I want to be a designer/art director. Why am I not getting hired?

i want to be an art director designer
I had a very brief conversation with someone on an online forum this morning that started as a website/portfolio critique. Overall, the work on the portfolio was very good. This is where the majority of people in our industry sit—being good but not being the worst or the best. This can make getting hired a bit more difficult these days. How do you stand out? Why would someone want to hire you?

I’ve been there several times throughout my career, sending out resumes and applications without hearing a word back. It’s not an easy place to be in especially when something you started in was treated more as a technical job and now is looked at as a luxury job… something people are fighting over because it seems like a fun/non-stressful job that allows you to be an artist all day.

In reality, working as a designer means coming up with creative solutions for your employers or clients. You will develop styles and your own look along the way, but you’re not necessarily going to get hired for those things.

So when I asked this designer why he was concerned with his portfolio at the moment, this was his response:

“Well at the moment I am working at an architectural practice and I’ve worked there for almost 3 years and to be frank – I am bored. I would like to work on some different projects, so I have applied to a few studios but I think part of the problem is I don’t have any ‘agency’ experience. I have a designer that works with me at the moment but they are the same skill level as me, I guess I would like to learn from some other designers.”

Been there! It made me think about what it is I’m looking for when I’m hiring and what would make someone really stand out apart from a solid portfolio and good resume. This was my response:

“Change your attitude from ‘I’m a beginner in agency work and I want to learn from better people,’ to ‘Design and direction is my craft and passion. I listen to my clients and find the best way to execute their ideas in a way that will attract their target audiences. Collaboration is as exhilarating as individual work and my overall goal is to aid my coworkers and clients to the best of my ability.’

You’ve gotta figure out what you can bring to an employer, not the other way around. I know you weren’t necessarily saying you say what you told me to potential employers, but it’s truly what’s in your head right now. You have to make a mental shift to change how you think about your situation. You want to help others with your talent. Focus on how you can help others and you’ll find your path.”

I’ve taken my own advice for several years now and it’s really changed how I’ve looked for new clients. Figuring out how you can help others will help you succeed in any job. Even the top designers and art directors who may seem to be doing nothing but fulfilling their own artist’s desires are still helping someone else.

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