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Job hunt 2020: Tips for creatives

Ilinca Draganescu


It's Time For Recruitment To Become A Sustainable ...

The Context  By now, you must be sick of articles beginning with ‘ever since the pandemic’. But it’s...


Fresh on the heels of our piece for tech workers, welcome to Job Hunt 2020: creative edition! There will be some overlap here, because, well, there’s overlap in the best practices associated with any job hunt in today’s market.

Finding creative work in 2020 looks a bit different

And that’s largely down to the candidate-focused nature of that market. This new focus means several things for the creatives out there looking to land the perfect position with their employer of choice. First and foremost, you need to actually know who your employer of choice is. From there, it’s a matter of making your way into their talent pool so when they have a position to fill, you’re top-of-mind.


With the rapid approach of 2020, we know a lot of people are stepping back to assess where they’re at, career wise. These pieces are aimed at assisting with this self-reflection, and providing a how-to guide of sorts, so you can go about the assessment process methodically. We know, as fellow creatives, methodical approaches may not be a strong suit, so read on for tips and ideas to get you on your way to finding that perfect opportunity with that perfect company.


Oh, and as a quick aside, if you haven’t read the piece directed at tech workers, it’s definitely worth the time as many of the suggestions here will play on those made earlier. Go ahead, it’s right here. We’ll wait.

Research is Universal for Any and All Job Seekers


Given what we said about the candidate focus in today’s job market, do you know how to figure out what employers to put your own focus on? Well, it’s time to go back to school and do your homework.


Start on general job boards, looking for openings for the position you’re targeting. Once you find the roles, make a list of the companies with those openings. Then add some notes about the job descriptions themselves. Does the tone resonate? What keywords are they using in terms of hard skills? How about the unspoken soft skills they’re looking for? Note it all.


Then move on to the homepages and career portals for each company on the list. Does the tone match what you noted from the job listings? What aspects of their EVP (employee value proposition) do they seem to focus on? Are those the same aspects that matter to you?


OK, it’s time to hit the review sites. Enter this step with a word of caution: any review that is 100% glowing, or 100% glowering likely was written by someone with ulterior motives. Look for specifics in reviews. If the reviewer keeps it super general, move on. Find the reviews with some good meaty specifics and see how they read. Do they talk about a responsive management team? Or are they focused on the quality of snacks in the break room?


Keep your skeptic hat on as you read and you’ll end up with a nicely whittled down list. Once you have your top 3 possibly employers, it’s time to move forward.

Network, Network, then Network Some More


Got friends? Are any of them in your field, or one closely adjacent? Say you’re a graphic designer, if your friend is in publishing, that’s close enough for our purposes. There’s a theory in HR that “like knows like.” This is the basis of the burgeoning employee referral program scene in today’s recruitment marketing. Simply put, they know that great writers tend to know other great writers, designers know designers, and so on.


Take those friends to coffee, then grill ‘em on their employers. Bonus points if they work for one of your top 3. You know your friends, which provides several benefits at this stage of your hunt. First you’ll know if they’re being completely honest in their review. Second and just as importantly, they’ll be more willing to give you the whole story, and it’ll be one you can trust more than those anonymous reviews.

The CV: it is Still Relevant Today?


Spoiler alert: Yes, and here’s why.


Despite the technological leaps being made in areas like video conferencing, automated search tools, and ATS (applicant tracking systems); there is still no replacement for a well worded, creative, and attractive resume for giving a recruiter a snapshot of your background and skills. Work experience, education, and frankly, grammar, are all best showcased in a clear and concise 1-2 page CV.


This list transcends sectors (it’s borrowed from the tech piece):


  • Ditch the titles, focus on the skills.
  • If you can quantify it, do so.
  • Format matters, make it look good while retaining readability.
  • Got certifications? List ‘em out.

Soft Skills and Body Language: A Match Made in Job Hunter Heaven?


This category of skills is often overlooked by job seekers, to their detriment. Many employers are rating the so-called ‘soft skills,’ things like problem solving, teamwork, leadership, and emotional intelligence as the most important aspects of new hires. They know they can teach hard skills, but how someone fits into the company culture is pretty much set before they’re hired.


Something to keep in mind here is that company culture is often determined in large part by the biggest department. So a creative agency will likely have a vastly different vibe than the art department a software company.


Use your portfolio to showcase your skills, even your soft skills. How? Easy, include information about things like project specs and teammate recommendations so potential employers can see how conscientious you are and how much your coworkers loved working with you while they’re checking out your design chops.


When you go in for an interview, remember that more and more companies are asking support staff like the receptionists for their impressions of interviewees, so the interview technically starts the moment you drive up (assuming some cameras out front) and certainly the moment you walk in the door. Some quick body language best practices:


  • Make eye contact
  • Lean in
  • Mirror the person you’re talking to
  • Open up your body position
  • Face the person who’s talking (all the way down to your feet)

The Bottom Line: Show, Don’t Tell


When it comes down to it, the way to make yourself stand out to your employer of choice is to show them what you can do. Don’t just tell them about your work history and list out your buzzword-laden skill set. This market is so competitive when it comes to high-skilled creatives that it’s no longer about the chronological list of former employers and titles. It’s about how you can do what you do to further a company’s goals.


That said, redesign your CV from the blank page up, paying extra special attention to layout and finding the right mix between what it says and how it looks while saying it. Grammar matters. If you’re a designer and not known for your powers as a wordsmith, ask a grammarian friend to proofread.


Got projects? Highlight them right at the top. Got published? List those links. When in doubt, here’s a shortened list of basic job hunt best practices for creatives entering the 2020 job market:


  • The job matters less than how you did it.


  • The project subject matters less than who you worked with and what they thought of you.


  • Skills matter. Titles don’t.

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