How to Get a Marketing, Graphic Design, or UX Job in Corporate America
Art is often looked at as just a form of expression, but it is also an important asset to almost any business. Designers, marketers, and artists play a pivotal role in growing the company, driving sales, developing the brand, and delighting customers.
But it can be a challenge for creative people to fully know how to apply their skills in the business world. When applying for these creative positions, each employer and recruiter is probably looking for something different: skills with a paintbrush, a great photography portfolio, or a unique, creative problem-solving approach. To learn about what a specific company is interested in, just go to their website and peruse.
To get some insight into what skills it takes to get hired and succeed as a creative in Corporate America, I talked with industry leaders in design and marketing and gathered these 11 helpful tips.
Most Important Skills
Two things ultimately guide any hiring decision: why a company should hire you (hard skills) and why people will want to work with you (soft skills). In every interview, and every day after being hired, it is your job to constantly be developing your skills and remaining someone that people want to work with and someone that they need to keep on-board.
1. Creative Skill
The most important hard skill here is the one you are getting hired for. Are you a designer? A social media guru? A writer? Always continue learning and honing your craft, because it forms the foundation of your value proposition to any company or client.
Writing and Communication
Writing isn’t just for copywriters, poets, and novelists. Even before COVID-19, written, digital content shaped how we interact with most of our coworkers, clients, and audiences. Being able to communicate effectively through a digital medium in 2020 is not just a plus – it is a necessity.
2. Analytical Skills
Affirma’s creative leaders find that artists and creative people often struggle with this bullet point the most. If your skill is creativity, why is it also your job to be analytical? The answer is that numbers, analytics, and outcome is generally the language that your client or managers speak – and it isn’t their job to justify the value of your work for you. You need to be an advocate for your own projects and your own craft.
Did your design make the check our process easier, or did it make the process easier – increasing conversions by 28% and generating $30k more revenue this quarter? Being able to make these claims is vital and being able to prove the correlation between your design and that revenue is just as important (and that will definitely be the next question your client or manager will be asking you about).
3. A depth of knowledge
There are two types of people in the office: generalists and specialists. These are your masters of a single craft and your jack of all trades, master of none. To be useful to a team, find a skill that is underserved on your team or in an industry and become the most knowledgeable and skilled practitioner of that skill that you can. Not only will this make you indispensable, but this will result in your name becoming synonymous with a specific type of need or task.
4. A breadth of knowledge
…and on the other hand, not diversifying your skillset is a recipe for disaster. With technology and trends constantly in flux, if you only have one skill, no matter how valuable it is today, it could be useless tomorrow. Knowing a little about a lot can not only stabilize your career but also make you a more effective communicator both inter- and intra-departmentally.
The ideal combination of knowledge is “T” shaped (that is deep and narrow in one area, and wide and shallow in many other areas.) Our head of Creative Services, Ryan Hoffman, has an excellent article on building T-Shaped Teams here.
Not having integrity is a deal-breaker – and everyone you encounter will care about it. Did you tell your mom that you would call her yesterday? Did you tell your boss or your client that you would email them this morning? When a mistake was made, were you able to admit to it, course correct, and improve your choices in the future?
In business, and life, your integrity is key. In fact, how you choose to live your life is probably reflected everywhere in your life. You need to be honest, able to admit and learn from mistakes, and deliver on the promises to your family, your team, your client, and your community.
Work is tough. Being a creative person who solves problems rather than just making something look, feel, or sound nice doesn’t make you particularly useful to a company.
You can’t give up. In your career, you are sure to encounter complex problems, and they require complex solutions with a ton of research. Those who can shoulder the responsibility of finding and deploying solutions are priceless at a company.
At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask for help. What is important is your willingness to work towards a solution, not that you do it alone. Keep your promises, work hard – both alone and on a team, and you will have no trouble staying valuable to your team.
This is different than your creative skill. Creativity is your ability to generate solutions that no one else in the room thought of. Of course, not every idea is going to be perfect. Ideation, or the process of creating, say, 20 ideas to get 1 good idea, is key to any creative ability.
Think outside of the box, especially to solve complex problems. Always look for efficiencies, novel solutions, and be curious
Whether you use design principles or storytelling to fulfill your core responsibilities, or if you use it to tell a story to clients and management, it is nearly impossible to have a flourishing career without good storytelling ability.
Whether it is teaching a new hire, giving a lecture at TED, or asking for more budget for next year, being able to paint a picture will be key to how your message is received.
9. Always Be Learning
While the universal principles of creative design, marketing, and art may remain relatively stable throughout the years, the technologies and popular techniques vary year by year. Whether it is the newest version of photoshop or illustrator, the newest trends, or the newest google algorithm update, being familiar with the best practices and technologies are vital in our ever-transforming industry.
In life and your career, you can never stop learning. To succeed, that should be at the front of your ethos and mindset. When our leaders are interviewing a potential hire, if they detect a smidgen of arrogance, the interview is over. In addition to being difficult to work with, arrogant people generally don’t remain knowledgeable or coachable in their position for very long. Once that happens, they cease to be an asset to the company and the client.
10. Be able to do the “boring” work
When you are applying for jobs, make sure that you find a cause that you care about and can get behind. Once you are at a desk, it is your job to take care of your clients and to be useful to the team.
This might mean doing a job that you aren’t that interested in. Many marketers here at Affirma spend a portion of their time doing Pay Per Click advertising. Many of our designers spend a sliver of their time recoloring artwork. While this work may not be the most fun or inspired, it is vital to the success of the company and projects, so they must spend time doing some of the not-so-creative creative work. However, working on this sort of work often demonstrates the employee to be a good team-player, and they get more time to work on larger, more-exciting projects and are first in line for promotions.
11. Have a Client-First Approach
Finally, it is vital to sport a client-first approach. Outside of having an always-learning mentality, that’s the next most important thing to your success as a designer or marketer. Every day, you are working on your art and your craft, but ultimately, that work needs to mean something to your client. You also need to make sure that the client knows why you made the decisions you have, how it will benefit them, and to make sure that you are friendly and relatable when you communicate with them. You need to put yourself in the client’s shoes to reach their audiences, and you need to occasionally make game-time decisions on your own that benefit your client. (This is one of our main interview questions, so make sure to prepare examples of your best experiences with clients, how you relate to clients, and when you have had to make executive decisions that benefited your client).