12 tips on how to make a positive first impression.
After a series of frustrating post-graduation job requests, I thought I'd pass on a little insight to any young (or old) designers looking to make contact with a design studio.
> Who to approach
Don’t scattergun your CV to the every studio in a 30 mile radius.
Do pick a small handful of studios to approach that:
A. Excite you.
B. You think you could add value to.
C. Are on your level. If you're a 5, don't try to chat up the 9 at the bar.
If you're plucky, go for a drunk 7.
Don't Email the first 5 companies you find through Google. We get dozens a month and 90% of them are rubbish.
Do research each studio thoroughly before even thinking about applying. Look through all their projects, check out their blog, stalk them socially.
The more you know the more you’ll impress.
> Making contact
Don’t start your email Dear Sir / Madam. Firstly, I'm no Sir (no, I'm not a Madam either) I'm just a guy, and my name is Dave. You're not applying for a job at HSBC and in my eyes, unless you wear a top hat, you're not a Sir.
Do ring up first & find out who's best to send an application to. Ask if there's any jobs / placements going. Tell us briefly who you are & why you're interested in our studio. Remember, we may be busy, but we’re not rockstars, we’re just normal people, so pick up the phone!
Don’t copy & paste the same email to us and another 20 studios (hint: it’s really obvious).
Do put the effort into making it personal, state why you think your style work be a good addition to our studio & note which projects in particular appeal to you.
Don’t jump straight in asking if there’s any jobs going.
Do see your first point of contact as simply an introduction. All you need to do is make a good first impression. Get on the studio's radar, chuck them a compliment or two and let them know you’re interested. Hitch reference – you only ever go 90%.
> What to send
Don’t send a CV & PDF portfolio and hope that’ll be enough to impress. Again, we get dozens a month. What’s going to make you stand out? We’ve had knitted pigeons, burgers, beer bottles, pig masks, record sleeves and Japanese squeezy toys.
Do see this as your biggest brief yet. You've got to research the studio, think of a great concept & execute it perfectly.
Don’t send the same portfolio to everyone.
Do tailor it to suit the studio you're approaching. If they're a small studio, they're going to want to see a wide mix of skills, usually along similar lines (stylistically) to their own portfolio. I can't talk on behalf of big agencies, but I imagine they’d be more open to specific strengths (i.e grid boss, strong illustrator etc).
Don’t send a portfolio that is purely Uni projects.
Do include self-initiated projects / made up briefs / projects for family and friends. These are usually the most interesting part of a portfolio as they show your design skills and your personality.
Don’t send anything that isn’t 100% perfect.
Do triple check spellings, grammar, website links, etc. Trust me designers are pernickety fuckers. And whilst we’re on the subject, if you don’t have a website you’d better have a good reason why.
> Selling yourself
Don’t tell them you spent 3 months working at River Island and you like 'socialising with friends'.
Do tell them what music you like, what quirky hobbies you have, what designers inspire you.
Don't do those bar charts that say you're 94% good at Illustrator. They are shit.
Do show them what you're good at through your portfolio, not your CV.
> Keep in touch
Don’t be disheartened if they haven't got any openings right now.
Do keep in touch, email them every few months (unless they specifically tell you no). Follow them socially & stay on their radar. Sometimes it only takes one new client & suddenly the studio is the one chasing you.