11 January 2013 10:12 AM

Do graduate job-hunting stunts work?

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.

Find out more about careers in TV

Find out more about careers in advertising and PR

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26 October 2012 10:18 AM

10 tips for getting a publishing job without doing a publishing internship

Most humanities graduates have, at one time or another, considered a career in publishing. If you're one of them, no doubt you've imagined a glamourous 'Devil Wears Prada' magazine career involving a terrifying boss, free Dior handbags and trips to Paris Fashion Week.

But what is it really like? Click here to find out more, or read on...

As it happens, before I joined CareerPlayer I was a magazine journalist - so here's a list of the things I wish I'd known before I turned up starry-eyed on my first day at an international publishing house:

1. Beware unpaid work - there is another way! It's important to get your foot in the door, but if you don't value your work, no one else will either, so don't work for free if you can possibly help it. Unpaid work experience may be the norm, but it's only worth doing for a couple of weeks to get a feel for the industry. There are entry-level jobs out there, so instead of doing endless unpaid work, do a few bits of short term in-house work experience and focus instead on building up your portfolio of skills in a specialist area. Lots of people can say 'I like to write' or 'I'm good at designing' but what editors wants to see pop up in their inbox is someone who can create a highly-specialised feature for their target audience, with minimal input and editing from the production team. Got a special interest in music, triathalons or computer games? Know the industry inside out? Great! Start a blog, build contacts with suppliers and key people in the industry, then call up publishers and ask if they're interested in having you write a freelance article or design a graphic for them. Point out your specialism, the contacts you can bring in, the expertise you can offer. Direct them to your blog so they can see a sample of your specialist knowledge and abilities. Repeat as necessary with publishers large and small.

2. Publishing is not like it's portrayed in the movies. It involves a lot of hard work, yes, but it's also not nearly as cut-throat and backstabbing as Hollywood would have you believe. People tend not to take themselves too seriously and are often about as casually dressed as you can be without actually wearing pyjamas as daywear.

3. Publishing is a team sport. Most publishing houses have a small core team assigned to each magazine. Larger magazines will have various hangers-on like section editors, editor's PA, art assistants, editorial assistants...the list goes on! At minimum, this will have an editor (who oversees the editorial direction of the magazine), an art editor (who oversees the creative direction of the magazines, but is subordinate to the editor - which leads to the odd, erm, 'creative difference') and a production editor, who is the hapless dogsbody entrusted with keeping the peace, making sure everything is where it's supposed to be, proofreading every page, sourcing images, arguing with the printers, writing all the regular content and building relationships within the industry. Guess what my job was?

4. Essentially, magazine production is a process-driven industry. You need to be creative, yes; but while a certain degree of artistic scattiness is acceptable on the design side of the fence, editorial teams need to be on top of everything at all times. If you enjoy lists, order and ticking things off, it's a good area to work in. You need to be fairly calm, organised and focussed as you'll be working to some truly horrendous deadlines from time to time - ten days to turn around a 70-page magazine, anyone?

5. No one likes a diva. Make friends the moment you arrive with the hermit-like individuals (usually men in baseball caps) who inhabit the print room. They are in charge of final page setup and creating proofs, as well as essential bits and bobs like business cards. Get them on your side ASAP. Ditto for the receptionists and PAs (who are the people responsible for keeping the entire organisation together, often a rather thankless task) and the classified ad sales teams (who are the ones actually making money for your magazine!)

6. You do get quite a lot of freebies. Depending on the magazine you work on, you may end up with more clothes, makeup, hair products, books, cupcakes, computer games or mountain bikes than you know what to do with. In my magazine offices, we had whole cupboards full of free stuff that were occasionally flung open for everyone, from the cleaners to the MD, to take their pick. You can also pick up a few perks like free hairdressing appointments, photoshoots and trips to fashion events.

7. You won't be retiring at 30. Magazine work is NOT well paid, to put it mildly. You will find that 90% of people who work on magazines do quite a lot of freelance work in their spare time. So be prepared! Build contacts in the industry and you'll always have a bit of extra work coming in.

8. InDesign rules all. If you haven't heard of this software yet, you will! It's one of the most commonly used publishing packages and it's a bonus for an editor if they don't have to teach you how it works from scratch. Get hold of a free trial version and learn the basics. It will really make you stand out.

9. The future of magazines is definitely digital. Make sure you take every opportunity to get to grips with social media, SEO, blogs and websites. Knowing how to use a basic website content management system won't hurt, either.

10. Finally, some words of wisdom from an industry veteran I worked with. 'Always proofread everything three times - once for sense, once for structure and once for luck.' 

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