A 24 year old unemployed graduate has recently made the news by hiring a billboard in London to promote his video CV – and he’s not the first by any means. As grads feel the pinch, we’ve seen cases of ‘Hire me’ messages scrawled on mortarboards, roadside hoardings, and countless ‘clever’ job applications. We’re all told that we need to ‘stand out’ when making graduate job applications, but just how far is too far?

Good…
- Intelligent, no-nonsense written and spoken communication
- Individuality tempered by a sense of professional decorum
- An appropriate sense of humour
- An accessible online portfolio
- An awareness of the culture of the industry you’re applying for – creative flights of fancy will go down a lot better at an ad agency than at an accounting firm
- Avoiding coming across as either desperate or cocky – confident competence is the name of the game
- Having a presence on LinkedIn
- Getting peoples’ names right!

Less good…
- Trying too hard to be witty – this can be interpreted as an attempt to cover up less-than-stellar grades, poor experience or a lack of commitment to the industry
- Going for style over substance – think about what can you actually bring to the business and why that’s worth hiring, not just what you think the employer wants to see
- Trying these techniques in the wrong industries. For example, the guy mentioned above, who hired a billboard, is looking for a job in TV production. However, his tactics would be far more likely to impress someone looking for advertising or marketing talent. TV production teams tend to be a practical, behind-the-scenes bunch – they have to be in order to get the creative stuff done and let the ‘talent’ shine. And the job he states that he’s aiming for – junior producer – isn’t actually a job title that exists in TV production. It may seem harsh to nitpick, but it really doesn’t look good to prospective employers in the TV industry – imagine if a law graduate turned up for an interview and didn’t seem to know the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

What were you thinking…?
Anything that could be remotely construed as stalkerish. Gifts, repeated unsolicited messages or workplace visits to people you don’t know is weird, and the fact that you want a job from them doesn’t suddenly make it ok! If any of your self-promotion ideas have even a whiff of ‘restraining order’ about them, think again.

One of the problems noticeable in a lot of new graduates (as evidenced by Mr Billboard) is the tendency to mash ‘media jobs’ together as if they were one conglomerate. Saying ‘I want to work in media’ is about as meaningless as saying ‘I want to work in an office’ – the obvious question any prospective employer will ask is ‘Yes, but doing what exactly?’ 

If you’re interested in a job in advertising, marketing or PR, a very cleverly executed ‘original’ approach might very occasionally pay off because it shows you’re happy to take risks, drum up publicity and use social media to your advantage – all of which are pretty handy job skills in these areas. But if you’re interested in working in any other creative industry, the best way to get a job is to be better at what you do than most other applicants. Not better qualified, not louder, not more personable, not a harder worker – just better. Whether your creative outlet of choice is writing, programming, filmmaking, graphics, costume designing or video editing, the harsh truth is that you need to be really, really good at what you do. Your portfolio needs to shine. You need to have talent, realism, aptitude, vocation, passion – ‘Well, that sounds quite fun and glamourous’ isn’t going to get you anywhere. Jobs in creative industries are as rare as hen’s teeth and don’t tend to pay well, but if you’re (honestly) as good as you think you are, you’ll get a foot in the door at some point without resorting to gimmicks.

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