Designer to Designer: 5 Lessons Learned from CCAD Alumni Pros

Janie Robinson, Taylor Sears, and Elise Loeb.

Assistant Director of Career Services Janie Robinson, Taylor Sears (CCAD 2007), and Elise Loeb (CCAD 2012) at the alumni employer employer panel Oct. 9.

CCAD alumni pros from Abercrombie & Fitch, Zulily, and several other CCAD alumni-loving companies tackled everything from resumes and portfolios to personal style and work environment during a recent panel discussion with students. With varying years of experience and on-the-job duties, the five-person crew offered up wisdom and tips from the front lines of the art and design industries.

1. Be bold.

Whether at a career fair, networking event, or formal interview, approach employers with confidence, said Taylor Sears (Industrial Design, 2007) of EVO Design. "Networking is one of the most important parts of getting a job."

If you're on the hunt for a job or internship, be persistent with prospective employers and leave behind a memorable memento after interviews. Zulily's Courtney Scott (Media Studies Still-Based, 2004) left handmade magnets behind after her interview with Zulily—and they still hang in the interviewer's office today.

2. Do your research.

Interview prep pays off, said Sears. Employers can tell when you've done your homework (and when you haven't), so research the company and the person conducting your interview, and tailor your resume and cover letter to fit the mission and focus of the company.

3. Know the difference between your resume and portfolio.

It's an important distinction, said Elise Loeb (Advertising & Graphic Design, 2012), designer and art director at Print Syndicate. Information lives on your resume, while art lives in your portfolio.

Though it's tempting (especially to the creatively inclined) to trick out your resume, don't over-design, warned Bobby English (Advertising & Graphic Design, 2012), associate graphic designer at Abercrombie & Fitch. "Your resume is a table of contents that tells the employer what to expect from you."

4. Let your thought process shine, not just the finished product. 

While your first instinct may be to showcase your best and most polished work, think again. Several alumni representatives stressed the importance of demonstrating that you are an innovative thinker with a knack for figuring out the "how?"

"We love to see process," said English. "We love to see how you went from point A to point B, refined the idea, and then executed it."

At EVO Design, sketching is an integral part of the design process. "We need to know that you can think through the process of solving a problem through sketching," Sears said.

5. Unleash your personality and passion.

"Let your passion for design ooze out of you in an interview," English said, and be personable. Your style should reflect your character. (No need for a suit, "just dress like a designer," Sears advised.)

The panel agreed that when it comes down to it, talent is nothing without personality. "We're like a family," said Sarah Schmidt (Animation, 2014), junior illustrator and animator at motion graphics studio S77.