Hire Ed, Part 1

The good and bad news for graduates looking to break into the creative industry.

It is grad season! As a studio, we would like to give our heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS! TO THE… (Wait what’s that? Oh, Frances said that was TOO loud), *Congratulations!* to all students who are wrapping up their post-secondary careers and getting ready to head into the field.

You. Made. It. No small feat.

You likely started college or university at the beginning of a pandemic, or in the midst of one. Regardless, your journey has led you there, here, wherever you are! But that is BIG. Anticlimactic? Maybe?

So, take a second to enjoy the view and then keep pushing. Celebrate and then roll up your sleeves and get to work. You’ve got this.

Last week we had the opportunity to review graduate portfolios for the Sheridan Illustration program. A ton of work, all of which was fantastic, smart, surprising and engaging with many great conversations. Check out the work here. In those conversations, we were faced with a question we get from illustration and design students alike:

‘How do I make my portfolio or work stand out?’ 

A great starting point. However, we feel it is assuming too much of the portfolio and self-promotion pieces, and potentially asking the wrong question altogether.

It is a totally fair question for any student or recent graduate to ask. We get it. We just feel that the trajectory that question sets us on falls short of hitting the goal of actually answering ‘How do I actually get hired?’

You’ve probably opened up your mailbox at home and found a ton of local flyers sent out promoting businesses of all kinds. New sushi spot, landscaping services, lower mortgage rates and an invitation to some sort of charity lottery that could win you a boat, cottage and dump trucks of money for the rest of your life. Where do you put these? Directly into the recycling bin, right? And when you glance into that bin, it is filled with copies of the exact same flyers promoting something you don’t need, don’t resonate with.

As a studio, we get these types of promotional messages in different formats often. Collectively, we can’t remember a time when these efforts (which they are) have led to an actual contract or work of any kind. That isn’t really the fault of anyone. This was standard promotional practice pre-internet. But, the strategy feels like a relic from the past. It should be said, we truly do try to take a moment to flip through anything that is sent to us. We acknowledge the effort. Afterall, you are promoting a service we might use, but the timing is almost never perfect.

We do not look at or find designers, photographers, developers, illustrators or animators based on how well they promote. We look for great work and ask, ‘Who made that!?!’ 

Credit: Steve and Sara Emry/Flickr

Sky Dancers! Have you seen these joyful beings on the side of the road? Dancing their hearts out? They may be the perfect answer or mascot to our question and the topic of self-promotion. 

This is a hunch, a guess, a dart thrown in the dark, but we would guess that Sky Dancers have generally never contributed to a meaningful buying decision. If there is one thing Sky Dancers are awful at is conversion and influencing purchasing decisions. 

What they are amazing at is catching your attention. Transferring joy. Moving to the beat. 

Be a fearless Sky Dancer. Just dance. Make moves. Nothing attracts more than the confidence of conviction. 

It is these potential collaborators who have their favourite playlist on, moving to the groove and making the work they were born to make who we want to hire. Who we want to work with. Who we want to bring in and have conversations with.

This can be found in the work of every collaborator we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Joy in the work. Joy in the process. “Be curious:” almost timeless advice, and that’s because it is effective. What happens if I move like this? Zig like this? Zag like that? And, really, that’s our fundamental hope for all of us in this industry. Find the joy. Move to the groove. And, yes, dance like nobody’s watching.

Really, that’s all there is to it. Just dance*. 

Next week, we’ll look at how we hire and assign freelance contributors.

*Dom has asked that I clarify so we don’t have people showing up at the studio dancing in hopes of getting a job. This is a metaphor.