Monday, 21 May 2012

Recruitment Agencies

With a year's experience under my belt and the new graduates soon to be released onto London's creative scene, I have been keen to apply for as many jobs as possible. With my sources for employment opportunities being mostly Design Week, Creative Review, The Guardian and other design blogs, I have found that inevitably, junior positions are often applied for through an agency. 

Last week I had my interview, or "portfolio review"with an agency, which I found really useful. Not only did it force me to pad out my portfolio with some industry work, but allowed me to gain another's view on it: someone with experience of employing juniors in this industry. She had an overview that whilst there weren't many junior positions around at the moment, there would be more soon and with a year's experience, she ensure me that it will not be long before I get "snapped up". 

Whilst she maintained she didn't often see people of my experience, as perhaps I am premature in my application, she highlighted what was good about my work and what it said to her about me. In going to an agency it is important to show what you want to do and have a portfolio that reflects you, as they will ideally try and find a place that suits you. 

As a consultant, she will send out my work to prospective agencies just to get a reaction, see if there is any work, and as an application for any junior positions that she sees my work fit for. She said, too she had a few agencies in mind when she saw my work, so I could target my cv-sending to agencies that would suit my work. It is I guess, like having an extra pair of hands to help with your applications, providing, ofcourse, she does what she says she will. 

I am new to the idea of recruitment agencies, but whilst I am a little sceptical, I am positive. It was nice to have a different perspective on the whole employment situation, with someone who I trust has some idea of what they are talking about. She also valued me as a freelance at the competitive rate of £80-£100 a day, which is a good deal more than what I am getting paid at the moment. Bargain, I'd say: let's see what she can do. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Real Graduate Catch Up

As design degree deadlines loom upon us, I expect soon-to-be graduates to look to their superiors in search of guidance. As a respected, regularly updated and simply, cool, design blog, It's Nice That is a popular source of graduate wisdom with its annual features showcasing the best of the year's graduates.  Whilst it is not the only example, I am focusing on it having known a handful of the selected graduates personally.

A selection of talented graduates are chosen from readers' submissions, showing a healthy cross-section of the creative industry with illustration, film, advertising, photography and visual communication. With the rising popularity of this blog the coverage a graduate can receive can be life changing with a feature on each graduate and a popular exhibition in which high-ranking design industry creatives attend.

For a soon-to-be graduate, I can imagine the Graduate Catch-Up featured each year can be either incredibly inspiring or intimidating reading. Each graduate recounts their year since graduating with endless freelance opportunities and widespread commissions, with not a mention of unpaid work, government help or persistent rejection. The Catch-Up gives a rose-tinted view into the lives of 12 talented individuals after graduation. Here is why you should not be intimidated:

Firstly, they are talented individuals, who are likely to have in addition to being selected and showcased, won competitions or gained alot of interest from their degree show. Not all graduates will be this talented and therefore won't have as much success. What the Catch-Up shows is what they consider to be the elite and so are already in effect successful.

With the coverage that The Graduates of It's Nice That recieve, it is unlikely that talented creatives could fail. After all the post-degree show hype has settled, they will still be reeping the benefits with offers of jobs or freelance opportunities, whilst the rest of the year's graduates have to source out their own.

Whilst many doors are opened with media coverage, it is up to the individual to act upon those opportunities before they go stale. Not all of the graduates had successes, whether or not this is highlighted in the Catch-Up. After all, each graduate will be shown in the best light and so rejections and lazy days at the dole office won't be brought up. It could be said that receiving such widespread attention from the design industry can be a blessing and a curse. Expectations are high as we read the Catch-Up and so the pressure is on to impress the readership further with positivity and hope, if not simply a success story. In a way the attention can make you lazy. Expecting the opportunities to come to you may mean less effort is made to create your own successes. The blog attention could also mean a premature ego boost, in which you feel you are too good for work experience or placements and perceive yourself as industry ready. The arrogance fueled by competition winning, high grades or positive attention can damage others' perceptions of you as you become too big for your designer high-tops. 

I urge soon-to-be graduates to read success stories but with the knowledge that embarking on a design career is not all roses and there will be times when you are pushed down repeatedly. I had a rose-tinted view of the future and I wish I had been prepared for the reality. As AnotherGraduate, I can prepare you for that.

Monday, 14 May 2012


Whilst interning you are essentially self-employed. You liaise with agencies to arrange time with them in which you will be either on placement or freelance, depending on your experience. You arrange how much you will be paid and what will be expected of you: your working hours, lunches, potential for future employment.

It is important that every one knows where they stand.

Everybody needs to know where their next meal is coming from and so it is essential that things are booked a little bit in advance. This varies between people. For me, I like to be a placement ahead. I go to a placement knowing where I will be in the next one. After a while this becomes a luxury, but it is the ideal, espescially when they are short.

For agencies, it is wise to book a few months ahead, students can be fickle and unreliable, dropping opportunities for better ones. I am certain they all have a pool of graduates where they go to in emergencies.

For one agency I was certain I become the "fall-back".

I was only ever given vague timings of placement opportunities, confirmation would never materialise and I would book something else. Opportunities were missed repeatedly. With their funny mid-month timings and insistance on a four-week stint I assumed they had found someone better each time. I felt like I was their back up- so they were mine.

Simply, I felt disrespected. I wasn't treated like a colleague. I was treated like a student desperate to work with them. Unfortunately for them, I am not foolish enough to think they'd offer me a job and i was not willing to let other people down last minute for them. The brutal truth is graduate placements are not important and often overlooked and so is their communication. Not being a priority doesn't mean you shouldn't demand respect.

I never got to go on this placement because of poor communication and bad management and through no fault of my own. In the final confirmation of cancellation from them, they blamed me for misreading emails when it was clearly too little communication, too late. I have learnt from this experience the importance of following up emails with phone calls. After all, talking to someone over the phone is more likely to get you a clear answer, without waiting days in between messages and forgetting to respond.

I wanted to tell them that they had disrespected me and that I would never consider working for them again. Despite their design work's reputation, their liaising with potential colleagues is abysmal. I felt like I was just another graduate, which is exactly how I shouldn't feel. Instead of telling them this ofcourse, I bit my lip and thanked them for the opportunity.