Strategic stalking and other tips

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Originally published on Shillington Design Blog.

Approaching the creative director of your favourite studio for a job is the stuff of nightmares for some. But it needn’t be. Forget networking awkwardness and think creative challenge—after all, you are a designer.

Here’s 10 things I’ve done or seen others do to land gigs at agencies across the globe.

1. Know your studios. 
Sounds obvious, but do your homework. Not all studios or agencies are equal and it’s your job to find out which ones do the type of work you’re interested in. Get to know their work inside out beyond their Behance page and have a positive and constructive point of view on it.

2. Know the people that work in those studios. 
Again, do your homework. Get to know the characters that make up the studios you like so you can figure who best to start a conversation with. Maybe you went to the same art school as the creative director. Or perhaps you love the same biscuits as the senior designer. Met the guitarist of the founder’s favourite band? Great, mention it. Look for things you’ve got in common that make you stand out on a human level. That’s what Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are for — strategic stalking.

3. Attend industry events
Whilst these are good opportunities to ‘network’, they are even better places to learn from others in the industry. Listen intently, take notes furiously and if you’re feeling brave and there’s opportunity to do so, ask thought-provoking questions. Being seen is half the challenge and being heard is the other. Which leads me to…

4. Share your point of view.
Seen a piece of work you love? Write about it. Read something fascinating that you can relate back to the craft? Write about it. Cured the common cold whilst sketching logos on your iPad Pro? You guessed it — write about it. Writing (and sharing it with the world) not only helps you hone how you express your thoughts, it gives others an opportunity to see how you think.

5. Have a side hustle.
Find a pain point in something you are passionate about and embark upon a process to creatively solve it. Document that process as you go along and share the project online. Future employers will be keen to see the final outcome but also the journey of how you got there. And since it’ll be something you’re passionate about, you’ll find it easier to talk enthusiastically about it too.

6. Be creative in your approach.
Under no circumstances should you copy and paste a letter or email of introduction, changing only the agency name and point of contact. It’s lazy and damn right insulting. Make it personal, make them giggle, raise a thought provoking question, reference a talk they did or a podcast they featured on. Offer to buy them coffee, or cake, or both in exchange for their time and a chat. And if you’ve got the skills, show initiative beyond the obvious like Francine did.

7. Be humble, hungry and human.
The creative director you are emailing probably has 5,439 unread emails and deadlines Floyd Mayweather would struggle to hit so acknowledge they are busy and keep your email personable and brief. Apply point 6 and avoid the ‘to whom it may concern’ tone of voice. Be sure to give them sufficient time (a week at least) to reply and if they don’t…

8. Try again, and again… and again.
Expect the first email to be ignored. And maybe the second. And probably the third. If email isn’t working for you, see if you can spark a conversation on Twitter. Have they written a blog post that you like? Share it and tag them in your tweet. If all else fails, head to the studio and tell reception that you’ve come to see them for an interview. Yes it’s a lie, but being bold is sure to get you noticed. What’s the worst that could happen?

9. Think beyond your immediate need for a job.
Yes you want a job now, but that doesn’t mean Studio X are looking. Be prepared to play the long game and focus on building friendships for the long-term. Staying in touch and being proactive can lead to a whole number of future opportunities beyond a 9-5 and a monthly pay cheque.

10. Stay positive.
No one wants to work with a grumpy, bitter know-it-all, so smile, be nice, believe in yourself, keep going and have fun.

By G Torto, strategist at Re.

OpinionAmy Scott