Job Search Advice for Creatives in Tech During COVID-19

The first three posts in our job search series have been applicable to many types of jobs and industries (check them out so you don’t miss any helpful information):

Our fourth job search post is focused on the particular challenges of searching for a new opportunity in the tech industry. Since so many Knackpackers either work with, or work for, companies in tech, we thought focusing on the unique issues in a tech job search would be helpful.

Today, we’re speaking with Katie Ortman Doble, Vice President at IQ Clarity, a recruiting firm that specializes in sourcing creative and technical talent for technology companies and others. Katie shares actionable insights for creative professionals (from copywriters to UI/UX designers) who are looking for a job in 2020. Katie also shares extraordinarily helpful (as well as engaging and entertaining!) information on her LinkedIn profile, and you can follow her by clicking here.

Recruiting creative professionals in tech

Elimination & Furlough: Creative Roles

Professional creative roles are often the first eliminated during a layoff or furlough process. When can we expect to see these positions open up again?

Says Katie, “Companies will soon understand the need for creatives when they no longer have someone to turn to. In a down market, we always see contract labor come back first. I expect this need will resurface soon, which often leads to full-time work. It’s also good to be versatile in this type of economy. If a company sees they can get a UI Designer who also has UX skills, that candidate is going to stand out more. Take this time to do online courses and boost your portfolio to show your adaptability.”

job search tips for professional creatives

Hiring Changes Due to COVID-19: Strategizing Contractor Labor

In the technology space (both B2C and B2B), a number of companies like to bring on staff using a “contract to hire” pipeline. Professionals start as 1099 contractors or consultants, and they are eventually brought in-house. With the job market seeing an influx of candidates, more companies are switching to this model.

These offers can be stressful, as it can be hard to determine when (or if) a contractor role will be transitioned into a permanent job. Shares Katie: “Contract labor is more common in an uncertain economy like today. It’s okay to ask in the interviewing process if there is a possibility the contract position will convert to a full-time role. 

job search tips for creatives

Working as a contractor is a lot like dating. You want to be honest and manage expectations. And if there is the possibility of the role becoming permanent, it’s okay to ask what the timeline looks like. You might think, ‘Great, they’ll convert me after a month’ and the company might think, ‘Yeah, we’d consider converting at the year mark.’ You want to be sure you’re on the same page.

Also if there is a possibility of moving from contract to permanent, it’s okay to ask during a review if you’re still someone they’d consider bringing on permanently. Show that you are interested. That said, don’t ask every day! It’s like asking your partner about when you’re getting engaged every day. Turn. Off.”

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Test Projects as Part of The Hiring Process

During the hiring process, a hiring manager may ask a creative to complete a test project. This can put the candidate in a tough spot! There are a good number of horror stories about a creative completing a project for a prospective employer, not being paid for it, and then that work being used by the company.

job search advice for creatives

Katie acknowledges this issue and she shares some good advice: “This can get sticky. We understand why client’s want to do this, but we also see it can take advantage of the candidate. If asked to do this, I’d recommend candidates clarify in writing who has the rights to the materials created and to put a time cap around it. As a client, understand that it’s not fair to expect a candidate to give away a week’s worth of work, so perhaps cap it at 2-4 hours. At IQ Clarity, we encourage clients to pay our candidates for their time when asking for a test project.”

Common Mistake: Add Context to Your Portfolio

A common mistake Katie sees amongst creative professionals is failing to explain what they were in charge of or what work they specifically did on a campaign or project. “Be sure to explain your role in each piece you’re including,” she explains. “It’s not uncommon for the same campaign to show up in multiple portfolios across town. Were you the production artist? Art Director? Be sure you’re not misrepresenting your work.”

job search advice for creatives

Katie also adds that it’s absolutely fine to protect your portfolio with a password.

Is It Time to Update Your Portfolio? 

Speaking of portfolios, is it time to beef up yours? When unemployed, many folks in the tech industry choose to pick up old personal projects they didn’t have time for while working full time.  A copywriter may choose to pick up an eBook, a graphic designer may want to tackle pro bono branding projects, a UI/UX designer may want to open InVision to work on their mobile app, etc.

These projects can help beef up one’s resume or creative portfolio, but it can be hard to know how much time to spend on these initiatives versus spending time applying to jobs. 

job search tips for creatives

Katie offers a great solution for those looking to expand their body of work: 

“Whatever you’re working on, get into a routine and time block. Maybe you workout in the morning, and then you spend 9-11am going through new job postings. Then you break for lunch and spend 1-3pm applying for the jobs. Snack time / fresh air. Then you end the day from 3:30-5:30 by refreshing your resume/portfolio.” 

She continues: “You may prefer to work with larger chunks of time. You may spend all day M-W applying and Thursday is spent refreshing. But go easy on yourself. It’s exhausting, especially in this market where the job postings are slim and the rejections/lack of response are high. It’s okay to take a 3 day weekend! Staring blankly at your screen and trying to type a cover letter for 5 hours isn’t helpful.”

job search advice for creatives

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Market?

At the forefront of almost every candidate’s mind is the question, “How can I stand out in a good way?”

Katie shares that it comes down to two words: Value add.

She explains: “How will you continue to add value right now? I’m obsessed with LinkedIn, and I don’t spend a ton of time on my newsfeed, but I see the people who are encouraging others and are active. Those who are posting articles that they’ve found helpful, ‘Here’s an article I found.’

Job search advice for creatives

Those people are adding value by sharing encouragement and helpful resources. Some candidates erroneously think LinkedIn is just for humble bragging – it’s not! It’s meant to be a collaborative and helpful resource/platform.

Every day, take 15 minutes to engage with people on LinkedIn. If you respect what a leader at a company is doing, share it! That’s a great way to engage with people without looking tone deaf.” 

My Dream Company Isn’t Hiring - Now What?

Some companies have put hiring freezes in place, making people feel that it is impossible to get in a foot in the door.

Or is it?

Katie had a pretty powerful tactic to share, especially relevant to those industries that aren’t hiring right now.

job search tips for creatives

“JUST GET IN THERE!” she exclaims. “What conferences are their employees going to? Where are they hanging out?” During lockdowns this is a bit more difficult, but there are online conferences and webinars still taking place. Can you engage with people on Twitter who are at a conference (using the conference hashtag)? Do a good number of employees volunteer at a non-profit?

This may require some social sleuthing and research, but it’s worth it! Show up in the spaces that are hosting the people you want to work with.”

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Communicating Your Strengths as a Professional

One of the most challenging parts about looking for a new role is communicating your strengths. We all know not to use words like “passionate” or “innovative” in our resume and cover letters, because they’re overused and have lost meaning.

Katie’s solution? “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath.

Interview advice for creative professionals

“I am obsessed with this book,” shares Katie. “It’s such a powerful tool. If you’re actively looking for a job, DO THIS RIGHT NOW. Until I took the StrengthsFinder test, I had no idea my strengths were strengths because they’re so innate. I assumed everyone else functioned the same way.

Let me explain. After taking the test, I found that I was a “Woo-er,” which means “Winning Others Over.” I’m someone who loves bringing people into my network and connecting them. Before this test, I assumed that everybody functioned the same. Say I’m talking to a new mom, and she needs a babysitter or other resource. I’ll usually be able to connect her with 3-4 people she should talk to. 

But not everyone is wired that way!! It made me speak so much more confidently about my strengths.

job search tips for creatives

After StrengthsFinder, I was able to take my results and use them in interviews to explain why an organization should hire me. This test really empowers you with the language you need to clearly communicate how you add value.” 

Read more on Katie’s thoughts about StrengthsFinder on her blog. 

Thank you, Katie!

On behalf of all Knackpackers, we want to thank Katie and the team at IQ Clarity for sharing their insights on the recruiting process in the tech industry. 

You can follow Katie on LinkedIn here, and you an visit IQ Clarity. online here. 

Questions & Next Steps!

Do you have questions or tips about the remote job search? Share them in the comments below! 

If you found this post helpful, please share the link with a few friends or colleagues who could benefit from it! 

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