A Circuitous RouteApr 6, 2010 In Process By Tim Aidlin
Question: “If you don’t have the 5 years’ experience requested by the job description, how do you break into the industry?”
At industry conferences like MIX10, one of the most important things you can do is attend outside events—the ones hosted ad hoc or set up from people outside “the inner circle.”
So often, these events give you otherwise unavailable opportunities to meet Creative Directors, Designers, Developers, Evangelists and just regular guys and gals that have the same questions you do. It was during one such event that someone asked a great question, which spawned a discussion: “If you don’t have the 5 years’ experience requested by the job description, how do you break into the industry?”
Professor or Fast Food Super-Nerd?
Well, let’s be honest: I have a degree in poetry.
Back in college, I thought my life would result in one of two career paths: Either, “Good morning class. My name is Dr. Aidlin and I’m here to teach you about Beat generation poetry and its relation to jazz and mid-twentieth century culture” or, “Would you like to hear what I think about Dostoyevsky while you wait for your French fries?”
Up until my senior year of college I got by using a Brother SX-4000 word-processor,which showed three lines of text at a time and required you to edit in the most ridiculous way. But you could edit,which was (kinda) better than a typewriter and carbon copies. But then I got into visual arts, while creating the layout and design for a literary journal I was producing at the time. This was 1995, and the graphical-user-interface was finally a standard—no more stupid DOS screens, crappy printouts, or no way to transfer your information. I could visually grab and move things where I wanted and use different fonts. Using rulers felt like using art-boards.
This was amazing.
So, job led to job which led to school and conferences and a million late nights searching and trying to meet people who knew more than me.
I did everything I could to learn what I’d missed in school and went out on a limb to either succeed to totally fail. I spent time building up my portfolio, learning and working super late on projects I thought were interesting, even if they had no commercial value or weren’t even “appropriate” for the job I wanted.
What did this behavior show potential employers? Drive, intelligence, and the ability to learn on the fly. As Tim Brown from the amazing design company IDEO notes in his book “Change by Design,” (I’m paraphrasing) it’s absolutely important for companies to invest in a varied and diverse workforce to ensure a wide array of viewpoints, disciplines, and expertise solving important problems.
The best companies will look not only at your resume, but also at your skills as a whole, as well as your personality and interests.
For me, the answer to the MIX10 attendee’s question is simple: build your portfolio. Make it shine. Read books. Meet people. Make connections. And above all, don’t be afraid of failure. That’s how I got here, anyway.
How did you get where you are? What are you doing now to get further along? What advice could you give to people who are just starting out, looking for jobs or hoping to push their career?
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