Six things you can do today to Improve Yourself Professionally

1. Join Cincinnati State’s ADCLUB (if you’re a student), or ADCLUB/AD2
Very inexpensive. Student pricing, even. This is a necessity for both students and graduates. Check out their website to see what it’s all about, or talk to me.

2. Plan to go to to the ADDY Awards Presentation
This year the Addy Awards is on February 7th at 7 pm at Paul Brown Stadium. Tickets are somewhat expensive ($45 for students, slightly more for others) but the networking opportunity is worth it. Budget for it. Heck, if “quit smoking” is a resolution this year, the money you save should pay for it in a matter of days.

3. Tighten That Portfolio
Sure, you’ve got a few portfolio pieces you like, but they may need a little tweaking. Make time to turn those pieces into something you’re proud of. You’re great at meeting deadlines, right? Give yourself a personal deadline to have that piece portfolio-ready. How does 5 pm next Friday sound? Be honest with yourself. Don’t cheat. Make it an achievable deadline, and keep to it. Then pick another, and another. Clean up your portfolio website (you have one of those, don’t you? Maybe that’s the first deadline…) and post it there. Chances are you’ve learned a lot since you last updated your portfolio. Keep it current. You never know when that big job opportunity might show up, and you need to be ready. Update your resume, too. Duh…

4. Network
Contrary to my mother’s personal beliefs, Pixar isn’t waiting for me to call. They don’t have posters of me all around the office with “He’s coming soon” slogans. They don’t even know I exist. The same is probably true for you.

The only way for companies to realize they should hire you is for them to know you exist. Sitting in your bedroom drinking juice boxes, eating pizza, and playing Halo 3, while waiting for LPK to call and offer you a job, is pointless. Okay, it may be entertaining in the short term, but let’s be honest with each other… There are hundreds… thousands of designers in this area, and some of them are better than you, but many of them aren’t nearly as good — and they’re employed. Why? Because they “had their poop in a group” and they were in the right place at the right time. They knew people.

How can you “get one-a-them job thangs?” Network. Go to places where creatives hang out, and act like a normal human being. Ask and answer questions. Take business cards with your name and contact info, as well as your website URL.

Where are those places? See Numbers 1 and 2 above. What should you do first? See number 3. Ad2 has happy hours on a monthly basis, if not more. Meet, greet, eat, drink, schmooze… Good times. Just act like a human being. Did I mention the business cards with your website URL? Yeah. Those are important. No one will remember your URL after three Crown and Cokes, and cocktail napkins are for hookups.

5. Take a Good Look at Yourself
Social networking sites are awesome. MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn… They’re wonderful… the whole world can see what you’re up to, any time they want, all from the comfort of their couch, or their desk, or pretty much anywhere they want. What’s the flipside to that?  The WHOLE WORLD can see what you’re up to, any time they want, all from the comfort of their couch, or their desk, or pretty much anywhere they want!!

Be careful what you put out there. It’s accessible. Dancing on Halloween “wit da hoes?” I saw the shots. Doing kegstands in your neighbor’s yard? I know about it. Those pics of you and your homeys partaking of the herbal refreshment? Yeah… I’ve seen them. So did anyone else who felt like looking. Recently I was on the hiring committee for a new faculty member, and I Google-searched and looked for the MySpace page of EVERY APPLICANT. I was amazed at what some people had out there.

For years, smart companies have done everything they can to research job applicants. The trend extends now to background checks, Google-searching, Facebook checking, etc. Be careful what you put out there. Many companies aren’t interested in entrusting their million dollar clients to individuals who don’t have enough sense to keep their private lives… well… private.

6. Use Your Time Wisely
If I read one more MySpace bulletin about how bored someone is at work, stuck at the computer with nothing to do, I’m going to stick myself in the eye with a pencil. Use “free time” to better yourself. Create. Read. Study. Research designers. Do tutorials. Anything to make yourself a better designer.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of designers and design students on this planet, and I’ll be the first to admit that LOTS of them are better than me… Does that get me down? No. It drives me. Every day, I try to do something to make myself better — website surfing, sketching, creating, challenging myself to create the next big thing. In this world, you’re only as good as the last thing you produced. You can never rest… and you should never want to. Desire to be the best you can be, then do everything you can to make that a reality.

Happy New Year. Good Luck, and Best Wishes.


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2 Responses to Six things you can do today to Improve Yourself Professionally

  1. Joanna Reichert says:

    This is a well-written and tasteful conversational piece that is uplifting to anyone feeling stuck in a rut. I’ve certainly taken your words to heart, and I hope your message reaches others too : )

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