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Regulars / The Graduates 2018

“Even if you cover a shit in glitter it’s still a shit”: top creatives show us their CVs

Making a CV is one of the most daunting tasks for anyone, and especially for graduates. Writing about yourself, your achievements and your interests always just comes across show-offy or just cringe-worthy in general. But everyone has to do it, so choke it up, open InDesign and bite the bullet.

If we’re all honest here, the task in front of you is to make yourself seem like the best possible candidate. You want to be the perfect person for this job. You want them to think: “They sound great! I want to employ them on a brilliant wage but I also want to help them grow! I want to spend every after work drinks with them lolling at the bar! How did I ever live without them!?” So, how the hell do you do that in an A4 piece of paper?

We were stumped when asked this question. Everyone is different of course, but in general, we’re all trying to head in the same direction of trying to make great work. Rather than share our embarrassing and probably unhelpful CVs, or mumble some advice you’ve probably heard from your parents, we turned to friends of our studio.

Below, a bunch of brilliant creatives, all making waves in their own fields, have created CVs for us. Full of career pathways, first job woes and helpful advice, each CV is completely different and that’s the point.

A special shout out to Mitch Paone, Caroline Tompkins, PutPut, César Pelizer, Johanna Burai, Jonathan Castro and Cécile Dormeau, we were bowled over by your contributions to this article and can’t thank you enough.

Mitch Paone, creative director of design agency DIA

It’s Nice That: What was the first job you ever had? 

Mitch Paone: Slinging bagels at Einstein Bros. in Kansas City when I was 16.

INT: How did you get (and continue to sustain) the job you have today?

MP: By working really hard, dedicating a lot of time to trying out many different things that are out of my comfort zone and making a point to bother people who are more skilled than me to teach me everything they know. Also by being helpful, collaborative and nice, staying in the trenches with the team and being the last one to leave the office. Even as a “creative director” (I hate titles), there is no task or situation that I am above or below, from taking out the trash to presenting to a CEO. Everything must be done with the same care and concentration. Having no expectations, pride, or attachment to my work and not taking this job too seriously. Making a nice living by essentially pushing fonts around is super ridiculous when you really put it in perspective. That being said, I sure love doing it!

What are the qualities that you think a CV should have?

MP: For me, it should be clear, straightforward and display strong typography. The only real creative decision is a wise font selection and maybe a subtle surprising way of handling the content. Whether this is on a CV or an applicant email, the tone of the language is hugely important. “Hey! I love what you guys do and would love to work with you and learn” crushes “Hey! I’m awesome and I’ve won some awards and think I could be a good asset to your team”. Interviews for us are essentially a personality exam, they have nothing to do with the work at that point. An honest willingness to learn, being open and collaborative and being fun to hang out with is what we look for. 
 
This is also our vetting process for interviews:

Good CV typography + good portfolio + humble bio + e-mails = in-person meeting
Good CV typography + good portfolio + humble bio + e-mails + nice, humble and good sense of humour in meeting = maybe a job

Bad CV type = no meeting
Good CV type + good folio + a hint of arrogance in bio or email = no meeting
Chasing Instagram fame = no meeting

Caroline Tompkins, photographer and photo editor at Bloomberg Business Week

It’s Nice That: What was the first job you ever had? 

Caroline Tompkins: I was a lifeguard for my neighbourhood pool in Ohio when I was 15. In the interview, they asked me about my strengths, I had no idea what they meant, so I told them how much I could bench press. My first art-related job was working in the photo cage at my college, School of Visual Arts, which became a staff position after I graduated. 

INT: How did you get the job you have today?

CT: While still in college, I was assisting friends who were getting hired by Alis Atwell to shoot for Bloomberg Businessweek. On set, Alis had mentioned how she doesn’t know anyone who wants to be a photo editor anymore, so the next day I emailed her telling her that I, in fact, was one of those people.

A few months later, while I was aimlessly living on an 18-wheeler, she emailed me asking if I’d like to come in to meet about an assistant position. It paid $10/hour, so I took a night position at SVA to round out a liveable NYC wage. For about 6 months, I worked from 9am — 4pm at Businessweek, and 4pm — midnight at SVA. If you were wondering, the answer is yes, I was miserable. Eventually, a photo editor position became available, and my then/current boss, Clinton Cargill, took a chance on me and offered me my current job. 

INT: What are the qualities you think a CV should have?

CT: I think John Friel figured it out with art-cv.com. Simple, readable, just the facts.

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Caroline Tompkins

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Caroline Tompkins

Stephan Friedli and Ulrik Martin Larsen, otherwise known as, interdisciplinary artist duo PutPut

What was the first job you ever had?

PutPut: Stephan’s first job was selling vegetables at a local farmers market in Bern, Switzerland. Ulrik’s first job was a paper route in Odense, Denmark.

INT: How did you get the job you have today?

PP: We pretty much created the job ourselves. Besides our work as artists, designers or whatever you might choose to call us, we both work separately. Stephan as a graphic designer/creative front-end developer and Ulrik as a lecturer/researcher in fashion design. The job(s) we have today are sort of pieced together from different projects, more or less steady employment, freelance gigs and our PUTPUT collaboration. The necessity of having our day jobs led to the creation of PUTPUT as a creative outlet, a place where clients are not part of the equation.

INT: What are the qualities you think a CV should have?

PP: It should challenge the conventions of what a CV could be without being a nuisance or over-designed. However, a bit of annoyance is ok as long as it’s done in a very convincing way.

A CV should basically provide all necessary information and reflect the personality, skill and aesthetics of the sender. We also really appreciate a sense of humour, something that surprises and makes us stop in our tracks. It might sound like a difficult task but we believe it’s possible to escape the standardisation of the typical CV — dare to be personal and revealing!

Even if you cover a shit in glitter it’s still a shit…so only show your best work, quality over quantity.

We also find it quite a convincing argument that the CV doesn’t “stop” at the graduation date, but that things have been added up to the last minute – this could easily be self-initiated projects, stay active, this proves that your work or having a creative outlet is essential for you!

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PutPut

Johanna Burai, artist and multidisciplinary designer

It’s Nice That: What was the first job you ever had? 

Johanna Burai: My very first job was bussing tables at a café.

INT: How did you get the job you have today?

JB: It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do. I have studied a lot of things, and have had a lot of different jobs. But it was actually when I studied a course in TV-Production that I found my love for graphic design.

INT: What are the qualities you think a CV should have?

JB: I like to see variation within one style and content. Also, it is almost the only time it’s okay to brag about your work, so just do that.

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Johanna Burai

César Pelizer, animator

It’s Nice That: What was the first job you ever had?

César Pelizer: My first ever job was in a clothing store when I was about 16 during the summer, it only lasted for a month as I was still in school. After that I was fortunate to get a freelance job as an illustrator in an agency which opened a lot of doors for me.

INT: How did you get the job you have today?

CP: Nowadays I work as a freelancer for different clients and most clients contact me after seeing my previous work. Therefore, it’s really important to keep your portfolio updated, showcasing your strongest projects as the majority of new clients will contact you based on what you choose to present to the world.

INT: What qualities do you think a CV should have?

CP: I feel like a good CV should be no longer than one page – simple and straight to the point. In the creative industry a good portfolio can speak for itself so it’s good to keep the CV with just the key information. That way, your potential employer can spend more time looking into your portfolio rather than reading a CV.

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César Pelizer

Jonathan Castro, freelance graphic designer

INT: What was the first job you ever had?

Jonathan Castro: The first job ever was at 18 years old, selling skateboards in a friend’s store.

INT: How did you get the job you have today?

JC: I am a freelance designer but my last job in a studio was at Metahaven. I actually wrote them for the possibility to work together and after a few weeks we met, talked about my practice and thoughts about design, then some days later they told me I got the job.

INT: What are the qualities you think a CV should have?

JC: Impact! I always think about this when I remember the beginning of this 2 films: Un perro andaluz (1929) and Enter the void (2009) and of course personality, a CV with soul and magic on it.

Cécile Dormeau, freelance illustrator

It’s Nice That: What was the first job you ever had? 

Cecile Dormeau: The German magazine Zeit Campus contacted me after they saw my work on It’s Nice That. I had to illustrate several articles in the magazine on different topics from students jobs and the expression shitstorm to music articles and recipes. That was fun! I was so happy to see that someone was contacting me for illustration and giving me some money instead of “visibility”.

INT: How did you get the job you have today?

CD: I always loved illustrating but I had to wait some years before having it as a full-time job. I was rejected from the illustration formation in my school because I wasn’t good enough. I never tried an illustration freelance career before because, even if this was the only thing I was passionate about, I was more focused on having a job which brought me enough money every month to pay my rent.

I was also aware of not being at the right level of illustration to do a job, even if I always continued to draw during my free time to get better, without showing anyone. Even finding an internship in graphic design or a job in advertising was tough for me, even if my diploma in design and strategies with my team had an “excellence” distinction. If an advertising agency I worked for didn’t say goodbye to me after my third temporary contract, and if all the other agencies didn’t answer negatively to my applications, I’m really not sure if I would have tried illustration. Even I wasn’t happy in these previous jobs, the only thing that mattered was financial security.

I tried illustration because I had nothing to lose as I already had nothing :D! I was unemployed and all my job applications were rejected. In previous jobs, I had to deal with a lot of illustration and create different styles for each specific project. I was then able to do the illustrations which now look like my style, and not a style for a brand. My style has changed since the personal work I was doing then, and it took time to find a style I was comfortable with, one to finally express all the ideas I had in my mind.

I don’t regret starting later in my illustration career because I know that these different experiences opened my mind and brought me where I am today.

INT: What advice would you give to creating a CV and kickstarting your career?

CD: There are always a lot of external circumstances that we can’t control and I think it’s important to bear that in mind. You can work hard, have great talent, go to the best schools, have a great grade on your diploma, but still be struggling to find a job. Don’t feel guilty if you’re trying your best and don’t succeed right away.

In most artistic jobs, money is often the problem that can make us give up. Freelancing takes a lot of courage, patience and perseverance. It’s about accepting that some of us will need more time than others to make some money from it. Many times I wanted to give up because I earned €300 in one month, the French paperwork was pissing me off, I didn’t have any clients, or they were paying me too little for a huge amount of work, or paying me late. I had no time to see people, or the work I was doing was not good enough and very stressful.

I think creative jobs have a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. When I did my girls series I shared it on Instagram. If it had been five years before, or even today, it would not have the same impact. A lot of blogs and websites then shared it and this what helped me get my first clients. That’s why I think it’s important to ask yourself, “what do I want to say in my work?”, because the story is as important as the expression you’re using to tell it. Once you’ve found it, share it as much as possible.

Challenging yourself and going where you’re not used to is very important. When Anyways contacted me for the first project with Google I said yes even though it was scary. I wasn’t really sure I’d be able to animate 24 stickers as I’d never studied animation, so it took me a bit more time than a normal animator. When Pictoplasma asked me to do a talk in Berlin I was terrified. I did four talks and was still terrified when I had to go on stage, but I knew it would help my career and proved to myself that I was able to do it.

There will be hard moments and you will miss out. Sometimes you’ll need to reconsider what you need to do to improve each time you fail and it’s not easy. But we know when we choose an artistic job that it won’t be easy. So, take the risk, give it a try and give it your best to build what you want.

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Cécile Dormeau

Supported by Lecture in Progress

If you’re after more advice and insight into creative work and careers, check out Lecture in Progress, It’s Nice That’s sister company. Student membership is free and includes exclusive promotions from partner companies. To sign up, visit lectureinprogress.com

The It’s Nice That Graduates 2018 is supported by Lecture in Progress and Polaroid Originals.