Passing on wisdom

This morning I spoke to the soon-to-be grads at my alma mater, The Art Institutes International Minnesota, about what it’s like working in “the real world,” what advice I could give on interviews/portfolios/networking, and whatever else they wanted to know. It was my FIFTH time speaking at Ai, and my third time teaming up with Erin Jordan, who also graduated from Ai. She’s awesome, a true inspiration to me, and we work well together in these sessions because our personalities match, and because we have similar yet different backgrounds, which adds nice variety to the students who are all interested in different facets of design and varying career paths once they graduate. Erin started out right out of school in the corporate world and now is full-time freelance, where I went into the workforce straight out of school and into two nonprofits, and also do freelance on the side. I also have my writing background, and she has a master’s in teaching.

What I hammered home this morning was the importance that the students market themselves because no one is going to do it for them. They are their only advocate. A job interview is a networking opportunity–they’re selling themselves and marketing themselves to a prospective employer. They are the product, and they are selling themselves as that product. It was hard to tell this morning–more than usual–if we were giving them good information or not while the session was taking place. Some head nods, some smiles, some comments here and there, but mostly just staring at us. Maybe they’re overwhelmed. I’m guessing the blank looks were probably mostly due to the time slot we were there (8 a.m.-10 a.m., and we usually do these at night). But afterward, once the class broke and some of the students stuck around to chat with us, take our business cards, and pounce on the mini buttons I brought :^) , they seemed to be more interested in us as individuals. It’s very fun to go back and speak and try to help them manage at least a part of this difficult time in their lives. It’s hard enough graduating and trying to find a job, and then you throw in this crap economy and I can’t imagine the stress they must be going through. I’m glad we could try to help them a bit.

I found out a few weeks ago that Ai would like to do a “Graduate Spotlight” on me. I’m so flattered! There will be a big write-up that will hang in the hallways of the school, photos of me and my work, and my story. It should roll out sometime in October, I believe. I’ll keep you all posted.

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