Many Creativepool readers are already well into their career, but it's clear a fair few are just starting out, possibly still seeking their first gig. If that's you, please stay with me.
First, let me say that I recognise your wretched luck. You're on the starting blocks of your career at the worst time. This week we've heard about those fabled 'green shoots' of economic recovery, but unfortunately we're still in the doldrums. Any upturn will take months to show itself in the creative business' job market, so you're still at a horrible disadvantage. And it isn't even your fault. Which sucks.
However, I am not that naysayer who tells you to pack it in, stop dreaming and opt for unpaid work experience in a 'pound shop'. To hell with that. You have an ambition, some raw talent (presumably), and a determination to make a living from your creative skills. Twenty years ago, that's all I had too - and, despite the recession of the early nineties - it worked out for me.
That said, the machinations of a collapsed economy cannot always be blamed for the struggles of some candidates for creative jobs. Obviously, you would never make such clunking errors - but just in case - allow me to relate some job application bloopers. These are all genuine events and have either been experienced by myself or close colleagues.
- A man was shortlisted for a job in PR and communications. His CV was strong enough to make him the preferred candidate and he was invited for interview. It was a freezing cold day in London, so he arrived, understandably clad in a woolly hat, thick gloves and large scarf. The problem was, he wore these for the duration of the interview. Now, I'm not suggesting a suit and tie is compulsory attire for such occasions - but this fellow gave every impression of just popping-in on his way to an outdoor ice rink.
- An aspiring writer submitted a piece to an online magazine with a view to joining their freelance roster. He even tweeted the editor to draw attention to the application. His piece began with a five word sentence, two of which were profanities. There is nothing necessarily wrong with industrial language in editorial copy (on rare occasions, I have used strong words on Creativepool), but whether it makes a tremendous opening gambit is a different matter. Particularly when the rest of the article is full of typos and strangled grammar.
- An art director was asked to visit an agency to show his portfolio, as they had an opening. In a meeting with the creative director, he reached into his satchel and hauled out some crumpled A3 sheets, spreading them on the table. Not only were the sheets creased, but the print quality was spoiled by the unmistakable horizontal lines of a failing printer. The art director explained he kept forgetting to replace the cartridges in his machine. And chuckled.
I am not for a second suggesting that applying and interviewing for a creative job should be a rigid or draconian. This is the creative industry, not the Royal Navy. Nevertheless, it is still essential to demonstrate preparation, consideration, forethought and diligence. By all means be memorable or unconventional (I once hired an art director on the strength of his freehand, scamp concepts, because they were brilliant), but never at the expense of professionalism.
Ultimately you are trying to convince an employer you will be an asset to his or her business, a worthwhile investment. If anything you do or say (or fail to do or say) suggests the opposite, your stock sinks with incredible speed.
What's more, at a time when opportunities are scarce and competition furious, it would be a fool who'd hobble their chances through careless amateurishness. Don't be that fool.
Magnus Shaw is a blogger, copywriter and consultant