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Viewing: Resume Application Process Portfolio
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The Secret Handshake is a resource for student designers and young creatives looking for insider insight, honest answers and solid solutions to go pro. We provide year-round advice, local events and one yearly conference to help as many young professionals as possible.

Josh-Berta
Josh
Berta

Write a cover letter that actually describes how your experience is relevant to the place you’re applying. Be concise but specific. When it comes to setting up an interview, make yourself available, but not too available. It doesn’t hurt to schedule multiple interviews on one day, and to let your interviewers know that (in the most unassuming way). Look like you’re in demand, even if it’s more illusion than reality. During an interview, follow their lead. Don’t launch into a diatribe if they just want to scan your book quietly and then talk about it afterward. This is partly intuited, but you can also just ask what they prefer to do if it’s not apparent. Lastly, post-interview, send an email thanking them for their time and consideration.

Josh Berta @prttyshtty
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timothy_goodman
Timothy
Goodman

“They” told me to keep the experimental work off my website. “They” told me to stay in branding. “They” told me I couldn’t do what I really wanted to do. You can’t listen to everybody, sometimes you have to follow your intuition.

Timothy Goodman @timothyogoodman
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Petrula Vrontikis
Petrula
Vrontikis

Not doing enough research about your reviewers. Knowing more about the person looking at your work will help stimulate and guide the conversation. And when you haven’t asked enough questions after the person has looked at the work—this is a missed opportunity to gain valuable insights.

Petrula Vrontikis Flaunt
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Josh-Berta
Josh
Berta

Something clean, simple, and easy to scan and digest. Being prone to typos myself, I don’t prioritize spelling and punctuation. It can’t be obviously awful, but small mistakes don’t bother me if the experience and education look solid, and it’s presented effectively.

Josh Berta @prttyshtty
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will_bryant
Will
Bryant
Be interested in what you’re doing, talking about, and who you are talking to.
Will Bryant @willbryantplz
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Jason Schwartz
Jason
Schwartz

Smart companies are foregoing posting jobs altogether and straight up looking for people on portfolio sites like Behance, Dribbble & Coroflot. Be found there.

Use social media as your recruiter. Follow companies you admire, have interest in and terms that are applicable to your job hunt. You can literally wake up to an entire job hunt done for you every morning with no work on your part besides initial setup.

Social media is a gift and a curse. Your personal life and professional blur together. Have a strategy for each individual network and determine whether or not they play a part in your job hunt and how you choose to promote yourself.

Jason Schwartz @jaycrimesBright Bright Great
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Taylor Vanden Hoek 900
Taylor
Vanden
Hoek

Don’t wait for the employer to get back to you. Typically the interviewer is also a designer with little time for hiring. It never hurts to follow up with a thank you and inquire about the next steps.

Taylor Vanden Hoek @taylorvdh
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Patric King
Patric
King

I hate “create an identity for a fake company” projects. I also don’t want to see exploratory pages, wherein you examine how you put a single page of type together in black and white.

I want to see projects that tell me who you are as a designer, and I want you to reinforce it again and again.

Patric King @patricking
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Takashi Kusui
Takashi
Kusui

In my opinion, a portfolio has to be something you are proud of, and something you can speak about with passion and conviction.

 

Takashi Kusui @tkusuiFlaunt
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timothy_goodman
Timothy
Goodman

Persistence is great, but don’t be annoying. Learn how to be pleasantly aggressive.

Timothy Goodman @timothyogoodman
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Jason Schwartz
Jason
Schwartz

Ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Immerse yourself and start tailoring your portfolio for a successful career in exactly that. Build towards what you want to do.

Jason Schwartz @jaycrimesBright Bright Great
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Petrula Vrontikis
Petrula
Vrontikis

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.

Petrula Vrontikis Flaunt
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ryan-essmaker
Ryan
Essmaker

Don’t follow up an hour or even a day later to see if they’ve received it. Wait at least a week or two to follow up.

Ryan Essmaker @ryanessmaker
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Petrula Vrontikis
Petrula
Vrontikis

The work should be current—ideally from the past year. It’s not a retrospective of your time in school, or proof of all of the classes you attended. It’s good to think of the collection of work in the portfolio as evidence of your skills and conceptual abilities.

Petrula Vrontikis Flaunt
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jon_contino
Jon
Contino

Anything that resembles apathy is out. If you’re not into this 1000% then I don’t want to hear it.

Jon Contino @joncontino
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daxjustin_2
Dax
Justin
Create work from within, don’t wait for anyone to assign work.
Dax Justin @daxjustin
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cartogram-matt
Matthew
Seccafien
Approach conference speakers/professional designers with something valuable. I’ve witnessed too many awkward, small-talk encounters between headliners and those attending events who want to “Say Hi” in the interest of making connections. Be constructive, ask a legitimate question, or provide an idea to discuss. Valuable connections are formed through sincere and meaningful discussion, not from getting face-time.
Matthew Seccafien @studiocartogram
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Josh-Berta
Josh
Berta

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.

Josh Berta @prttyshtty
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jon_contino
Jon
Contino

Keep it clean and to the point. I personally find resumes to be outdated, so keep the info brief and informative. Save the bullshitting for when we talk in person.

Jon Contino @joncontino
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Taylor Vanden Hoek 900
Taylor
Vanden
Hoek

Do allow the resume to convey your personality. Through writing tone or visual representation, this first impression can go a long way.

Taylor Vanden Hoek @taylorvdh
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Lotta Niemenen_900
Lotta
Nieminen

Self-belief is key.

Be proud of your own work and be prepared to tell others why. I think confidence and interest in your own field are crucial – you need to love your work for others to love it too.

Learning how to argument your ideas is absolutely crucial with client work too: if you want to get your visions through with a client, you need to be able to tell them why.

Lotta Nieminen @lottanieminen
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Tsh_Jennifer Carpici
Jennifer
Cirpici

Become interesting, not average.

Jennifer Cirpici @JenniferCirpici
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Jason Schwartz
Jason
Schwartz

Apply intelligently. There are no sure-things when it comes to getting a job, but everything you do RIGHT, puts you ahead of someone who did something WRONG.

You have 10 seconds to make a killer impression. Apply intelligently and don’t get weeded out for the wrong reasons.

Jason Schwartz @jaycrimesBright Bright Great
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vanschneider_headshot
Tobias
van
Schneider

Build your portfolio with the work you want to do in the future instead of just using it as a backlog of projects. Your portfolio is not what you did, but what you’re going to do next. Same with calling out what exactly you did on a specific project will make sure that there are no wrong expectations from either side. Also: Self-Initiated projects show a lot more who you are & what you want to do.

Tobias van Schneider @schneidertobias
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Shawn Smith – "Shawnimals"
Shawn
Smith

Overly corporate emails are boring and weird.

Shawn Smith @shawnsmith
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Julieta Felix
Julieta
Felix

Always keep your LinkedIn information up to date and be active in the community. You would be surprised the opportunities that have come out of people finding me on LinkedIn.

Julieta Felix @julietafelixUS Airways, Designer
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Adrian Shaughnessy
Adrian
Shaughnessy

Show your work to the person you are presenting to, and not to yourself. Don’t position your work in such a way that you have a clear view of it, but the interviewer has to crane his or her neck to see it.

Unless you are sitting side by side with the person interviewing you, this is disastrous. Your work should be placed directly in front of the viewer, and not sideways. It’s glaringly obvious, but the number of young designers who commit this error is staggering.

Adrian Shaughnessy @AJWShaughnessyFlaunt
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Celeste Prevost
Celeste
Prevost

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.

Celeste Prevost @celesteprevost
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victoriapater_Tsh
Victoria
Pater

As much as your résumé is a summary of your experience, it can also act as a summary of your personality. Write the way you would talk about those experiences.

Include things that make you unique, or be witty — if that’s your thing.

Victoria Pater @typeis4lovers
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Nkrumah Ferrar
Nkrumah
Farrar

Learn how to merchandise your work. The pieces in your portfolio may very well be outstanding, but if you don’t get the thumbnail right, I’ll never click through to see it.

Nkrumah Farrar @nkrumah
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Michael Beirut
Michael
Beirut

Simplicity, wit, and good typography.

Michael Beirut @michaelbeirutFlaunt
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jeff_headshot
Jeff
Finley

What’s your specialty? Make it clear the type of work you are looking to do.

Jeff Finley @jeff_finley
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sophia_chang
Sophia
Chang

Be sure to present your work professionally. Appearance is important because that gives the employers an idea of who you are.

Use good photography, use a clean binder with clean sheets. Or speaking digitally, be sure the user can access your body of work easily and navigate swiftly.

Sophia Chang @esymai
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Jason Schwartz
Jason
Schwartz

You will be judged based on your email address.  Apply from a professional email address. No one wants cancunhottie69@aol.com on their team.

Gmail and/or custom domain ONLY. Don’t be eliminated from the pack because you used a Hotmail, or AOL email address.

Jason Schwartz @jaycrimesBright Bright Great
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bburwell_Tsh
Brett
Burwell

Ruthlessly edit your portfolio. Quality is much more important than quantity—and the last thing you want to do is have the weakest project in your portfolio leave a longer lasting impression than the strongest one.

Brett Burwell @ThisIsStatic
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Lotta Niemenen_900
Lotta
Nieminen

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.

Lotta Nieminen @lottanieminen
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Allan Yu
Allan
Yu

Don’t feel bad if you don’t get the job, sometimes it’s not you, it’s “them.”

Except for the people on this site, in that case it’s always you.

Allan Yu @allanyu_SVPPLY
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jon_contino
Jon
Contino

Be passionate and show me that design is life.

Jon Contino @joncontino
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Taylor Vanden Hoek 900
Taylor
Vanden
Hoek

Don’t be afraid to remove something good in favor of a more well rounded portfolio. I’d rather see a designer’s versatility than see that they’re awesome at one thing.

Taylor Vanden Hoek @taylorvdh
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Jason James
Jason
James

Contact the people you want to work with, not just places with job postings.

Personalize your cover letter.

Know shit about the company.

Make sure you thoroughly understand the role: UX is different than UI is different than Communication Design.

Have a personality, be friendly and warm, but not weird.

Follow up once, tops.

Always thank the people for their time and consideration.

 

Jason James @jas0njames
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Adrian Shaughnessy
Adrian
Shaughnessy

Neatness. Attention to detail. Lack of waffling. Good ideas. Good execution. Personality. Really, when I think about it, I’m often more interested in the designer sitting in front of me than their work.

Adrian Shaughnessy @AJWShaughnessyFlaunt
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Bob Zeni
Bob
Zeni

Portfolio presentation is performance. Consider each piece in your portfolio to be a short story. Write the story about each piece as a script in a beginning, middle & end manner or a context, action, & results approach. Memorize the script. Rehearse the presentation – preferably in front of a mirror – until you can tell each story in a casual, articulate manner.

Passion, knowledge and confidence (and your great work, of course) are the keys to a memorable presentation.

Bob Zeni @bobzeni
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Tsh_Jennifer Carpici
Jennifer
Cirpici

Do not be shy or egotistical about promoting yourself and your work. Just because you do not hear many people talking about self-promotion does not mean no one is doing it.

Jennifer Cirpici @JenniferCirpici
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sophia_chang
Sophia
Chang

Write clearly. I usually write all my applications in capital letters.

Sophia Chang @esymai
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jessica_walsh
Jessica
Walsh

Seek out studios or creatives you’ve always admired, and figure out a way to work or learn from them.

Jessica Walsh @jessicawalshSagmeister & Walsh
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Josh-Berta
Josh
Berta

Many young designers tend to “brand” themselves. I’m not a fan. Avoid over-designing it. A resume is meant to communicate clearly and efficiently, not be a showcase for creative excellence.

Josh Berta @prttyshtty
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Jason James
Jason
James

Don’t begin your email or a cover letter with “Dear Sir”, “Dear Maddam”, “Dear Hiring Manager.”

Jason James @jas0njames
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Jason Schwartz
Jason
Schwartz

Have a personality and a perspective.

Jason Schwartz @jaycrimesBright Bright Great
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dylan
Dylan
Lathrop

A resume isn’t a collection of accomplishments, but more a showcase for the person you hand it to that shows how you fit into their work culture. No resume acts the same from job to job, so consider it a living document.

Dylan Lathrop @DylanLathrop
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cartogram-matt
Matthew
Seccafien
In a professional atmosphere, it’s best to keep it professional and treat the “Rockstars” like any other regular person.

 

 

Matthew Seccafien @studiocartogram
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