Tips on Finding Print Production Positions in Chicagoland
May 2, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I get a foot in the door at print shops in the Chicagoland area?

For several years I worked in print production in Atlanta. I
never had to apply for any of these positions because I developed a
network in college and all my positions came through word-of-mouth.
Now I'm in Evanston (supporting elderly parents so moving isn't an
option) and I can't seem to develop the same networks here. Job
postings for relevant positions are almost non-existent. I've scoured
LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Indeed fruitlessly. I think, like Atlanta,
most jobs aren't posted online.

How do I get a foot in the door at print shops in the Chicagoland area?
posted by who squared to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I would guess that print jobs are scarce as it's not a growing industry these days. I'd find the relevant networking groups and start attending events. PIA (Printing Industry of America) is one I remember from my days in print.
posted by COD at 11:55 AM on May 2, 2011

Another thing, I've noticed that where I live (VA) the general Chamber of Commerce mixers seem to attract a lot of print / direct mail folks, so that might be another avenue.
posted by COD at 11:56 AM on May 2, 2011

Have you joined the Chicago Print Production Club? The have a lot of networking and informational events. One problem with getting into the business in a new city is that agencies like to hire people who already have established relationships with vendors, but if you start freelancing, you can start to get to know some vendors. Also check out some of the creative placement agencies to try to get some freelance gigs.
posted by smich at 12:31 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have your own portfolio? Shop that and shop your willingness (if you have it) to go out and venture work.
posted by parmanparman at 12:53 PM on May 2, 2011

In what way are you involved in print production? Press operator? Plate maker? Graphic designer? A bit of everything?

I would concede that "traditional", high-volume press-oriented printing is declining, perhaps because of the newspaper industry. But digital is going nuts. I manage a digital shop in a small town in NW Washington, and since we started we have shown great growth YOY. At this point, we've got more work than we know what to do with.

If you're a graphic artist, your skills should apply anywhere, really. If you're a press operator or plate maker, that skill set is much more specialized, but you'd be surprised how much of your know-how from working offset, flexo, whatever translates to digital. I mean, if you can wrangle a flexo or a roto, you can tame an iGen or an Indigo, no problem.

Maybe you've just been looking at the wrong types of firms? In a place like Chicago, I'd be very surprised if the digital shops there weren't busy.
posted by xedrik at 1:12 PM on May 2, 2011

I'm basing my guess that you're a pre-press operator, typesetter, or publication designer on your tags, so a thousand pardons if I am mistaken. One tactic you might consider would be joining your local freelancers' organization. Another possibility,which I've always done when I need work, is to seek out unpaid work for a little while. It has led to paid clients for me in the past.

Best of luck to you on your search.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 1:54 PM on May 2, 2011

Hi all and thanks for the responses. I'm taking it all in.

My background in print includes both graphic-design and pre-press technician. I've never been a press operator although once I moonlighted as one on a textile printer.

I've done pre-press in most aspects of the print industry: offset [sheetfed and web], flexo, gravure, digital, and even lenticular. As xedrik implies, a RIP is a RIP and I've used a few: Onyx, Harlequin, EFI, Wasatch and Freeflow although I've not imaged to the iGen nor Indigo specifically.

I've prepared files and imaged to a myriad of devices including flatbed UV cured printers [HP/Columbia], screen makers for flexo [Luscher], plate makers for offset and flexo, cylinders for gravure, large format solvent printers, even lenticular flips and the 3-D ones as well.

From what I'm reading of the responses, it seems I need to focus far more on digital shops and realize that printing as it once was is no more.

Any tips on how to find the big digital shops here In Chicago?
posted by who squared at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2011

This is a slight departure... but art schools often have printmaking techs on staff, and depending on what their shops are set up for, your skills may be applicable. Here are the current undergrad printmaking courses at SAIC, for example.
posted by D.Billy at 5:42 PM on May 2, 2011

You might take a look through the Creative Directory, they've got a pretty extensive list of printers. Crain's Chicago Business use to print lists of the largest area businesses by type, they got pretty specific info on the size of the business, number of employees, etc. I don't know of any job boards specific to pre-press, though.

Not sure if any of the temp agencies specialize in pre-press, either, but you might have some luck with print production gigs (InDesign file prep, making pdfs, etc.) if that's part of your skill set. When I was temping, years ago, I had good luck with Artisan. We're currently using someone through Digital People. Creative Circle is another big one.

(As an anecdotal data point, just found out today that our web press place is giving up on Chicago and moving their work up to Wisconsin; they just aren't getting enough traditional web print jobs to make a go of it anymore. So, yeah, digital is where you want to be...)

Good luck!
posted by Bron at 7:04 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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