Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Illustration Resumes: 2. Identity & History

Even though there is a great deal of advice out there about all aspects of creating a resume, a sizable portion of this advice is not the best for people who are in the visual arts, and particularly for illustrators who embody the “visual” in the visual arts. And even more importantly, most of the advice doesn’t take into consideration the type of employers or people who will be reviewing our resumes, namely professionals who are in a visual arts business of some form or another. This may include visual artists such as designers, media artists, animators, art directors, and fellow illustrators. Both visual arts businesses and its practitioners look at resumes differently than general business people and non-visual businesses do. So, it only makes sense to tailor the information contained in your resume and its appearance to their liking.

© 2013 Don Arday.
Although this article will be focusing on the content of basic resume information, the visual form a resume will take should be considered even while content is being determined. Visual artists truly appreciate visual aesthetics. And it doesn’t matter whether visual attraction occurs in the form of a work of visual art such as an illustration, or if it can be perceived in the design and appearance of a resume, visual aesthetic choices will always be appreciated, and can most definitely leave a positive impression on the reviewer.

You have probably placed a great deal of emphasis on the quality and appearance of your portfolio, but at this point, it is important for you to understand that your resume could precede your portfolio and be the first credential a potential employer or illustration commissioner will see. And for some illustrators it may be the only thing they will see. For this possibility alone, it will serve you well to carefully consider the value of an attractive resume and to craft it accordingly.

So up until now it sounds like an illustrator must have an aesthetically pleasing, nice to look at, resume, but that should only be considered as window dressing. For a beautiful, visually cutting edge resume with little substance will have even less success. Content, content, content; the content in a resume is the ”you” in a resume. Your resume must have sound content, and although it may sound as though looks are more important than substance, they are not. So in this article we will discuss an important component in a resume, your identity.


Your Name

What’s In A Name? Now this question truly does sound silly, but there are many illustrators out there who have decided to adopt a moniker in place of their name, and only in the case of Banksy, http://www.banksy.co.uk/, whom I’m sure your are aware, has it worked. Your name is your identity. Employers want to know whom they are interviewing and potentially employing. Use your own name, and if your surname is a common one, then consider using your middle initial as well. Make it as easy as possible for a potential employer to find you. Here is an example; if you were to search for my good friend and illustration colleague, Robert Dorsey, on LinkedIn you would find more than 60 other Robert Dorsey’s to choose from. And there are even more scattered throughout the internet.

Your Contact Information

If you have a registered business address, definitely use it on your resume, if not, use a permanent address, not a college or school address. Businesses frequently file resumes away until they need them, so several months may go by before they decide to contact you. So use an address that will still be current in the future.

Most likely you will be contacted via email, so again it is important to keep your email address current, or if you have more than one email, to have them linked together so you receive any communication that is sent from a potential employer instantly. And it goes without saying; you should check your email frequently.

It’s a good idea to list more than one phone number if you can. Listing a mobile number as your primary contact number is perfectly fine, but you should also consider a second number, perhaps a land line to list as a back up. This way you are covered in case something catastrophic occurs to your cell phone.

Your Website
Up till now everything has been all straightforward common sense, but including a website on your resume will take some special thoughtfulness. In many cases you will be asked to send a resume, which will precede a review of your portfolio and an interview with you. So it is the task of your resume to create interest in you and your work for a potential employer who is seeking to fulfill a specific position, and for that interest to be followed up with an interview. But consider this carefully; based on the fact that you listed your website on your resume; if an employer who is interested in you can access your website, or online portfolio, and have the ability to review your work and essentially find out what they want to know about you without your knowledge or presence; would your granting them that privilege be such a good idea?

It is very important for you to control access to your work and information about you. You want to encourage a potential employer to have several points of contact with you, including a personal interview, and a face-to-face presentation of your work. Your resume should provide enough information to warrant further interest in you and an interview. A resume that provides access to your work through a website and other sources actually discourages personal contact. An employer could form an impression about you without ever having met with you. And you would have no way of knowing if they reviewed your work or not, which work of yours they reviewed, or why they decided to move on to someone else.

Your Facebook Presence
Along with controlling access to your website, you should also control your social network presence. Employers have become very internet savvy and they regularly check Facebook for information about potential employees. So this is the time to remove any potential professionally embarrassing posts about your social habits or associates. I know of at least one instance where an artist had a great job offer reneged with a government agency due to a sloppy Facebook appearance.


Your Education

Correctly listing your educational credentials and the institution(s), where, and when you received them, is essential on your resume. I have seen many resumes that had the wrong degree title listed and even the wrong degree classification. Job listings are quite clear when it comes to demanding a specific degree qualification. It may be a BFA, BA, AA, MA MFA, or even a Ph.D. that is required to be considered for a position.  

What’s in a title? All degrees are not alike. For instance a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design is not like a BFA in Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology with is again not like the degree from the School of Visual Arts, and so on. They all have very different curriculums. And so, graduates from each of these institutions possess different qualifications. To clarify this on a resume you can list some examples of significant or supplementary coursework. Unique independent study courses can be listed here. This will help provide some breadth to your degree and to help describe your individual “educational” experience.

Your Employment

Full or Part Time
Many of us have worked many kinds of jobs for varying amounts of time. A common misconception is that only employment that pertains to a career should be listed here, but that is not so. If it were, you might find yourself in a catch22 situation whereby you wouldn’t be able to make career changes, or for college grads, gain access to your desired career. What potential employers are looking for is a history of consistent employment. They want to know, first of all that you have worked for someone and that you have the ability to hold a job, any job…store clerk, sales associate, office manager or assistant, waitress, etc. It is perfectly acceptable to list these types of employment.

What’s in a job? Along with listing former and present employers and the dates of your employment, you should include your job title and a brief description of your job responsibilities. Reviewers are very interested not only in where you have worked, but what you did while you were at work. For instance, if your work experience involved customer relations, computer skills, sales experience, etc.; it will always be seen as useful to an employer in the illustration profession.

For seasoned professionals with a long employment history there is a very specialized type of resume called a “biographical” resume, which for all intents and purposes is a biographical prose statement of a person’s employment history including achievements related to each job position.

Internships and Co-ops
For students and recent graduates, internships and co-ops are considered forms of employment and should most definitely be listed. They are highly regarded on a resume as crucial job experience.

Where does freelance work come in? Significant freelance can be listed to accompany employment history, as a subcategory of employment. Specific assignments can be listed and briefly described or you can provide a listing of clients. Just be aware that the person reviewing your resume might ask to see a specific project, or the work you have done for a specific client.

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