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June 14, 2006
Getting Your Foot in the Door: a Modern Approach

Finding Work After College.

I attended Syracuse University's School of Visual and Performing Arts. I was in a degree program called Art Media Studies, with a subsection called Computer Graphics. Our coursework included the use of every medium to create art with specific focus on the computer as an emerging tool. I graduated in 1997 and had a few directions that I could have taken, I chose the digital/web design root. In this article I'll discuss a couple strategies that helped me define my first job in NYC.

Taking The Edge Out Of The Interview.

I had been using computers since the late 80s in self designed independent studies. I thought about how computers work and how they could help me on my search for a job. In early 1996 the idea of a corporate website was still a new idea, so was a fire wall to protect a company's privacy and security. So most internet communication was easily tracked, as early tracking software made it easy to see who was looking at your website.

I created a website with my portfolio on it and submitted it to the companies that I was interested in working with. I then looked very closely at the traffic data. By looking at the web traffic I was able to see how many people at my prospective company had seen my work. If it was a high number, I could assume that they liked it, giving me a psychological advantage at the interview. If it was viewed by only a few, I knew that they really hadn't seen my work and it would require more communication on the interview.

Today I would suggest creating user's accounts for your portfolio--this can be created with some simple PHP scripts, or by creating specific instances of your portfolio for specific companies. This will allow you to understand the viral effect or even reviewing process at larger firms.

Finding A Company You Want To Work For.

I found companies by looking at ADWEEK. They had just done a feature on their 10 best interactive design companies. In the list: AGENCY.com, K2 Design, iTraffic, Razorfish, RedSky, Poppy/Tyson. It's a miracle that today some of these companies still exist in one form or another.

A great way to still find good companies today is too look at award show books and websites, like the ART DIRECTORS CLUB, THE ONESHOW, D&AD, THE WEBBY AWARDS, & CANNES LIONS. Although the award shows are often a year behind of what's happening now, often winning at one of these shows will yield new client work resulting in growth. Beyond award show books you can look to recent account moves on the adverting brand and trade magazines online and off. It's likely that if they won a new piece of business, they will need more warm bodies to do the work.

Another place to find companies is through your school's alumni networks. Most schools have alumni out there working in your field that you can connect with to get a lay of the land, if you are unfamiliar with the companies in the industry that you are meaning to pursue.

Cutting Through The Stacks Of Resumes.

The more successful the company, often the more busy and understaffed they are. So it's very important to make an impact through communication. I currently head a small company called thehappycorp global, and I think I'll take this opportunity to talk about how a few candidates got through to me.

Social Networks.

I have accounts on Myspace and Friendster that I have had for a while, and have used primarily for communication with friends and colleagues. As well there are networks like Linked-In and collective X that allow for networking via more corporate channels. I have found some great talent through their active pursuit of our company through that channel. It can be risky, because you expose your personal life to a potential employer, but who says that it has to be your real profile, get creative.

E-Mail Is Easy To Disregard.

My mom sends me cookies from time to time--good ones. Everyone that I have ever worked with has asked for one of her recipes. When I was applying for jobs I created a direct mail piece that linked to my website. I ordered plastic pill bottles and filled them with jelly beans. I then design packaging for my bottle, which was called "doctorjaeger cure for the multimedia headache." I then send these bottles with a prescription to visit my website every week, until they hired me. Looking back it was sort of cheesy, but it did work. I got a response from everyone that received a pill bottle.

Sending objects has always worked on me to get attention. On one occasion a female candidate sent me a purse filled personal items and an index card sized version of her portfolio. I didn't hire her, but I sure did look at it. I have also received mix tapes, stuffed animals, and candy amongst other things.

Finding A Company That Needs You.

The internet has made it easier than ever to apply for jobs. I talked to a candidate about bombing resumes out. She said that she was able to apply for 100 jobs in an hour. I imagined how little care went into each submission, or the writing of each cover letter, or even the candidate's ability to measure his or her skills against the needs of a company. We are most impressed by candidates who know our business and have relevant or desire the relevant experience to help our company succeed. It really important to find the right company and to be persistent. Your persistence will pay off in a good career.

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By age 25, Doug Jaeger already had established the digital creative departments for JWT and TBWAChiatDay. During his time at these firms, he oversaw award-winning work for ABSOLUT VODKA, DeBeers, Elizabeth Arden, Merrill Lynch, Orbitz, and A&E. Doug started thehappycorp global in late 2003. Since its inception, he has been appointed to the ADC as a board member, a member of the Digital Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a jury forman at D&AD London.

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