How can I look for digital media design/production/development jobs?
October 27, 2013 9:52 AM   Subscribe

How can I look for entry level digital media production/development jobs in a city I don't even live in??

I'm graduating with a major in music and a minor in computer science in the spring (with a pretty fair to bad GPA...probably about 2.5), and I haven't really had a lot of guidance in how to apply for jobs. (CS majors get all the good jobs...) I would like to work at some kind of digital media agency, and I've mostly been looking at audio production for music videos/film/animation, and I've also been looking at front-end web development.

My main problem is my lack of qualifications, since most of the programming jobs require a BS in Computer Science or Engineering, and the design jobs require a BA in Design, etc. Either that or 5+ years experience. And I don't think there are really a lot of audio production jobs to go around? I also don't have much of a design portfolio but I do have a tiny github portfolio with a few projects.

I've been mostly looking for jobs in Maine, Massachusetts, and the Pacific Northwest (I don't currently live in any of those places). I seem to have had to most luck looking for entry-level openings in Portland, OR, so I might try to focus on Portland.

Anyway, given my field and the fact that I'll be graduating in May, do you guys have any advice for me in finding or applying to jobs? I've mostly just been typing "web development portland" or "design studio portland" into google and clicking on all the sites that come up, but is there a better way? Should I cold email? (That's worked for internships/volunteering, but I haven't tried it for jobs...)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total)
Check out the job board at the AIGA site which also has some regional sites. You might want to take some classes to learn specific programs e. g. Photoshop, indesign, etc. You can build up your portfolio doing pro bono design jobs for non-profits, friends, bands, etc. personal projects are great too because they show your passions & personal creativity.

As far as targeting design firms read up about ones you are interested in and contact them directly about available jobs for May. Make contact soon and keep in touch occasionally so they know you are interested. Make good use of your college's career center. HOW magazine has great articles profiling design trends and firms. Good luck!
posted by wildflower at 7:36 PM on October 27, 2013

I may come across as a little harsh in this - I'm just trying to be be realistic. My background is rather similar to yours and I've been very successful, so it's not hopeless.

From what you've said, I would look at your resume and think that you're unexceptional and uninspired and pass on it. I'd be inclined to guess that you wanted to be a CS major but found it a little too difficult and ended up doing music instead, getting very average grades. Without something in your portfolio showing passion about something I'd be pretty unimpressed. The great people I knew in music and design programs had overflowing portfolios because that's what they *cared* about. Their problem was paring it down to a small enough volume that it wasn't overwhelming.

(with a pretty fair to bad GPA...probably about 2.5)

This is going to hurt you but it's not fatal. I had a terrible GPA - the price I paid was sucking it up for a year or two getting underpaid while I demonstrated competence and dedication outside of the academic environment. The price you pay may be not living where you want to right after college.

A problem you face is that a high GPA gives plausible deniability if they hire someone who turns out to not be great - it gives them something to point to as a metric of why they felt the employee would be good. Hiring a poor employee reflects badly on the person that hires them, so presenting a safe appearance is important. The good news is that GPA will be less important as time goes on.

Your portfolio, both programming and design, is your opportunity to offset the GPA. Focus hard on that these next months. I've interviewed a lot of junior position applicants and have always been willing to give the underdog a shot but you have to give me some reason to give you an interview. A classic thing to do with audio design for video is to get some old silent movies and do audio design for them. (Keep it short - don't do an entire movie but a 90 second scene or something that fits in the attention span of someone busy.) Write something cool in Processing.

I've been mostly looking for jobs in Maine, Massachusetts, and the Pacific Northwest (I don't currently live in any of those places).

Do you have the option of getting a job for a year wherever you're going to school or wherever you grew up? It's much easier getting a job some place you already live, particularly at your stage of life. Why take a risk on hiring someone who might decide at the last minute that they can't or won't move (or might find that they hate it once they move there) when there's a plenty of local average potential employees? You're also unlikely to find employers willing to fly you across the country for an interview.

Does your school offer career fairs? Hit them hard - that gives companies the ability to do a face to face interview with you without the cost of flying you around.

most of the programming jobs require a BS in Computer Science or Engineering

They don't all. If you can spend the next few months getting a solid grasp of Rails, you should be employable with a minor in CS. You might also be able to specialize in something like Drupal. A big plus you can do is find an open source project that you're interested in and work with it. If I can see that you're using source control and defect tracking software with other people, that's a big plus for junior developers that most college classes don't provide.

And I don't think there are really a lot of audio production jobs to go around?

There aren't a lot of them, at least compared to the number of people that want to do it. One possibility you might look into is doing sound reinforcement - if you can follow instructions and push boxes, you're employable right now (if you can find a company that's hiring), and can work up to the more interesting and demanding parts of the field. If you can get a job with a regional sound company and maybe pick up some IATSE show calls, it's possible to get by financially while building a portfolio and connections.

If you want to work in video (even if it's focused on the audio), do you know video tools? If you need to work in Final Cut Pro, can you get around?

I seem to have had to most luck looking for entry-level openings in Portland, OR

Everything I've heard about Portland is that it has an extremely competitive job market. Your resume right now is not competitive. You're competing with all of the A students who want to move there and all of the C students that already live there.

Lastly, the best way to get hired is with an internal reference. Think of everyone who might think favorably of you that's already working and reach out to them to see if there's any entry level positions open where they work.
posted by Candleman at 10:02 PM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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