As the President of The Ashy Agency and Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Broadcast Design Association (BDA), Brett Ashy has worked with every imaginable aspect of broadcast design and motion graphics. In this article, Brett shares his insight with students and industry newcomers to prepare them for life in the real world.
Only Say Yes When It’s Yes…
Tips to Interview Professionally and Land the Job of your Dreams Without Burning any Bridges In the Process!
Recently, I had a speaking engagement at one of the United States’ most prestigious design academies. While the work of the talented students amazed me, I was quite taken aback at how uncertain some of them were to embark into the job market after graduation. While school nurtures and develops the creative side, some students seemed lost on how to navigate their careers in the real world.
So, to offer some guidance to those who are new to the industry or even veteran designers who may be a bit rusty, I offer my advice on the foundation to any career: the interview process.
1. Create a Map – Any school worth it’s weight will make it a point to invite prospective employers at some point in the year. If they give you a list, the first thing you should do is research and highlight each company you want to meet. At the very least, look at their website, their montage and some of their actual pieces. Here are some questions to consider:
- How current is their website?
- What’s your very first impression of this company the minute you lay eyes on their splash page?
- Does your work have any kind of similarities to any of their work?
- Do they basically have one look that they spread out through many projects, or do they have many looks that they spread out through many projects?
- Is their work of any interest to you?
When creating your map have three columns on a sheet of paper or a Word document. One column should read “Top Choices,” the other should read “Safety,” and the last should read, “Not in a Million Years!”
2. Humbly Go – No matter where you interview, always treat the company as if they’re your top choice. Don’t approach your interviews with any attitude of self-importance. The reason I say this is because one of the companies in your ‘Not in a Million Years” column could be the big star six months from now. If you gave them attitude at your interview, they’ll remember you, and you’ll have burned a bridge at a company that might have moved in your Top Choice column overnight!
DON’T BURN BRIDGES, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU’RE A GREAT SWIMMER!
3. Sell Yourself – Key to almost any position in on-air design will be branding. A great way to showcase your skills at branding is to brand yourself as well as you would brand a network, or any project that comes through the door. Make sure your package has a concept and that the concept runs throughout each piece of your package. Most junior designers are brought in to take care of usage manuals and print applications of a larger motion graphics job, so a well-designed flatbook of your work can aid in getting your foot in the door.
Your reel should have your branding and all pertinent information on it. And your website (a MUST for any new designer, it’s so much easier and there’s no expense to send multiple people a link then the time and expense to send a DVD. Also it’s easier for the people you meet to pass it along to others) should be framed and bookended by your personal brand.
Any excuses for not having any of the three materials will always count as a point against you. As a sales person, the only thing I have never been able to sell is excuses. If you want to put the best foot forward and professionally show that you are a talented and responsible person that any company would want to hire, have all these items and no excuses!
4. Prepare Questions – When interviewing, expect the interviewer to ask you a barrage of questions, and in turn you should have a list of questions ready for the interviewer as well. Ask open, general questions like:
- What type of projects are you currently working on?
- What type of projects do you see coming in the future?
- What are your growth plans for the future?
This is a fantastic opportunity to get a closer look at the studio or network and to see if their plans for the future are aligned with yours. Make a master list of at least four to five questions to ask, and ask the same question to each of the companies you’re interviewing. Often, the way different people answer the same question will give you a really honest look at that person and their company.
5. You Like Me, You Really Like Me! – Leave each interview seeming very interested, no matter where this company ends up in your three columns. Of course, the companies in your top choices should have no doubt as to your interests, or else you haven’t convinced them enough. Keep in mind that you only get one chance to impress people, so make sure that you use that one chance to the best of your ability.
6. Money Talks…Later! – Never talk about money or benefits on the first interview. If they bring it up on the first interview, ask if you can give them your answer when they call back with interest. If the person who is interviewing you wants to be aggressive and makes you a deal then and there, tell him/her you have other people to talk to and that you’d be happy to get back to them once you’ve completed your interviews.
If these people seriously want you that bad, go through your other interviews and let them know the deal you’ve already been made. If you’re talented enough, you might be able to get a bidding war going on for you and get employed at top dollar. Be ready, though, for people to tell you to take the other offer and good luck.
If you handle all of these negotiations in a well-mannered and professional way you won’t burn bridges and remember, we don’t want to burn any bridges.
7. Review your Map – Once you have completed all your interviews, go back to your columns and make sure no companies have changed columns. If they have, make the changes. Then, contact your top four choices and tell them how nice it was to meet them and that you are interested in pursuing further conversations with them regarding you joining their team.
Once you’ve done that, write to everyone else and tell them how nice it was to meet with them and to please keep you in mind should any opportunities should arrive. The quicker you do this, the more impressed they’ll be. It should definitely be done the day after you meet with them.
8. What Happenned!?! – Up to this point we have been operating on the assumption that all is going to go your way. What happens if your top choice doesn’t call. That’s when you begin loving your safety choices.
There is nothing wrong with reaching out to your top choices and, in a very respectful and non-aggressive way, asking if there was anything that you may have could have done better or something they might have liked to see in your work that was missing. That way you learn a great deal and have the chance to improve your work and presentation.
9. Make Me an Offer I Can’t Refuse – When you begin taking offers, DON’T EVER SAY YES UNTIL IT’S YES. Here is where I’ve seen the whole system go awry. Once one company makes you an offer, let your second company know that another company has made you a certain offer and name the offer.
Now, you may really want to work for the first company no matter what, so what should you do? You can take offers from other companies and let the first company know what other companies are willing to pay you. This way you might get more money. But, your top choice will know your value by other companies.
Truly consider if the money is worth it. In the first few years of your career, you should be doing your job for passion and for the love of the art. You’ll have many more years to make money. So be prepared for your top choice to tell you good luck and you should take the big money.
Now it’s your choice. Always leave the conversations with, “Can I get back to you tomorrow, or in a couple of days?” If you commit to one or two days, make sure you get back to then when you say you will. Don’t leave anyone dangling, that’s a real bridge-burner. And we hate those!
10. Confirm and Commit – Once your decision has been made, call the company and tell them that you would be delighted to work for them. If you get a better offer from another company and you go back on your word, this will be a major bridge-burner.
Throughout your career, remember: your reputation is all you’ve got. I’ve known extremely talented people who have really suffered from bad reputations. As big as this industry gets, word still gets out! To respond to a company who makes you a better offer, it would be a good idea to say something like, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already committed to working for ________ for a certain amount of time. Would it be OK if I stayed in touch with you and let you know how everything is working out, then maybe we can connect in the future?”
Find out what paperwork your new employer needs from you and get it to them immediately. Ask when your first day will be. Right after you’ve left that conversation, call the other people you’ve had negotiations with and thank them profusely for the offer, but you’ve made a decision to work for another company. Tell them how much you appreciate their interest and their offer and tell them you hope that the door is till open if things don’t work out at the company you chose.
Add all people who showed interest with you to your Facebook (another MUST for any fresh designer). Then when you post new projects you’ve done, you can show them in a very unobtrusive way.
11. The Golden Rule – From the beginning to the end of this process, treat all people you speak to and interact with exactly how you would like to be treated, and you should end up with a very good job, your reputation in tact, and a lot of friends in the business who would be more than glad to hire you when it’s time for you to move on, or to go freelance.