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Transitioning to a Creative Career: Tips from Creative Recruitment Pros

Maybe you’ve always been a photographer or graphic designer at heart, and you’re finally ready to make the leap to a career in your chosen creative field – but how should you approach someone in creative recruitment who can get you hired? How can you make sure a staffing agency or HR team realizes your work is competitive and that your career transition is a serious move? What will draw creative staffers and hiring managers to your application in a crowded field of applicants? While there are countless creative professionals out in the creative job market, it’s equally important to keep in mind that new opportunities to work in a creative capacity arise for companies every day. Whether your dream is to transition into working for an in-house creative team or a creative agency, the key is to never doubt yourself – and to position yourself so that industry insiders can take you seriously as a creative professional.

We sought advice right from the source – seasoned professionals working in creative recruitment – to weigh in on what can set your application apart from the pack, tips for putting your best foot forward, and learning what it is that creative recruitment teams are really seeking in their preferred candidates!

Creative Recruitment: Insights from the Inside

creative recruitment
Put Your Best Work Forward

To get more experience in the field, you need to already have experience in the field: this logic-defying adage may seem especially true in the creative field, where agencies expect experience for emerging creative voices on their teams. Could there be a paradigm shift waiting in the wings? Creative Circle’s Nick Liebeskind seems to think so. “There used to be this Catch-22: to get into a big agency, you needed to have big agency experience, but then, how do you even get in the door? I think that trend has dissipated, and more people are being considered just on the strength of their book.” Having a “book”, or creative portfolio, that is imaginative, indicates a strong skill set and creative mindset and is also relevant to the industry a creative agency works in is crucial for those seeking a career transition to work on creative teams after putting another career aside. Being connected doesn’t hurt either: finding a social group or extracurricular activity where you can meet with and integrate yourself within groups of other creative professionals will take you far. Liebeskind reflects on the behind-the-scenes aspects of finding opportunities in a crowded creative jobs market. “It’s been my experience that besides your book, it’s also your connections [that matter]: it’s luck, timing, and to some extent, it’s also having work in your book that might be similar to a piece of business an agency already has.” Tapping into a client’s look and feel is a crucial aspect of working in the creative services market: by indicating you can produce the types of creative services that a creative recruitment team’s clients are seeking, you have already made giant strides toward inducing a creative recruiter to consider you for an available position.

Know you have a specific skill set but don’t necessarily have the job experience to prove yourself on paper yet? You may have a better chance if you eye industry trends – and see which jobs have a higher rate of demand. Better yet, identify jobs that are linked to new technologies, and educate yourself on working in more niche fields. Twenty years ago, there were perhaps a handful of jobs for Interactive Art Director in a world of nascent internet design: now, it is one of the highest paying jobs with a median salary of $92,000 (as of 2019), and creatives who have the ability to direct experience design for the web with both mobile and desktop/laptop screens in mind are in high demand internationally. Find the next potential jobs boom – and make for it, full steam ahead!

What Works According to Creative Recruitment Pros

creative recruitment
Don’t Lose Your Passion for Creating!

In addition to submitting a strong creative portfolio to creative recruitment professionals, it is key to stay actively engaged in the hiring process. Make sure to research the organization, agency or brand you are applying to work with. Having an idea of where a brand’s identity stems from will help you to steer a client’s image as they move forward into the future. When in doubt, ask! “Don’t be afraid to ask questions, [hiring] should be a two-way process,” notes Creative Circle’s Lauren Ferrara. By knowing you are well-versed in a client’s or agency’s culture, you will be well placed to adapt to it and find a space within the team to learn and grow.

Especially for those new to working in the creative field who are open to starting in a temporary position, agencies such as Creative Circle, Adecco, and more are well-versed in finding a fit for organizations and the creative talent looking to work with them. Generally skilled creative professionals with years of experience would not be in direct competition with someone applying for a temporary position (except in slow job markets with few available positions.) While the specific position may be temporary, by starting with limited experience in a temporary position creative professionals new to the industry can impress upon their employers their strong work ethic and creative vision. “Being a temporary worker means you already have a foot in the door, but make sure you see this temporary position as a much longer job interview. You should work hard to earn points with your employer every chance you get, and when the time comes for your employer to retain some of their temp workers, your name should be high on that list,” note the skilled hiring team at Adecco. In addition, it’s key to keep your name in the minds of those who are hiring at the company in adjacent, permanent positions. “Many companies have internal job posting that any temporary or permanent employee can apply on,” notes the Adecco creative recruitment team. “See if your skills match with any of the open positions.” Once you are in the door, work as hard as you can to prove you are a good fit for the company so that you are kept in mind for any available position openings that may arise during your temporary tenure.

By making sure you have a strong creative portfolio, keeping in touch with an up-to-date network of like-minded professionals, and staying resourceful about the type of entry-level position you are willing to take anything is possible! As these creative recruitment tips show, there are always options for talented, dedicated creative professionals to get their foot in the door and get noticed by potential employers, whether through a skill set rooted within an emerging technology or by applying for temporary positions with agencies or organizations. Staying on top of trends in the industry and gaining perspectives from professionals already in the creative job market can be key aspects of netting your first creative job. Make sure not to negate skill sets you may have accumulated through other industries as well! Some soft skills, such as leading teams or balancing budgets, can definitely translate over to the creative sector. And it helps to be open to positions that are client-facing for someone with a sales background, or involve project coordination and administration for anyone with a background in this area. By making sure you present your experience and portfolio in their best possible light for hiring managers and creative recruiters you will put your best foot forward toward your new career in the creative field!

Have some solid advice you’ve received from creative recruitment professionals? Tips on what to avoid when making a transition to a creative career? Share your insights in the comments below!

About the author

Audra Lambert

Audra Lambert is Managing Editor+Curator, Artrepreneur's Art Business Journal & Creative Career Center. She is a curator, arts marketing consultant, and editor based in Sunnyside, Queens, where her Chi-Spaniel puppy graciously allows her to cohabit.

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