Sandstorm Student Center

Sandstorm Design launched the Sandstorm Student Center (SSC) in 2003 for students and working adults interested in learning more about marketing and web design firms and a career in the design industry. A totally free service, we invite you to ask us a question, review FAQs from students, and get advice on landing a job, internship or freelance assignment.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

FAQ: How should I write my resume if I've never had a design job before and I'm looking for an internship/entry level position?

I would make sure you design the resume, don't just lay it out in Word. Use your design skills to make it stand out, and give it some of your personality. In the objective, state that you are looking for an entry level or internship position and that you are very motivated to learn.

Sending out hundreds of resumes is one way to find a job. Another is to network. Get involved in your design community and get to know other local designers in your area. They may be the key to getting you into their company when a position becomes available.

Also, I mention this a lot, but volunteer to do some design work at your favorite non-profit. Non-profits have tons of print and web work that they need help with. This will help you get some real world experience that you can put on your resume. In addition, this really exemplifies your motivation!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

FAQ: I would like to make a career change to graphic design. What is the best way of doing this?

Making a career change is always a challenge. My best recommendation to start would be to make sure you know the following software programs: Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark (or InDesign - very similar to Quark). These are the basic tools that every graphic designer needs to have in their tool box.

Your next step would be to build a portfolio. A great way to start is to offer to do pro-bono work (which means free) for local charities or non-profits that could really use the help. Most non-profits have tons of print work available such as invitations, brochures, direct mail, etc. In return for your design work, request a few of the final printed samples for your portfolio. This is real world work, and is perfectly acceptable to put in a portfolio. (plus it makes you look good too - for a good cause).

On your resume, I would suggest highlighting skills from your job that could apply to a graphic designer such as project management, time management, multi-tasking abilities, detail oriented, etc.

Lastly, when switching careers, you may have to start at the bottom as a junior designer. This is the hardest part, especially if you have worked for a couple of years and are used to a nice salary. But in the end, if you love what you do, you'll be happier in the long run!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

What are the steps in a creative department from junior graphic designer to the creative director?

Here are the basic career steps:

Junior Designer
Senior Designer
Associate Art Director
Art Director
Senior Art Director
Associate Creative Director
Creative Director
Senior Creative Director

However, this largely depends on the web design or marketing agency you work for. Some creative agencies have more, and many have less. It is determined based on the overall structure of the organization. At Sandstorm Design, our titles include (or have included): Creative Director, Senior Designer, Interactive Designer and Graphic Designer.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Job Finding Tip of the Day: Get Off Your Computer

The Internet is probably the fastest and easiest place to search (and apply) for jobs. It is also often the first and only place that people go. The result of this convenience: COMPETITION. And you don't want to be another lost resume buried in a stack. So what's a job seeker to do? Step away from your machine.

Why, you ask? Because most people I know who are finding work aren't finding it there. They are finding work through the people they know, and the people the people they know know, and so on. It's like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. (I am so proud of myself right now for incorporating this idea into my writing.)

Employers like to hire a face, not a resume. Hiring friends, or even friends of friends, helps them accomplish this. It makes the whole process a little more personable (and makes employers feel good about their decision.)

So how do you become a friend, or even a friend of a friend, of an employer? Chances are, you probably are one already. And if you're not, there's only one way to start: MEET PEOPLE.

Join a book club. Go to a Yelp! event. Take an art class. Volunteer to run a beer tent at a festival. When you're there, make sure to talk to people about your interests and desired career path. You are your greatest salesman/woman, so get out there and start selling!

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Is it preferred to put the cover letter inside the e-mail or as an attachment?

I'd put a shorter version of your cover letter in the body of your email, and the full cover letter in your attachment with your resume. You can never be too professional, and it makes a great first impression.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is there a way I can get in some where with an associates degree?

I feel employers are not giving me the chance to look at my portfolio because of my two year degree. Is there a way I can get in some where with an associates?

Design jobs are hard to get because there is a ton of competition. Thousands of designers are without jobs. You just have to continue to persevere. Just because you don't hear back from an employer doesn't mean that your education is the problem. It could be a variety of different things from not having the right software skills to not having the right type of media in your portfolio.

I would highly recommend an online portfolio if you really want to give yourself a good shot. We rarely meet with candidates to review a portfolio before we have seen something online. Most design firms are under a lot of pressure with a lot of deadlines and they don't have the time to meet everyone.

In addition to creating an online portfolio, start networking. Join the AIGA, or any other design group and get involved in the design community. That is the #1 way to a job. Once someone gets to know you personally and sees your enthusiasm and work ethic, your 2 year degree isn't an issue.

Also, volunteer to design a direct mail piece or collateral for your favorite non-profit. Get some real world experience and make sure you put your name and contact info on the back of the piece you do for the non-profits. Most of them will gladly let you. This gets you more exposure.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What do you look for in a junior graphic designer?

Enthusiasm, a solid understanding of basic design principles, and the willingness to learn. The greatest designers with 20+ years experience still recognize that they are constantly learning, and a junior designer should too. I also look for pro-bono work in a portfolio because I like to see that the designer went above and beyond to get some real world work in his/her portfolio.

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