Dear Career Hunters and Social Nomads,
The time has come to release this job-hunting guide to the public. Why? Maybe we don’t know each other, but that’s okay, because not only do I care about your well-being, but like many of us, I, Jade Johnson AKA #SisterCircuit, hit a pivotal point in my life which was grounds for change. After graduating from college, my life shattered around me. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to rebuild your life for the better. But what I know now is that the Universe is working in all of our favor, always in all ways.
Forgetting all of what I thought that I knew, opened up the opportunity for me to become a Teaching Assistant in Product Design at OTIS College of Art and Design. For not having gone to a design school myself, but having taken many design courses, I was exposed to what I formerly had believed to have missed out on in my education. And I’ll never forget the day that the Chair of Product Design introduced me to the students saying how “impressed” he was with me as a designer and entrepreneur. I felt the stars align in my favor that day. I highly emphasize that you do try and make it into a design school if that’s your passion, because alongside the internship, that will open the door to your industry. But additionally, just the internship can serve as your “in” if you’re entering a creative field such as, but not limited to, audio engineering or graphic design. It’s about who you know and who knows you — and much to do with timing. I mean, 80% of jobs aren’t even listed online, so it’s important to let people know that you’re looking for employment, especially in the event that they’re contained within the hidden market.
While obtaining my Bachelor’s degree at CSU Los Angeles, I facilitated the growth of their Fashion Department by serving as Creative Director and Co-President, where I produced two fashion shows, obtained a grip of funding, and scouted new students for the school, so I fulfilled my purpose. Even though I didn’t go to a stellar design school out the gate, I still plan to do so in the future, because I believe that education and experience are everything. Working with OTIS and CSULA mentoring students in sewing, fashion and product design, were valuable experiences that set the tone for my future career path. I love to learn how things work, how to take them apart, how to redesign them and how to engineer them to be more efficient and user friendly. So, I am applying to schools for industrial / product design. Not only did OTIS introduce me to my passion, but the Professors I worked along side encouraged me to go back and get my Master’s, so that I can utilize those talents that they recognized within me and become a full Professor.
One year ago, I was a freelance fashion designer and teacher, on the 9-5 grind as a script editor and video transcriber, putting together art shows and designing electro-industrial electronic music. How did I do this? Because after an exhaustive job search, I earned the bread and butter job and tended to my other passions outside of work, because I knew that I had to carry out these passions. I didn’t care what they thought and didn’t accept criticism as fact, which set me free from the delusion that my art may or may not matter or that I have no place as an artist. Building a business or a career is challenging work, yes, but when you love something enough, it doesn’t always feel like work and the spiritual benefits outweigh the material fears. I believe that we have these passions and interests for a reason; they’re our cosmic gifts and part of our unique human experience. Although when you express your plans to others, it gives them grounds to express their opinion, but no one can make you do anything. So, the only person holding you back is you. People can be vain creatures, but in that vanity, you can get past whatever blocks have been holding you back from landing the job that you imagined as a kid. You should pursue your creative passions and take care of yourself as a spiritual being by realizing that whilst in the interview, it is also you who are doing the interviewing.
Learn when to say “no” and when to say “yes.” Listen to your inner voice and that gut feeling allowing both of them to guide you. Question where the anxiety derives from and learn to breathe it out and to let it go. Put out to the Universe what you want to come back to you, because it will energetically. And maybe now, you’re thinking that this is just some weird, esoteric rant, but based on my own trials and tribulations, I firmly believe that this will be helpful. Just journal out everything that you want; that bucket list. And take the action steps towards achieving those dreams. Thinking about doing is a lot harder than putting one foot in front of the other to “do.” Love yourself and get into action, because nobody’s going to do it for you and once you get into action, you will begin to release those blocks that have been holding you back. Remember, when you’re going throughout your day, you’re holding up a mirror of how you feel on the inside; you’re projecting. And maybe this is challenging to grasp, but don’t take it personally, because this is just my humble opinion based on my limited experience in this world. I’m here to help you.
After spending many hours geeking out via reading, research and on job interviews, I’ve obtained crucial knowledge from Design School Department Directors and Professors, to Executive Producers and Creative Directors, to Entrepreneurs, Consultants and Human Resources Managers. So I hope that this guide opens up the door for you. At the very bottom, I’ve provided a resume and several cover letter examples — those that have landed me interviews and jobs. I wish you the best in your journey and hope all is well.
Questions, comments or input? I’m all ears and appreciate your insight.
Okay, so… grab a coffee and snack, notebook and pen, computer and interweb, word processor and PDF maker, a good night’s rest and a solid attitude, because you’re in charge of taking these steps to help you in your career.
Where to hunt for a job in this e-matrix
- People you already know: Friends, family, acquaintances, etc. Offering to take someone out for a coffee to get into the head of the monster market, which could be time consuming but well worth it, especially amidst a career change
- Job boards: LinkedIn.com, Craigslist.org, ZipRecruiter.com, Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, Monster.com, Mandy.com, StaffMeUp.com, StyleCareers.com, Edjoin.org, Idealist.org, ArtsforLA.org, California Arts Council / cac.ca.gov, company job boards, your city’s website
- Staffing/temp agencies (they take a cut and can get backed up): Robert Half, Office Team, Account Temps, Eleventh Hour Entertainment, 24 Seven, Aquent, Eleventh Floor
- Craig’s List “etc.” or “gigs” section from short Makeup Artist jobs to research studies
- Salary research: Glassdoor.com, Salary.com
- Social media: Twitter.com, Facebook.com
- 80% of jobs are in the hidden market, you can reach out expressing interest to the individual company to see if they’re hiring outside of their job board.
- Good old window-shopping, literally the “now hiring” sign
Killer cover/pain letters that will connect you to your future employer
- Connect to your target / potential employer tailoring each cover letter to their specific needs
- Think human-speak vs. robot lingo. Hiring managers peruse hundreds of boring and generic covers and stock resumes; grab their attention based on your own stock that has a dash of professionalism, personality and relevancy to what they want. Fixing problems that you’re clearly budgeted for is their bottom line, now feed that need by showing how you can flip them a profit and/or save them money based on how you fit into their company culture and your accomplishments
- Find the hiring manager/recruiter on LinkedIn or by calling into the company and address them in your cover. If you’re lacking the boss man’s info, then say something like “Dear Hiring Manager” versus “To Whom It May Concern”
- Double and triple check for typos and grammatical errors, ones that Word won’t catch. Send it out to a friend if you must. Maybe that friend who is in PR or has a blog of their own
- Emailing an hour or two before or after lunchtime can grab the hiring person’s attention, because by that time, they’ll be through many of their emails
The art of resume writing is easier than you think
- Think of your resume in terms of being in a stack of 30. Each person in that stack has 5-15 seconds to prove themselves to the scout
- The recruiter will assemble 3 piles: “Yes,” “maybe,” and “hell, no.” To get to the “Yes” pile, make sure that you speak Chinese if the post says, “Candidate preferably speaks Chinese” — save yourself the grief
- Find five job posts with the same title. Extract the keywords / buzzwords that they have in common and embed those into your resume. Spiders / bots crawl your resume on sites like Monster.com for those buzzwords. You can even run a “resume keywords for ‘the job you want’ ” search on the interweb
- You need several versions of your resume per different positions and you want to have a Word doc. and PDF of your resume. Keep in mind that sometimes emailing a PDF to an employer can shoot over to their spam folder
- Test your resume’s readability by allowing a sibling, friend, mentor, professor to proofread it keeping it to one page and at least 10pt font, but I tend to stick to 11 in easy-to-read, Century Gothic (my fav), Arial, Helvetica, Times, etc. — Remember, your potential hiring manager or interview or boss who whoever, is already at a stack of 300 pages by this time and the least that you can do is show that you’re kind of interesting and kind of care about the job that you’re applying to
- Make sure that you’re their brand of toothpaste, by keeping your information relevant to the position — Do you speak Chinese? Do you have administrative experience? Do you have a commercial driver’s license? Do they want internship experience if it’s an entry-level position? Will they train you?
- Omit the personal information — We don’t care about fluffy, your mediocre interests or that you’re Keeping-Up-with-the-Kardashians. That is, unless you’re interviewing for the Kardashians, the Paparazzi or are about to devote your life as a nun in a convent, which in that case, it probably would help you, because they’d be saving you from yourself
- Apply with care, and do some research on the company culture (glassdoor.com, their website), because it’s better to have some aim than to shoot aimlessly at a wild zombie turkey that will ravage you from the dinner table and not even have the common decency to give you a reach around
- Fill in employment gaps with internships, volunteer work, school, creative projects and freelance work
- List a brief profile showing what your experience is in, skillset of software / training, work experience that illuminates your accomplishments that are applicable to the position, internships, languages, awards, etc.
- Make sure that your work experience is in chronological order
- Nurture your network by staying in touch with that person whom you met at the dinner party that was working at that startup and needed some hackers or cute coffee slaves ( 😉 lol, I just had to…). Reach out to your references when you’re looking for work and let them know that they’re going to be contacted, especially if you’ve been gainfully employed for a time and are back at the job schmoozing rodeo
- Just remember, that you’re doing this to better your future and that in this present, everything’s golden here at the O.K. Corral
Document and follow up on what you’ve applied to
- Either hand write or keep an Excel log of the jobs that you’re applying to, this will hold you accountable to follow up and track your progress. I actually write down the date, company, position and any other info that I’ve applied to by hand, so that I’m mentally investing into what I’m doing and will have the follow-through that I need to at least land an interview. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, because you deserve it, Buck-o!
- Email or call into the company within a week or two and keep it light and polite.
Stay encouraged and remember that the right opportunity will come along
Remember, you don’t “have” to do this, you “get” to do this. You “get” to do this, because you’re awesome and talented and smart and will make the company that you’re being led into stronger with your awesome skillset and will come out stronger. Maintain an optimistic attitude and seek out the gifts within the challenges. Seriously, if the shadow of doubts creeps your way, write or say aloud what you’re experiencing and announce the opposite, make that agreement with yourself, fake it ’til you make it. I promise that it works and gets easier, but just remember that it’s a daily reprieve, a journey. Focus on what you can control, your actions and attitude. When your attitude is right, the facts don’t count. Remember, if you don’t get the interview or the job, rejection is Universal protection and is doing for you what you can’t do for yourself by keeping your ass out of a yucky situation.
You land an interview, now what? Prepare yo-self
- Make sure that you know if it’s a one-on-one or group interview to avoid awkward and over prepare
- Send a brief email thanking whoever scheduled you iterating that you will see them on this day, wearing these pants, at this time (minus the pants)
- Prepare yourself and learn what you can about the company culture, any major achievements or awards that they’ve won, how rapidly they’re growing, etc
- Bring two copies of your cover, resume and references just in case
- Always remember your portfolio and put the best work in front
- Bring a couple of solid stories with you to answer questions like, “What would you consider your greatest weakness?” Always turn your weakness into a strength by growing from it or having to have gotten really professionally creative
- Answering generic questions that tap into your employee psyche: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” You say, “I see myself growing with your company, because I really believe in x,y and z.” A couple of great books in the hunt are, “Never Eat Alone” and “101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions.”
- Get plenty of sleep the night before, call someone ahead of time or do some writing if you need to get out your jitters and be confident, because you totally rule! Reward yourself for landing the interview, because you’re awesome
- Talk to your references and let them know that their phone might blow up
You’re in the interview…
In a strange room with strangers with maybe no candy to offer, but who really cares because your job is to know where you’re going, show up 10-15 minutes early, be on top of your game, be yourself, because you’re awesome. Be of service and see if you’re even interested in working for this company, remembering that you’re interviewing them. It’s like a date — you’re seeing if they’re even peeking your interest — so come at them at the appropriate time with solid questions that are answered through their experiential knowledge. They are basically just testing you on compatibility, likability, professionalism, skillset, etc. Can you make them laugh without trying or at least break their poker face to ease both of you in the interview? Maybe shoot them a genuine compliment; everybody likes a compliment. The main thing is to connect yourself to the position and express what you can bring to solve their problem and therefore needing you in the first place to come in and save their ass.
Never show your cards first: If they talk salary, they’re potentially interested and trying to see if they can afford you, so rather than answering, you can ask what their budget is for the job, project, etc., because this is a game of chess. Once they show their cards, then it’s open for negotiation per salary, benefits, 401k, vacation, etc., but always maintain humility in the process, because nobody wants a cocky employee from the get-go. But make sure to go on Glassdoor.com or Salary.com beforehand and do a search on the position trying different job titles if yours is weird and doesn’t come up within the surrounding area, either for the company or their competitors. If they don’t bring up salary, you’re going to want to gauge if it’s in the cards to bring up at this point or not, because it’s quite possible that they won’t bring it up if they’re not interest. Read those reviews on the company to save your own behind if they do pop-up.
Always remember to maintain your boundaries. If the interviewer asks you to hold off on accepting another job offer, because they’re oh-so-interested in you, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket and continue looking for work otherwise. Because don’t take this personally, but they don’t care about your needs, they care about their needs. And after interviewing more people, they might find someone who is better suited for the position, or who may put up with lower pay, because they’re just that desperate. Always remember that rejection from any type of situation / relationship (something between yourself and something else, with you being the common denominator) is Universal Protection. Just trust that the Universe has your back and that the right thing will come along for you if you do the work and release control of the results.
What do you have to offer? Know your worth and realize that this ain’t your first rodeo. You’ve already beaten out much of the competition that goes into the “maybe” or “oh, hell no” pile and never sees the light of that wing that you’re cozily sitting in. You’re now sitting there with all of your self-confidence that you’ve brought into that chair. And you should be happy with yourself that you’ve made it this far.
Remember, that you’re ready to have this conversation, because you have some great stories about how you’ve had the willingness, open-mindedness, communication, respect of others, follow-through and diligence to take on an array of tasks and that you enjoy working efficiently for the man, because you believe in the man and the man’s cause. And plus, you are awesome. So, once your interviewer knows all of this, you can gladly thank them for the interview, recap on your agile bouquet of super abilities and that you hope to hear from them again.
After the interview…
You’re going to want to send in a brief note detailing both your expression of gratitude for the interview and the interviewer’s time that you very much respect. If you can find any leverage to connect to them on a human level, e.g., congratulating them on a recent success that you heard about whilst in interview or via research, something you may have had in common (keeping it professional), etc., then this could make them see you beyond what they see in the typical candidate. Do yourself a favor and don’t sound desperate, desperation is messy and unattractive, because it’s easy to obtain. Always maintain integrity and authenticity remembering that it’s a process; processing takes time and we are not in control of the timing. So now could be the time to right a letter to whomever you worship and say a little prayer to fulfill your purpose.
You can call in or email within a week or two to see if they’ve come to a decision, or are going to bring you in for a second interview. By this, you’ll quickly know if they’re stringing you along and that they just don’t know how to say no. They generally say that they’ll call and let you know, or call if interested or whatevers, but don’t hold your breath and lower your expectations, this alleviates any potential letdown.
Always be yourself and never be afraid of not being the right match. You and the right job will indeed meet at the right time. You gotta have faith. You are gathering information and collecting interview experience that will make each one easier than the last. Never over-think it. If Company Disaster decides not to hire you for their fantastical situations, then it’s the Universe protecting you from awkward and nonsensical BS. Rejection is Universal protection and a major lifesaver. You’re initiating a new relationship between your goods and theirs to serve their bottom-line. It is your job to find something that you can be a part of, feel proud to contribute to and that the relationship is reciprocated. Oh and hush… you’re gonna do great. So just Let me know if I can be of any help. I really hope that this helps, Hunters. There may be some things I’m leaving out, I understand that we’re all prone to error, but I’m spent and wanted to get this over before switching projects.
I’m enjoying being with you in this process and wish you a happy and fruitful hunt.
May the force be with you!
Sample cover/pain letter off of LinkedIn
Congratulations to you and the team at Acme Explosives on winning SoCal Business’s Fastest-Growing Companies award! That’s a feather in your cap, and tremendous affirmation from the marketplace. (That’s the hook – short and sweet.)
I can only imagine that given Acme’s rate of growth, your Marketing team is right up against the wall. (There’s your Pain Hypothesis!)
When I ran Marketing projects for Angry Chocolates during its run-up from $10M to $45M in sales, just before its acquisition by Nestle, we were in a similar spot. We had to keep our loyal domestic customers happy while launching an international sales effort and an ecommerce business at the same time. We made it work somehow and grew sales from $10M to $27M in one year. (Heck yes you did! That’s your Dragon-Slaying Story. It shows how you’ve solved a similar Business Pain in the past.)
If you’ve got a need for marketing project management and a minute to chat I’d love to learn more about Acme and share a bit of my story with you. (That’s your Closing. See how easy that was?)
[Your name here]
Covers that have landed me interviews
First off, I love Downtown LA’s Fashion District and would love to assist in maintaining it for the public. As a trained administrative assistant, I’m applying to contribute my experience to BID. Collaborating with the City of Los Angeles that’s supportive of the fashion industry is something that I’m very passionate about. My background oscillates between assisting CEOs in fashion and entertainment, which has been heavily based in interacting with the public and quickly adapting to shifting priorities with poise. I’m experienced in keeping companies organized and hope that I can be of service to BID to keep it in tiptop shape. Until then…
Thank you for your time and I hope that you will consider me for an interview.
[Your name here]
(2) Hi there,
I am reaching out to you regarding the Visual Merchandising position.
I believe that I will successfully fulfill and exceed your target visual expectations and here’s why: I’m a creative visionary with excellent ideation abilities and follow-through. I have 10 years of experience in visual merchandising, fashion design, fashion retail, fashion shows, photoshoot styling, tradeshow planning, theatre design, television production and art gallery installation. I’m super handy with a digital camera and am great with editing and archiving. I am a freelance designer, merchandiser and fashion design teacher and most notably worked with Style Network and OTIS College of Design.
I would be incredibly useful to you, because I seek out challenge as opportunity and am highly innovative in both my problem preventative and solving capabilities. I work well under little to no direction in a pressure-some environment and am fantastic on a team as a worker and a leader who’s not afraid to step up for the smallest of tasks. Organization comes firsthand and I’m great with prioritizing needs. I am ahead of the curve with an edgy and sophisticated style that carries over to a variety of genres. I love creating installations, have diligent research skills and pay close attention to safety in the workplace. I keep on top of window display trends and notice discrepancies such as, hang or price tags sticking out of garments, misguided color and pattern coordination and strewn threads at the edge of a garment; every time I see this, I want to fix it and with this type of work, detail is everything to presentation.
Based on what you are looking for and what I can bring, I believe that we would make a great team and that you would be very pleased in meeting with me. You are welcome to contact me at either of the below methods.
Thanks and wishing you well,
[Your name here]
I just wanted to reach out to you regarding the Administrative Assistant position at your Contemporary Art Studio.
I’m an incredible candidate for this position and I’ll tell you why: Not only does my brain thrive on seeking out challenges as opportunities– it eliminates any “big deals” by compartmentalizing what’s forthright amongst the importance pipeline– issuing a crystal clear guidance system in support of congruency– allowing the innovators to innovate on a well beyond 20% average!
I currently consult young designers and am strong within Microsoft and Adobe Suite, Quickbooks, flash-based website building applications like Wix, Dropbox or WordPress, databases, expensing systems. I have a heavy administrative background in art, theatre and technology and absolutely live for organization. I’d say I’m a bit of a nerd, because I love proofreading, editing and learning. I also love coffee and going on the occasional runs for the company if that’s needed; there’s no job that’s too small or too big. My service work has branched out into post-production where I met and exceeded the learning curve of the job in responsibilities, software and culture, so based on my pivotal experience and focused lateral thinking, I think I’d be perfect for your studio in bringing in what the studio needs to stay focused and ahead of the curve.
That’s a snippet of me. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch via the provided methods.
Thanks and wishing you well,
[Your name here]
(Below is short and sweet when I know that they’re busy and I’m writing to a phantom.)
(4) Dear Hiring Manager,
I am applying to the Fashion Design and Production Assistant position from Craig’s List. My professional experience and training as a Design and Production Assistant, Product Design Experience at OTIS College, and Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design and Textiles have allowed me to develop great intricacy and foresight as an Assistant. I would appreciate it if you could take a brief moment to review my resume.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time.
[Your Name Here]