What advice would you give a design graduate? Chris Arnold, founder of Creative Orchestra and former creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, offers his pearls of wisdom.
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It’s tough. Very tough. And there is a truth in the fact that only the toughest survive. The lazy ones fail. You need to be proactive, no-one is going to call you. You have to make your own opportunities, make your own destiny. Your success is in your hands. As is your failure. But here are a few tips. Most are based on the very basics of marketing. Many are common sense. Sometimes you just have to think like a creative director (CD) and then you’d wake up to what motivates them.
- Never send out blanket ‘Dear Sir’ emails. Total waste of time. Personalise all communications and do your homework. Know about them and their company and work. Quality is better then quantity.
- Do something that will get a CD (or senior) to really want to see you. They are time short so can’t see many grads. Like any good design or advertising, it’s all about impact. They are looking for the ones that stand out.
- You are not God, yet. Never tell them how great you are, “hot talent,” you aren’t. Not yet. You are fresh but green and making claims you are great makes you look arrogant and deluded. They already have great people working there, so why will they hire you? Mainly because you are cheap, work hard, and have potential.
- Be different. So many books are all the same. Colleges turn-out sausage factory students with the same work. Blame the bean counters in Whitehall. Bin it. Start afresh and make the work yours. It should reflect your values, approach and style, not your tutors. Be employed for who you are, not who the college wanted you to be.
- Work hard. Really hard. You’ve been in cotton wool land for three years doing no real work with no real pressure by our standards. This is the real world. You need to work harder, faster, and all-hours. And never use Facebook at work. Friends, socialising, all comes second.
- Forget money. If you land a job, great. Most will spend months, maybe years doing unpaid or poorly-paid placements. It’s not the money but the work that really matters. Get a job in a bar or pizza joint. You’ll need it.
- It’s not just about the work but about people. You need to engage future employees, be nice, listen, be humble, take advice. Never argue or be arrogant (as an employee the boss’s word is king). You need them more than they need you — the pool of talent for employees is very big. Make them like you. We want nice people with potential talent. Once you’ve seen someone, try and keep the connection going, come back, build a relationship.
- Think of yourself as a brand. You need to be remembered. What will they remember you for? What defines you? If you have it in you, do something that defines you. Invent something, develop a unique skill, get noticed for something — it creates a talking point.
- Action. Try and get a second interview. Ask to come back when you’ve renewed your folio. Ask about work experience. Ask for honest feedback or how you could make the grade to get a job there.
- Remember, it’s a very subjective world and some will love your folio, some will hate it. The better it is, the more polar the response. If everyone just likes it then it’s average.
Founder & CD, Creative Orchestra
(Former CD Saatchi & Saatchi, Draft, STH, Feel, Alliance…)