Monday, February 22, 2010

Good Post from ACMET-L Listserv-JOIN!

The excellent post below is from the ACMET-L Listserv that many of you are required to join and participate in. I think you will find it valuable.

Many of us are getting ready to graduate college and attempt to enter the job market, but I often sense confusion and anxiety amongst the conversation. What exactly should be in a design job portfolio?

Generally, the contents of your portfolio will be dependent on the job being considered. Do not be fooled into thinking your portfolio is a perfect package for every occasion. So let's start with research.

One of the most important things you can do when applying for a job is doing your research. Why would anyone respond to a letter stating "To Whom in May Concern"? Get to know who you are getting involved with, where are they located and what influences the business, who are they affiliated with, what is their specialty, who is their audience, are they looking for long term help, short term, etc. Ask yourself questions like: "What can I do for this company/business? Why would I benefit them? I am looking for more than one job? Is this somewhere I can see myself in 20yrs?" All of these questions and information will come in very helpful when you put your specialized portfolio together.
In your research it is also great to network! There are countless blogs, webpages, forums, and the like on the internet. Make connections. Even create your own website. This phrase makes a good point: It is not what you can do, but who you know, and who they know, and who they know..."

Most design portfolios have similar requirements: resume, images, artist statement, letter of intent...
Your goal is to present yourself as competent and professional as possible. You want your portfolio to be convincing, so take your time to do it right.

Selecting work for your portfolio:
Again, keep in mind what job you are applying to. For instance, if you have a large body of work and you want to apply for shop job involving finishing/polishing jewelry, obviously select work which demonstrates a well executed finish. Even if the piece is not among the best of your work, it is still more informative to the employer. If the job is focusing on CAD work, obviously choose CAD modeled work over bench work. Now let's say your body of work is not very big... GREAT! This is a wonderful opportunity (if you have the time) to create work in perspective of the job being applied for.

You have selected your work, but you have to document it. Unfortunately, the photograph or rendering you create may be the only thing someone sees, so if it looks terrible, that is what people will be led to believe about the piece. You want your images to look as good as or better than the real object, yet also be informative. The image should basically be all someone needs to experience and understand your work. Be sure the object is in focus, in good perspective, the orientation and size makes sense with its function, and so on. Photoshop and other digital processing programs are no longer a mystery and should be used if available. If cannot photograph your own work, have a professional do it. But in my experience, it is better if you do it yourself, because you know the piece best... If printing out a tangible portfolio, be certain your images are at a high resolution and scaled to an appropriate format the job application asks for. There is plenty to say about photography, but what about rendering? Sometimes, I feel that renderings are a better choice compared to photography because it can be more exact and convincing. However, having a final object photographed in "context" can be much more informative than a rendering. I am not sure if anyone can say that one is more practical than the other, beyond the objective created by the job description.

Resume, Artist Statement, Statement of purpose... Be honest.
Many times, an employer will not look beyond a one page resume. In the case of design jobs, be concise and honest about your abilities. Format all of your text documents in the same manner and make sure your type face is easy to read and not obstructive. Avoid being obviously self-promoting or making statements of why the position is important to you. The employer is looking for someone who can fill their needs, not yours. Creativity. Do or don't? Most employers are not looking for someone who can make the most amazing work, but how well you fit their job position. If creativity is in the job requirement, than focus on it, otherwise it is best to fit your profile to the position on the table. State why who are a good candidate, what your work habits are, your interests, strengths. Also, be prepared to explain your work.

Be flexible! This can include travel, job requirements, hours, etc.
Many design jobs start a potential employee with an unpaid internship (or paid if you are fortunate). Consider this your foot in the door. Now is the time to demonstrate all the wonderful abilities you documented in your portfolio, like that sense of responsibility? In the end, the employer will decide whether to extend the internship, remove you, or promote you into a better position. I get ahead of myself however, this is after you have your portfolio together. My point would be, be flexible, the position you begin with may not be what you intended, but you must be able to proceed into the job market understanding the idea of job evolution and sacrifice.

The final product should be a clean and easily navigated package. Simple things to help you stay organized: keep a record of your previous employment, education, exhibitions, visits, and especially document your work (year of creation, materials, processes, images).
Those of us looking for design jobs are in for a competitive job market, so take the time to make your portfolio stand out. Craftsmanship!
There is so much to say about job seeking, especially in jewelry. For those of you already in the market, what are your experiences? In the past decade, has the jewelry design job market made any distinct trends? I feel that CAD is becoming a more sought after skill. Would you agree, or are there other skills that are also becoming more in demand? Are there any webpages you would recommend which have good examples of virtual portfolios?

Thank you!
Tyler School of Art
Graduate M/J/CC

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