We (Navig8) are lucky enough to get a constant stream of CVs flooding into our inboxes of the finest creative talent this country (and abroad) has to offer.
This is partly to do with our profile but also because of the range of design related books our Director has written in the Know Your Onions range (see links below).
The problem is that the vast majority of approaches are of a poor standard, something that could be easily fixed with a bit of effort.
Below is a hit list for any would be employee. These cover the bare minimum if you hope to have any chance of getting your foot in the door. Remember, unless you are responding to an advert, the agency may not be actively looking for a new recruit. Having said that, we are always on the look out for talent.
Do check out the company website, not necessarily so you can say things like 'I really like you annual report designs', but to see if they are the right company for you. If you love packaging, make sure the agency has packaging clients.
Find out who you need to speak to
This isn't as easy as it sounds as getting past the receptionist can be tough. Call anyway, don't just send an email to the generic email address. Most agencies will not have a HR department and if they do they will only be interested in responses to a recruitment campaign. Ideally you want to get hold of the Creative Director or Director of the company, get their full name, job title and email address. Be honest with the person on the end of the phone, tell them you don't just want to send it to a generic email account.
Write a personal email. Don't write 'Dear Sir/Madam, I have looked at your website... I am able to work on my own as well as part of a team... I want to expand my creative... and I think I would make a great addition to your team'. We will be the judge of that.
Try an inject some personality into your email, 'I'm really keen on packaging but I don't have a lot of experience, as you can see in my portfolio, I have produced a number of personal projects'.
Ask them what you want. That doesn't mean 'can I have a job?' but maybe, 'can you spare 10 minutes (no more) to look at my portfolio, even if you don't have a position at the moment, I'd really appreciate your advise'. Don't just copy this, write your own and make it personal.
If English is not your first language, get someone to check your email and your portfolio.
Do attach a PDF portfolio, but don't send a massive file, 2mb is about right. Don't send your whole portfolio in the first email, keep some back for when you get face to face. Send what is relevant to the agency, if they are a packaging agency (Navig8 isn't) then focus on that. Do make sure it looks brilliant. Make sure all your contact details are on there. If you have social media accounts, only share them if they are appropriate and work related. Pictures of you in Ibiza downing cocktails does not give the right impression.
The follow up
Do follow up, but leave it two to three days before you do. If you have written your email well, there will be something memorable in it, so that when you call you can say 'I'm the person who is looking for advise on a career in packaging design'. Remember the people you are speaking to are really busy, they may not have seen your email. If you do get to speak to the main man/woman, don't waste their time, ask for an appointment, suggest a time and a date and get off the phone and celebrate your victory.
Review your portfolio. Is it the very best it can be? Work out your travel times and make sure, even in the event of an act of God, that you are on time. You don't have to wear a suit, but do look like you mean business.
When you get there, stick to what you asked for, ie: if you came for advise, start by asking for advise. The meeting will morph and change anyway.
On the day
Ask questions, but remember who you are talking to. Asking the director to explain this and that about their work will annoy them. Ask advise, ask for work experience, be as keen as mustard.
Take your portfolio, which should show more than the one you emailed. No offence, but listening to you droning on and explaining your work that we have already seen is no fun. Include any personal projects, even if they are not directly related to what the agency does or the job you want. I had a chap that did Lord of the Rings animations 'for a bit of fun', they were brilliant.
If you don't have experience, it does not always matter. What matters is you. You may be nervous, and that is OK, it really is and whilst you work is important, people buy people. We once employed the most nervous person in an interview ever, turned out to be one of the best employees we've had.
Say thank you.
Slightly cringing, below is a list of publications that might help, it might seem 'salesie' but there we are:
What to put in your portfolio and get a job in graphic design
Does what it it says on the tin. A small book, but covers what we have said above and more. Don't buy it from Amazon, the fees are too high, get it from www.articul8publishing.com
Know Your Onions: Graphic Design
Know Your Onions: Web Design
Have fun and good luck.