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.
We prefer an e-mail with a link to a web site, or sample printed materials. If we like either, we put you on the list of people we will see, so long as you bother to call and follow up. If we are not looking for help, we will try to give a half hour informational interview, followed by referrals.
We are generally honest and straightforward, and will try to help you with the process of finding a first job.
Send your resume and portfolio. Follow up. Do your research, know the work of the studio you’re applying at, know the people you’re interviewing with.
Walk that fine line between being persistent and interested and respectful of everyone’s time.
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.
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.
Keep it casual. At this point I’m more interested in the person than the work. Keenness, good ideas, great personality. Remember that you’re also bringing something to the table, it’s why they called you in. Don’t forget to ask questions, you’re also there to determine a fit.
Oh, and relax on the compliments! Nobody likes being praised too much.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t mount your work on sheets of glass, or any other tricky presentation method. Just like your resume treat your portfolio like a design problem… The purpose of your portfolio should be to frame your work. Don’t let it overshadow the work inside.
The best portfolios can be consumed quickly; they allow the work to speak for itself. In my opinion, it is the best way to gauge a designer’s type and layout skills, because, presumably, they created their portfolio without the benefit of a design director.
I don’t mind seeing one or two examples of personal work; though I’d much rather see how a young designer tackles an identity for a local dentist, or something equally mundane.
How designers design the everyday is a good measure of their ability. Anyone can makea gig poster look good .
I suggest ten to twelve projects, maximum. If projects include multiple components, or fully designed books, eight to ten projects will be enough. One of the main parameters for a portfolio review is limited time. Presenting the work should take a maximum of thirty to thirty-five minutes.
Many designers show, and say, far too much, leaving little time for an authentic conversation to develop.
I’ve seen some amazing and intricate portfolios with crazy die-cut covers or hand-bound edges, but in the end you should try to create a portfolio that makes your work look best.
It’s not always the flashiest one that is best suited for the job.
Don’t show too much school work, it’s all the same. Take the principles you’ve learned and self initiate something, rebrand Sketchers.
The design of your portfolio is in of itself a piece of your work so don’t use one of those off the shelf templates from Cargo Collective/Squarespace, at the least, modify it.
Don’t make me dig for your contact info.
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.
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.
Don’t be discouraged if things don’t always go according to plans. Everyone has setbacks, and good things come to those who wait. You have to work hard, but success can also be a little more than that: many of the amazing opportunities I’ve gotten are the result of meeting the right people at the right time.
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.
Don’t lie. I’m not even a fan of exaggerating or glossing over potential shortcomings. It’s ok to talk about challenging circumstances you’ve had with clients, bosses, or teachers, as long as you’re fair and truthful. Present them as learning experiences, and explain how that knowledge now informs your choices as a designer, an employee and what you believe will be a good fit with an employer.
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.