Career expert Diane Domeyer explains what designers need to do to stand out in the creative job market.
(progressive electronic music) - [Voiceover] With more than 24 years at Robert Half, a global leader in staffing services, Diane Domeyer is a noted career expert, who has her finger on the pulse of today's career landscape. Currently, she is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service for interactive, design, marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals.
In this position, she manages operations for the firm's locations in major markets throughout the United States and Canada. - We're here in New Orleans at the AIGA Conference and I have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Diane Domeyer. Diane, thank you so much for being here. - It's an honor, I'm thrilled to be here. - Great. So currently, we're in a extremely competitive job market. - Yep. - We have countless opportunities to promote ourselves in our work online.
Tools and training are readily available. And it seems to me that, at least in the creative space, degrees are not as important as they used to be, you know, it's really more about the work. So given those parameters, what are you seeing the most common traits in our most successful candidates today? - Well I think, first of all, what I would say is I would clarify that it's not that a degree isn't important because I think education, in whatever form that it may come to you to help you build your technical skill sets is really what's valued.
But above and beyond education, what employers are looking for, really is the experience level that you have, the technical skills, but on top of that, versatility and soft skills. So, more and more, as an example, designers need to have traditional design, as well as more and more emphasis on mobile mastery, as an example, or having interactive skills, as well as traditional. So, what employers look for is that you've got both the skill set, the experience, and the soft skills that it takes to really make an impact on an organization.
- So, what do you think are some of the most common missteps that creatives are making with their careers today? - I mean, I would say one that comes to mind is not staying recent and relevant with either new technologies or new trends, right? So, design has changed so drastically and will continue to change, and so, one mistake is while you may build an expertise in a certain area, you need to constantly look above and beyond to learn new technical skills and stay current with the current environment.
So I'd say that's number one. I would say, second of all, a mistake that professionals make is maybe not putting themselves out there or asking for new challenges or new opportunities that will help them broaden their skill set. And I would say lastly, I would say, not maybe asking for a raise. So, this is an environment that's highly competitive and as a result, average salaries for designers are going up for starting salaries.
And one survey that we did recently actually stated that 89% of the people that we polled said that they felt they were deserving of a raise, but only 54% planned to ask for one. So, you know there's a divide there, right? So, I think it's, get the skill set, make sure your skill sets are current, ask for new opportunities and make sure that you're being compensated for the work that you do. - And this is a little bit to the side here. Are you seeing that one gender over the other is better at asking for raises or asking for new opportunities or is it pretty similar? - You know stylistically, you know, when you talk about gender, people approach things in different ways.
I don't know that we've got any specific research that shows differences in the way in which you ask, but I think what's, or who asks, but I think what's more important is the way in which you ask, right? So, in order to make a good business case, regardless of gender, you need to have A, done your homework, B, you need to make sure that you've made a business case as it relates to your contribution to an organization, and C, you need to do it in a way that doesn't surprise your boss, in other words, proactively plan for the conversation.
And men, women, you know, both I see have challenges in preparing to ask for it and if it's done correctly, you'll have a better chance of success. - And when you go to ask for that raise, do you have any tools that you can suggest for places you can go to get a good barometer of what your value could be, or-- - Yeah, well, you really hit on an important point, which is, it is important that you know your market value, and in order to know your market value, you need to do your research.
So, there are tools, like through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can go to their Occupational Outlook. You can also access, we publish a salary guide every year specific to marketing and creative professionals. And you can also look online at various job postings, and there are job posting consolidators, like Indeed, where you can see across various job boards what average starting salaries may be.
So there's a lot of resources and I think it's important that you use a variety of data points versus exclusively relying on one. - And that salary guide that you're talking about that you publish is on The Creative Group website. - [Diane] Yes, yep, yep. - OK. - Yep, so it's at creativegroup.com and we publish it every year. And it is directly as a result of surveys and research that we've done with the hiring managers that we work with throughout North America. - [Voiceover] Wonderful. - The other thing that's important though is aside from salary, is taking a look at the big picture, right? So, it's not just salary, you have to look at overall compensation.
So, consider the perks that may be offered, the benefits that are provided. But also going back to thinking about keeping skills fresh and being able to develop some of your soft skills. If you're in an environment, regardless of compensation, that's, provides that for you that may help you propel your career forward, you may be willing to sacrifice something on compensation or salary in order to gain that experience. - Right, have there been times when people say, "I need a raise" and that can't be met, but they counter with, "OK, I would be OK with more vacation" or something like that? - Absolutely, I mean, in today's environment with the unemployment rates the way that they are, and the demand for talent, employers are concerned about attracting and retaining their top employees.
And so, as a result, employers are looking at it holistically as well. So, if you're in a position where you may ask for an increase in compensation and it can't be granted at that time, a couple of things that you can do. Number one, you can ask to be reconsidered at a later date, or number two, you can get creative in things that may offset that lack of increase, like you said, either increase in vacation time, more organizations are offering wellness programs or gym memberships, or they may provide tuition reimbursement, parking supplements, so, there's a whole lot above and beyond just salary and benefits compensation, that play into that whole package, and so you can be creative in asking for other things as well.
- I like that suggestion of tuition because I think that really shows that you're investing in yourself and in the company as a result. - And whether it be tuition reimbursement or being able to sponsor your involvement in an association, right? So, it does two things, number one, it demonstrates your ability to have a desire to be very involved in your community and to learn, but it also gives back to the organization in the sense that it makes you a better employee with fresh skills and increased productivity, and so, if that's something you're investing in anyway, why not ask your employer and make a good business case as to why that could be of benefit to them as well.
- So, personal branding, it's a hot topic these days, but I feel like there's a little bit of confusion about what exactly goes into a personal brand. Can you help clarify that? - Well, when you think about personal brand, I would say there's two components, there's a visual identity and there's a verbal identity, right? So, when you think of a personal brand, say for a designer as an example, the visual identity may be a logo that you create for your personal brand.
It may be, of course, your portfolio, it would be your online presence or your website, so you've got the visual identity. But the verbal identity is the collection, if you will, of your entire brand or your online presence. In other words, what you may publish on a blog, what you may put out there in social media. The verbal identity may also be what groups and associations do you belong to.
So, it creates a picture both in terms of your visual identity but also who you are and how you're involved in the community that creates your personal brand. So with that, it's an ever-evolving work in progress. You never build a brand and have the brand and it's done, right? Your online presence in today's world is really a big part of what defines your complete brand or personal brand. - And is it a good practice for a designer or a design firm to sit down and go through an exercise in the same way they would if they were branding a company? - Absolutely. - [Voiceover] And say, "I want people to think of this when they see me" and really build that out from the beginning so that then when they are blogging or they are on social media and on Twitter, they can sort of map their actions towards their goals.
- Just as any product would be, you create a, almost a creative brief for your own personal brand. It is an exercise that is highly valuable and I would definitely recommend it. Whereby, you define, what are the adjectives that describe your brand? What is the personality that you want to come through? What is the experience that you want to convey? And then also, of course, the aesthetic aspect of your own design style. And so, if you take the time to write up a one-page summary of what you want your brand to be, now you need to test against it, right? So, we found through our research that 70% of hiring managers do online Google search, LinkedIn search before interviewing a prospective candidate.
- Wow, that's a lot. - And so it's a lot, seven out of 10. And so, what they're looking for is your personal brand. So if you've created your creative brief, you now need to go out and run a Google search. You need to take a look at your LinkedIn profile. You need to look at your online website or digital portfolio and say, "Does what my image say, "convey what I've wanted it to convey?" And then you need to work on that. So, and that can be done again, through your complete online presence.
Do you link to your website on LinkedIn? Do you post or, post content via your various groups that you're a part of to demonstrate how you give back to the design community? So, it's just an ever-evolving process. - So, you talked about visual components and verbal components of the brand. How do you know if you need a visual component? - I would say, first of all, if you're in the design community, the expectation is that you have a visual component, right? So, part of that may be in designing your personal logo, but also, you know, your resume having an aspect of your personal brand, but as importantly is portfolios these days are expected to be in a digital format.
So, your personal brand needs to carry through to your online presence as well as your offline presence as well. - Great, so what makes a successful personal brand? - A successful personal brand is one that's going to demonstrate both your experience level, your style, but also, an element of personality while maintaining a high level of professionalism. The other piece of it is, at least when looking for a job or presenting yourself for opportunities, is that you tailor what you showcase in your personal brand to the needs of the client or to the needs of the prospective hiring manager.
So, it needs to convey who you are but it also needs to be versatile enough to be tailored to the needs, either of your organization or of a prospective employer. - So once you have that brand in hand, how do you then put it to work in a robust way? - Well, I think, like any good marketing program, I would say you should start with assessing what drives traffic to your brand, right? So, do the exercise of doing a Google search or take a look at what an employer may look at to see what do they find out about you, right? So, that will give a good idea of whether you actually even show up, right? So, do you have a good LinkedIn profile or Facebook or your URL, can you be found, right, first of all.
I'd say, second of all, is making sure that your brand is promoted at every possible touch point. So, what I mean by that is if you've got your own URL, you know of course that should be on your LinkedIn profile, it should be on your business card. When you're at various events or organizations, you want to be promoting your personal brand by handing out business cards. So, you want to make sure that it can be found and that it's consistent throughout any touch points that may be found from a potential network, client, or hiring manager.
- So, you have your brand and you have your body of work, what are the most common ways that people are actually presenting their work today to the hiring managers and prospective clients? - Well, I would say, first of all, and we've already touched upon it, is that you, as a designer, if you're, in building your portfolio, in today's environment everyone needs to have a digital portfolio. And so, when you're first starting out, you can build that digital portfolio using, there's a whole host of sites that will create general templates for you to be able to upload your work very effectively.
I think as individuals become more experienced and their body of work expands, more and more individuals will build their own website to actually demonstrate that brand. So, I'd say it starts with having a digital portfolio. I would say, second of all, is getting into the practice of being able to present your portfolio. I would say, over the years, we've worked with very, so many, really talented designers that fall just a little short in the interview process.
They may have beautiful work, great experience, but where they may fall short is not being able to articulate or communicate the impact of their work. So, the softer skills are equally as important as the body of work that you pulled together in your brand, right? So being able to present it in a way, companies are looking for individuals who make contributions to their organization. And so, regardless of the size or scope of the project, if you can articulate both what was your role with the project and to the extent you can measure any kind of an impact that that particular project had on the organization, on the team, on the department, you'll be in a better position to have your brand and your body of work, work for you.
- Great, that's super helpful. And in a presentation, one particular one-to-one, how many pieces would you suggest somebody has? - You know when we survey, when we've surveyed hiring managers, what the creative directors and marketing managers tell us is that you should be somewhere around eight pieces of work. I have seen one of the mistakes that I also see in the interview process is that the samples that are presented are either A, not tailored to the opportunity or B, there's too much of the same thing, right, so, if you're going to present six to eight pieces, you want to have diversity of skill set demonstrated, diversity of project type, and then you also want to make sure to the extent that you can, that you can tailor the work that you show to the needs of either the client or the hiring manager.
- So, what if you have this collection of your best work, and you're going into an interview and you have this other work that's actually more relevant to that client, but that's going to make it too many pieces. Do you pick the better work or do you pick the more relevant work? - I would love to answer that by saying figure out a way to do both. Because, to your point, you want to limit the number of pieces that you may show, right? So, one piece of advice that we often give is show your strongest work first, right, as your, kind of, flagship piece, show that first.
If that happens to be different than the needs of that organization, your next piece that you should show should be more tailored to their organization so that you can talk about, "Here's some of the work that I did "that really shows the breadth of my skill set. "Now, I've also had experience working on brands "similar to yours, or doing projects similar to this." and show a couple of those pieces. But then if you have other work that you feel is stronger, close with that work. If possible to integrate the two, I would integrate the two. - OK, and what if you have this piece that's very important to you, feel like it was a great, if it was for a big client and it had a lot of traction but it's from a long time ago.
Is that something to include? - Well, I mean, ideally the work that you want to show is what is most recent, you want most recent and most relevant. So ideally, you look at work that's been over the course of, say, the last five years. Now, that being said, if you have something that's outside that period of time that is particularly strong or you think would be of terrific interest to the employer, then I'd say, by all means, demonstrate that work because your passion will come through, right? So, if you can demonstrate both the impact that something had on an organization, the passion that you have for that work and the skill set that you have, that will make you more employable, but also, I don't know very many hiring managers that wouldn't want to see that if it was something you were really proud of even if it was quite some time ago.
But just balance it with some more recent work as well. - And resumes, and cover letters. Do most people, or should they go a traditional route or do hiring managers want to see a more creative approach? - Well, so, you know I hate to answer it in a vague way because in some ways, it does depend, right, on your audience, so in other words, if you are directly presenting your work to the creative director, that may be one, you may have one style. If you need to go through the traditional channel of submitting a resume and it may go through, say, HR or a marketing manager, they may look for more of a traditional resume.
So you have to have multiple styles, first of all. When we did our research, 70% of marketing and creative professionals told us that they prefer a traditional resume. But there's a way to do that with some flare and personal brand, right? - And good typography. - Yeah, right, typography and the way in which you demonstrate your title and the work that you've done, you can absolutely do that. But I think in today's world, you also need to be mindful of you don't know on whose desk your resume may come across.
And if it's a more traditional manager, you want to make sure you've got that simple, traditional, professional format. The other piece is you want to make sure that it can get picked up, more and more organizations are using applicant tracking systems that will run keyword searches on resumes. And if your resume is an image file that's not searchable, you may be hurting yourself through that design, so most companies prefer Word and PDF versions of resumes.
- So, the interview process is always a protracted one, it seems, it never takes the amount of time that we hope it will, and when you-- - Probably both on the hiring manager side, as well as the job seeker side. - Yes, exactly. - [Diane] Yes. - And so, when you go to your interview and there might be a lag between when you hear from either HR or you hear, what's the best thing in terms of following up so that you look proactive without seeming like a pest? - Yeah, well, it's funny because I would say one of the biggest mistakes that is often made in the interview is that an individual, no matter what, whether you're a designer, a marketing professional, when you're in an interview, you have to be a salesperson.
And so, not only are you selling your skills and your experience and how you might fit in with that organization, but you need to close to the opportunity. So if you're interested in the job, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is they don't close to the opportunity. In other words, express your interest as you close the interview, if indeed you are interested, and secondarily, ask what you can expect in terms of next steps, follow-up, and how do you fit into the overall scheme of whether they think you'd be a good fit for the organization.
So if you ask that question in closing, you kind of then earn the right for follow-up, right? So, this is where I think good old-fashioned methods with today's digital landscape come together really nicely. You ask when it's expected that you should follow up or that you would hear from them again. You immediately, coming out of the interview, send them an email thank you, right? But you can also follow up with a handwritten note at the same time. So you've got one touch point they receive immediately after the interview, you send a handwritten note or a letter thanking them which might take three or four days, so it shows professionalism and eagerness and I'll tell you a lot of people don't do it, so you will stand out.
And then thirdly, if they're on LinkedIn or in an association, request a connection with that hiring manager. So now you've got multiple touch points. If you then have heard from them that they would expect they might hear back, you might hear back from them within a week or two, if you get to the 10-day mark and you haven't heard from them, it absolutely makes sense to follow up and re-express your interest in a phone call and/or an email and let them know that you're available for any further questions. So if you do that in a professional way, you've got kind of contact marketing strategies in place, you can do it in a professional way that doesn't appear to be bothersome, but at the same time, keeps your brand in front of them just like any good marketing campaign.
- So, let's say it goes the way you want it to and you get that job offer. And salary, it's always that tricky part of the process, and we're taught to never reveal what we are currently making, if possible, which sometimes it's not. And the goal is to get an offer which is at the top of what they can offer you for that position. How do you know that you're getting that offer? - Well, you may never know, and so, what I would say is, you know, more and more organizations, at some point in the process, prior to final interview, are going to expect that they understand where your compensation is.
Most employers also recognize that in order for someone to make a move, they're definitely going to look for a modest increase, but employers, and in some cases more than a modest increase, but additionally, employers in today's environment know that they need to be competitive in their compensation. So, I'd say rather than getting yourself worked up about, "Did I get the most that I'm looking for?" I would make sure that you've clearly conveyed what your expectations are, and that you have done your homework to make sure you know what is market.
And then thirdly, don't get yourself caught up in, "Did I get as much as I can get?" or versus, "Am I happy with what they offered me?" If, look at it more than just compensation, was it a step forward, is it the job opportunity that I want? Because at the end of the day, all research has shown, that what keeps people at organizations is not the compensation, it's the environment, it's the work that they do, and it's their leader. And so, if you assess the situation based on that and you're happy with compensation, I'd say don't worry about, "Did I get the most I can possibly get?" You may never know.
- So, shifting gears a little bit to social media, how important is it to be involved in the design community online, either through Twitter, blogging, or the other social media platforms? - Yeah, I would say it's very important, I mean, to the extent that you want to build long-term visibility. Being engaged in the design community is only going to benefit you in many ways. First of all, it will help you to keep your skills fresh.
Second of all, you'll build a network of either mentors or peers or partners that have similar experiences that you can leverage in many ways. And then thirdly, have the opportunity to, potentially down the road, if you look to make a change, you've already been a part of that community. So, being a part of the community means not just belonging to organizations, it means being a part of the conversation. If you join a group, so if you join a group on LinkedIn that is a design community group, are you contributing to the conversation, right? So you can build a brand for yourself in that respect by being involved in the community online.
So whether it be LinkedIn, Twitter, various social media, I mean, for designers in particular, what you can do with Instagram and Pinterest, the visual aspect of getting your work out there, it's a very exciting thing. - Yeah, and I know that the user groups, like the Adobe user groups, are a great way to-- - Absolutely. - Connect with other people and also be an active participant and give back to the community and help people troubleshoot. - I have yet to meet someone that has been actively involved in a professional community that's regretted it, right, it only gives back.
It's an additional time investment, but at the same time, whether it be social media or physical involvement and physical presence, it just gives back in spades. - So, lastly, it seems there's a real shift towards transmedia, designers being a jack-of-all-trades, having to have the skills of web, mobile, logo, branding, all of it. Are you finding that's the case or is there still a market for specialists? - Well, you know, depending on the size of the organization, there are absolutely opportunities for generalists and specialists.
However, there is absolutely a trend towards making sure that you build diversity of skills. So, we did research for our creative team in the future which we do every year in conjunction with the AIGA, and we asked 800 marketing and creative professionals who will have greater opportunities, hybrid professionals versus specialists. And 48% felt that hybrid or, as you're saying, transmedia, generalists will have more opportunities versus 13% said they felt that specialists would have more opportunities.
Now, as I said, it all depends on the size of the organization, right? So, there is absolutely a need within smaller organizations for general skill sets that cross traditional media, as well as interactive, but as an organization grows, you've got deep expertise as an example that's being built in user experience, right? But at the end of the day, you know, there was a time where web design was considered its own thing or email marketing was, email design was considered its own thing.
And so, if you're now a designer in, you know, kind of an overall marketing organization, you need to think of your designs across all mediums, and so that's where the hybrid is coming from, so, visual designers and individuals that can do their design through a variety of mediums will be more marketable in the future as we go on. - Diane, thank you so much. It's been such a treat chatting with you today. - It's a pleasure, I'm glad to be here. - [Voiceover] Thanks. - Thanks.
- The common traits of successful candidates
- Staying relevant, staying active, and staying challenged
- Making a business case for a raise
- Knowing your market value
- What to do when you're turned down for a raise
- How to establish a personal brand (both visual and verbal)
- Creating a personal logo
- What to feature in a portfolio: diverse, recent, and relevant work
- Tailoring your digital portfolio for different clients and employers
- Resumes and cover letters: a traditional or creative approach?
- Following up after an interview
- Making connections with hiring managers
- Building visibility on social media
- Engaging with the design community
- Thinking about design across all mediums