The Secret Handshake is an online resource for student designers and young creatives (18-25) looking for insider insight, honest answers and solid solutions to help you go pro.
Submit your resume, a link to your portfolio on the internet and a short brief about why you are sending the email. Keep everything under 3 paragraphs MAX and all attachments under 3MB.
Be careful is sending a link to a portfolio PDF on a file sharing site. Sometimes companies are blocked from accessing those files.
Remember this advice, paraphrased from Dale Carnegie: get in the other person’s shoes, and adopt their desires as your own. If you can stir in me an eager want to hire you and you show how you will give me what I want, you have a much better chance of being hired than someone who comes to the table with their list of needs (or worse, demands).
Present the work simply and well.
Show how you took initiative and did more than you were asked…how you made the project way cooler than the brief required.
Show projects that relate to the real world (or even better the studio you want to work for). It may seem awesome to mock up a blind embossed book with one word on the cover, or a logo that is just a hairline slash across helvetica, but it’s hard to know what to do with that skill in a studio that does real, client-driven work.
Anything that represents your passion. I like to see projects in their true form— full-size posters, editorial projects that require thumbing through, or CD cases that have removable booklets.
Touching the work makes me appreciate it on a deeper emotional level.
Create something for yourself, by yourself. It shows craftsmanship—an ability to create something from a blueprint. If well-executed, it will land you a job. After all, it worked for me.
Present only work you’re proud of, you shouldn’t feel the need to make any excuses for the pieces you present. Limit your work (somewhere around 8-15 projects is ok).
Think about your audience, tailor the portfolio by including work you know they’ll be interested in. Show yourself in your portfolio, your passion projects often are the most interesting things in your portfolio.
These projects let your interviewer get a glimpse of who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what you do in your free time. Because let’s face it you spend a lot of time with your coworkers, you’ll need to get along.
A resume that is poorly designed tells us that you are not detail conscious, or that you are incapable of making sound judgments about something as marketing- specific as a resume when left to your own devices.
It is easy to overlook, and impossible to dismiss, since your resume, left on the interviewer’s desk, is the sole reflection of you once the interview is over and you have gone home.
An oldie but a goodie: what you have in your portfolio is what you’re going to get commissioned to do.
A couple years back, I did this personal project of a cityscape and posted it on my website. Soon after, my first building related commission came in and now that’s what everybody wants from me. Now I’m trying to steer away from that and am drawing animals and plants.
Having a profession on “both sides” has taught me a lot about that too: working as a designer who commissions and as an illustrator who gets commissioned. When I’m art directing, the only thing I see is what’s in someone’s portfolio.
It rarely crosses my mind that this person would want to do something else than what’s presented in his or her portfolio.
Everyone is somewhat of an everythingist these days with their range of skills. Which is great. But when you are just breaking into the agency career world, try to highlight one strong skill/focus to get in the door, establish credibility once in, then start showing off your other skill-sets.
Don’t lump too many things onto one page. Give the work some breathing room. This is especially true of logos, which many students tend to present together on one page. They each represent different ideas, so why show them as a group? This is even more problematic in that truly great logos are hard to pull off, so you shouldn’t be showing a ton of them anyway.
It’s better to show fewer great pieces, than a whole bunch of mediocre work. Show systems (i.e. logo, printed collateral, packaging, web, etc.), not one-offs: it’s about great ideas, and how they extend well beyond one singular expression. And show a variety of work: varying styles, varying industries, varying touch points. Again, it’s about showcasing your ideas, not your acumen for one kind of thing.
You should never make excuses about anything.
Doing this tells the reviewer more about personality issues than anything about the work. Also, make sure you proofread. Typos in the work say one of two things: either you didn’t see the error, or you saw it and decided it was okay to leave it in.
Both of these are unacceptable and will eliminate you as a candidate.
Keep it simple. No need for lots of color, personal logos, multiple pages, or strange formats. Good typography and a basic template that is easy to read, easy to share and print will suffice. Remember that a lot of non-designers will read and sort your resume first.
Keep it to 1 page.
Keep the page feeling mostly full, students tend to have thin resumes, pad it with true things. Have a lot going on: organizations, design collectives, exhibitions, awards & scholarships, & work history. Focus on the typography and layout.
B&W is preferable, comes across as serious and doesn’t get fucked up by shitty B&W printers.
Print it on the nicest paper you can buy, appropriate weight and color, but it should feel nice. Have a plaintext version for online applications. Save it as a PDF, no other formats are acceptable.
BONUS: Have an html/css online version that’s responsive hosted at your domain.
Apply to places that hold the most interest to you. This is different than applying to places with a name or reputation, which is a tough distinction to make when you’re young. Look into the work, the people, the culture, the location, but don’t consider any one variable a dealbreaker.