A topic from a past EDGE event with Kevin Stohlmeyer of C2

Portfolio for Professionals
How to market yourself in a down economy.
Kevin is an Adobe Certified Instructor, Adobe Freelance Professional, Adobe Community Professional and User Group Manager with C2 Graphics Productivity Solutions. His background in design and publishing complement his knowledge of all things Adobe. His devotion makes for fabulous classroom performances, has landed him invites to Adobe summits and appearances at conferences nation-wide.

Kevin has given 12 lessons to enhance your knowledge of ways to promote yourself to the top of the list for jobs during this down economy.

Lesson 1 : Networking
Build a team
Networking is the essential element in promoting yourself so that people in your network can get to know who you are and what your career goals may be. Knowing others within the same career allows others to assist you in the advancement of your own career. In the modern days, job openings are promoted from within and on social media sites. Knowing the correct connections can land anyone a job knowing the right people.

Knowing an array of people allows you to build a networking team. If you aren’t a master mind of all professions from graphic design, photography to web design having a friend who may help you out at times will help you advance in your own design profession.

Join! Join! Join!

The easiest way to meet other creatives is to immerse yourself in networking opportunities.

There are several design/web/creative based groups in the greater Madison and Milwaukee areas. Use these groups to your benefit and meet like-minded individuals that can expand your circle of peers.

AIGA is a great way to network with others. Get in contact with AIGA members in your area and ask about upcoming events or opportunities to volunteer.

Volunteering and participating in events allows you to be noticed and for others to know you are devoted to enhancing your career.

Lesson 2 : Don’t be shy
“Creativity takes courage” – Henri Matisse

Going to events is about socializing and getting your name out there. You want to have a good impression on others so don’t be shy, and know the difference between being proactive and being a pest.

If others don’t come talk to you, go ask them how their day was, where they work, what do they do. Asking simple questions to start a conversation can then turn into questions like “would you mind taking a look over my portfolio,” or “could I send you my resume to pass on.” Engaging in simple conversation can lead to a connection that can help you in many ways. Only time will tell what can happen from knowing people but most importantly keep in contact with your connections. A simple catch up email, greeting card or a cup of coffee will keep you connected.

Lesson 3 : Mistakes
There are no mistakes, only lessons. Lessons will be repeated until learned. Lessons will get increasingly harder if not learned.

Just the same as there is no stupid question, there is no such thing as a stupid mistake. If a mistake is made look back on it and think about what you can do to correct it so that it wont happen again. Learning from your mistakes only make you a better person.

Lesson 4 : Communication
Be clear when talking to others. Miscommunication should be avoided at all circumstances. Wording is key. Communicate clearly and with intention. You are an expert at your career, so talk yourself up and be confident.

When taking on tasks, follow through with them, if you say you’ll do it – do it, or risk your reputation. Don’t “act first apologize later.” Knowing your personal workload is important; taking on multiple projects doesn’t allow you to complete them 100%. Therefore taking on fewer projects allows you to complete these projects with your full attention. Knowing what you can handle and perfect allows you to do a better job on your designs

Learn to say “NO”
Learning to say no is difficult at first, especially for new graduates or hungry designers. But it isn’t impossible. Taking on too many jobs doesn’t allow you to pay full attention and give clients your best effort. Being a “yes man” can lead to dropping the ball on your projects and not satisfy clients/employees.

Lesson 5 : Social Media
What is your personality? Are you fun, outgoing, straight forward or career driven? When looking at your social media sites this should show through. But, do remember that if you post it everyone can see it make sure to keep posts and profiles professional. Know the difference between family and business connections. Do you want business connections to know your personal life and values? If not create separate personal and business social media sites.

On Facebook, have your personal Facebook account, and then have a Facebook fan page for marketing yourself. This allows you to keep your personal life/posts personal while displaying business related posts on your fan page. Do not use your personal Facebook account for business unless you want to share everything with everyone.

When thinking of networking online you need to embrace all forms, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin. But remember you have to control your identity and be professional. While maintaining your accounts make sure to keep your profiles up-to-date even if employed.

An example of strong social networking check out Kevin’s social media sites:
LinkedIn 
Twitter 
Google +
Personal website 

Lesson 6 : Marketing yourself
Branding yourself can be a lot of fun, but also can be very intimidating. But is very important to develop a brand for yourself. Some ways to make it easier to develop your own identity treat yourself as you would a client or employer. Make a list of your values: who am I, what are my specialties, who can benefit from my experiences? Once you have your values down and start your identity, make sure all your identity pieces (business cars, resume, social media, and website) have a consistent design. One thing to not forget about is having a professional email, if you are writing a professional email send it from a professional account, lose the .edu unless you want to be seen only as a graduate and not a professional.

Lesson 7 : Portfolio
Most importantly, know who you are interviewing with so that you can customize your portfolio to enhance your personal abilities for the job. Be unique. Stand out from others, including your classmates. Give employers something to remember. After you graduate, your book it yours, not your instructors or simply a project for a class. Take that extra step and bring your book to the next level. Bring a leave-behind to leave something there to remind them of you and your work.

Create two portfolios
1. Traditional – photos on boards that you will be able to present and control the experience.
Make sure to have all components that you wish to include in your presentation. Always assume you will get through more. You would rather have a few minutes left in an interview to bring out another project than to say “that’s all I have.” Another piece in your portfolio to have is your comps and sketches handy. Some reviewers like to see your creative process, and if they ask you can be ready.

2. Digital – When applying for a job, many jobs ask for a small sized PDF portfolio, which limits you to few projects. When creating a digital portfolio remember that when an employer/client is looking at your work they are controlling their own experience and you are not there to explain your projects.

Adding information about project such as client name, project description and contribution will help guide the viewer’s way through your portfolio. Make sure to have an online portfolio of some sort. After viewing your digital portfolio employers/clients might like to see more before making a decision, make it easy for them to find more work having an online presence. A few portfolio options to consider: Carbonmade, Coroflot, DeviantArt, Flickr, and a Personal website along with Behance.

At Behance AIGA members can link their portfolio to AIGA Behance which allows you to connect with other AIGA members who also have their portfolio on this website. Find out more information and link your behance portfolio to AIGA Behance at http://www.aiga.org/aiga-member-gallery/.

Kevin’s do’s and don’ts for portfolios.

These may seem simplistic, but you would be surprised how many people make these mistakes.

Do have a professional, organized book
Don’t throw things together last minute
Do practice your presentation
Don’t struggle to explain your work
Do have follow up material ( final printed piece, etc )
Don’t apologize
Do give extra effort for the pieces in your book
Don’t have only class assignments

Lesson 8 : Resume
A resume can be thought of as an introduction to yourself, before clients/employers see you or your work they see your resume. Therefore make sure that your resume is designed to match your personal brand. Showcase your design skills by designing your resume while also keeping it functional and not distracting.

When writing out your resume make sure to represent yourself honestly. Know the skills you have listed make sure to not over-reach or embellish.

Lesson 9 : Your smart enough, strong enough and gosh darn it, people will pay you.
Take a second and determine your pricing. Take into consideration your years of experience, wealth of knowledge, skills, etc. Taking this list, think of what you want to be paid. Even though you have a set amount in your head now make sure to charge according to the value of your services.

While taking a new job, negotiate but do not fold on a price. Have a bottom line that is respectful to your services.

Lesson 10 : Never stop learning
To become an expert in your field you never stop learning. Make yourself develop a super power, and devote yourself to your field. Take classes either on-line or in-person. Be inspired. Inspiration energizes you and keeps you fresh and engaged in your design.

Do not try to be a jack-of-all-trades. Knowing everything is few and slim, knowing one thing like an expert is better than knowing two things half way.

Lesson 11: Pace yourself
Learning how to say no allows you to not to burn yourself out. Take on clients and projects with intention to help benefit your career. Will they help my pocketbook, portfolio, or prestige? Grow with a purpose. Live to work. Do not work to live.

Lesson 12 : Be yourself
Be passionate about what you do. If you are not passionate about what you do, do something else.

“Being a designer is a lifestyle ” – Kevin

In conclusion AIGA would like to give Kevin a special thanks for speaking at Decembers “Portfolios for Professionals” Creative connect in Milwaukee. This blog post is based off the slides that Kevin present at this event.

Make sure to keep your calendar updated with AIGA events. Come be inspired and motivated by the AIGA creatives in your area.

Original Post by Marcia Pastorius

By AIGA Wisconsin
Published January 10, 2012
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