply for new jobs. You can just start blasting them out asap and as a result, they may even be more important during the job search tan an actual website.
When creating your PDF goodness try and keep the pages to no more than 35 pages and limit yourself to 5-6 projects max. You'll always be judged worse by your weakest project so only include you best.
Remember to tell the story of a project as well. Show the scope and process you had to go through. A PDFolio will be used for one of two things. To decide if you should be asked in for an interview, or to drive people to your website and ultimately acquire an interview. As a result, the way you show your projects should compel people to want to find out more about you. Show off your skills, and what your responsibilities were. If you need an extra page to showcase an element then do it! don't try and fit much onto a single page as it can hugely dilute the impact and communication of the visual.
Surprisingly text is also important on a PDFolio but it should be concise, and well thought out. You don't have a lot of space so you really need to only include a copy if it elevates the content within it. Include a short bio at the start, maybe your skillset and then when you're speaking about your projects make sure to address three key things.
What was the Brief, What was the challenge, What was the solution you created? Show that you're more than a picture maker and you actually effectively tackle problems which are put in front of you.
Social Media. The bible of the 21st century. Where lives are made and broken in split seconds. It's a necessary factor when making it within the creative industries but not in the way you'd probably think. Most people make the false assumption that social media is about building a following, and then by association that you must be awesome at what you do because you have that following, but this isn't the case.
The point of social media is to create value for other people, whether that be visually, emotionally, or mentally. You should approach social media at all times with this thought in your head, 'does this help my audience'. If yes then keep going, if no then start over.
I'm not saying you have to use social media to run the entirety of your creative life but it's the first step for a lot of interviews. Who are you? what do you do outside of design? what does your private life look like? As a result, you should show off your interests, knowledge and experience on social media. Use thought leadership style posts to demonstrate you understand the theory of design, show WIP shots to communicate your process or show final work to show off your skill.
If you showcase knowledge and value, you create confidence in the person looking at it and when someone is confident in you they are more likely to trust you. Trust is the main aim of anything we put on the web. If you can create trust then you have the control. If you're not currently utilising social media for your work then you're missing a trick. As a said it's not about the following. It's about showing off your skills in other ways and beginning to set yourself up as someone who can be trusted.
Not everyone loves networking but I've always felt that's because people are doing it the wrong way. The majority of us don't dislike speaking to people, we dislike speaking to strangers but love talking to friends. This is why it's important to change the way we view networking away from a self-serving standpoint i.e "I need a job, contact etc and need to speak to these people", and more towards "I want to meet this person because they're interesting".
Start seeing networking as a way to build friendships and relationships and not just as a way to help you climb the ladder. Approach people showing genuine interest in who they are, what they do, do they have a family? do they have hobbies? look for things to connect over. If you can do that then the person quickly stops feeling like a stranger, and when someone isn't a stranger it's easier to be more authentic around them.
Authenticity is the key to successful networking. Become comfortable enough around someone and your unique, authentic self will shine through. When this happens it's easier for a relationship to grow and opportunities to appear. That's not to say there aren't occasions when quick fire networking isn't required but from experience more is gained from spending an hour speaking in-depth with 2-3 people, than talking to 20. It's just about recognising who you should be speaking to i.e managers, directors, senior staff members.
Networking is about relationship building to the point where that person wants to get to know you better, and you can't build relationships from throwing a business card in someone's face and leaving.
So that's it. Some insights into how you can best prepare and ultimately deal with becoming jobless. All of these things are thoughts I've developed over the years and having gone through it three times. There is no full-proof way to deal with a situation like this. However, if you can be as prepared as possible then you'll be more confident that you can quickly work through the situation.
I hope the above advice helps if you ever find yourself unemployed, or looking for a new job. It's mostly common sense advice but never write off things which fall under common sense. These are often what cause a lot problems because people don't pay attention to them.
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