The age of the Internet has helped to relieve the American workforce of many of the burdens that the job application process formerly carried. Long gone are the days of walking to your nearby convenience store to pick up a newspaper, traveling home, and sitting at the kitchen table with a highlighter sifting through the classified section for job listings. Most companies are now on the Web and have dedicated portals online for searching available positions and applying directly from the comfort of your own home.
But what’s a person to do when there is no link that says in big, bold letters, “APPLY NOW”? How should you prepare your application process differently from more uniform, corporate positions when working in an industry that emphasizes creativity and design? The answer is not entirely straightforward or universal, but there are a few tips that can help you navigate the bumpy parts:
1. Stay Off the Beaten Path
“To whom it may concern”: probably your go-to introduction for cold emailing, right? In the corporate world, it may be desirable to fall back on ubiquitous cliches for getting through the inevitable awkwardness of first introductions, particularly when unsolicited. However, it is key that you market yourself for the market you’re trying to be a part of.
Shawn Busse, CEO of Kinesis, has listed several of the unfortunate missteps he finds most frequently when receiving applications to his creative marketing/business consulting firm. Speaking on the often used opener, “I’m a graduate of XYZ university,” Busse says, “If you’re applying for a creative position, this is perhaps the least creative way to introduce yourself.”
This is not to say that you should write your cover letter in code to be deciphered only when held to a mirror, or printed on black paper with a neon font. However, introducing yourself in a way that displays a hint of charisma can help you stand out in an process that has largely become quite impersonal.
2. They Know You Are a ‘Highly-Qualified, Creative Individual,’ so Prove It
Let your actions speak louder than your words. There are dozens of idioms that all mean the same thing in regard to your application for a creative position. Creative industries are unique in that they allow for perhaps the most easily accessible manner in which you can actually show tangible results of your work to anyone willing to take a look.
Take advantage of this and build a website exclusively to host your portfolio. This could seem like a no-brainer, but it is often overlooked. Building a portfolio website works twofold: not only does it allow you a professional means to show off your brand, but it also allows you to jump the gun on the human resources department that will possibly search for evidence of your past work themselves if you fail to deliver it from the start. (If they do search for you themselves, they may discover whatever else accompanies your name on Google — good or bad.)
If you don’t feel as though you are quite adept enough to create an online portfolio that matches the quality of your actual work, you can utilize a professional resource that directs employers to a dynamic portfolio that the company places front and center on your public profile.
Another way to show your dedication (and avoid the awkwardness of cold-emailing) is to find ways to assert your presence in other avenues. The Creative Loft‘s founder Pierre Drescher states, “With non-corporate, non-traditional jobs, you must find a way to connect with the company before attempting to apply. Some concrete things that you can do include attending any of the company’s public events, reaching out through social media with something they might find interesting, or attending meetups where current employees are likely to be present. The more involved you are with the company, the more likely you will have an opportunity to present yourself when your dream position opens up.”
3. Get to the Point Already!
In the event that you are emailing a company cold, stop and consider for a moment just how much time the person on the other end will invest in your inquiry. First, make sure the email is going to whom you want to see it. The majority of companies, regardless of industry, have some form of an organizational chart or staff listing online that can aid in finding out who needs to receive your information.
Next, when writing your cover letter, focus on conveying which skill sets you have obtained that will directly translate into greater success for the company you are applying to. It can be easy to get caught up in mundane personal details about yourself and accolades, or meander into a monologue about how this particular company will further your career. Save it. You have what will likely be a limited window of opportunity, so instead tell the company why you will make it more successful and profitable than it already is. Explain in exact terms what the company could expect to see out of your performance.
If you have done your research and have creative ideas for the foundation of a project that the company may be interested in, don’t be afraid to slip those details in as a teaser (if they company is interested, then use a subsequent interview to go into more detail). In short, cut out the filler and tell the company in a brief-but-personal, confident-but-not-arrogant way why it needs you.
Applying to a creative position that deviates from the typical path of resume uploading and application portals can seem tricky, but some simple alterations can get you on the right track. By getting your name out there, not being afraid to show a bit of personality, and using every appropriate opportunity to show how your own creativity will mesh with the organizational outlook, you can help make the hiring manager’s decision for them by providing all of the information they would need to give you the job.