We may not all be illustrators, animators or good at making videos, but we are all creative in one way or another.
Jenna Borley, BA Illustration & Animation graduate talked to The Employability Service about her determination to get the job she wanted, despite the pandemic.
So, Jenna, how did you start your job search?
I volunteered during my studies to get industry experience on my CV – a bit here and there including working for a London studio and the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield. But when it came to looking for a graduate job during my final year, COVID hit and I struggled to find vacancies. When I did, I knew I was competing with hundreds of other graduates and despite best efforts was unsuccessful, either with applications or at interview. I knew my CV and portfolio looked good as I secured six interviews, but no offers followed and was often told that others had more experience.
To keep the wolf from the door and bills paid, I took a part-time paid job tutoring a young person with learning disabilities. This was so worthwhile and I really did enjoy it, but I knew I had to keep persevering with applications for jobs that came up in my field. I invested in some specialist software that I often saw mentioned on vacancies as ‘desirable’ and although it was an extra expense, the investment helped me with freelance work and my earnings repaid the cost.
Then in January this year, when there was still no sign of an industry upturn, with COVID still looming large and another lockdown due, I decided to try something different to keep me motivated to continue the job search and at the same time to showcase my skills. It took a month to put my video together but in the end it was a gamble that paid off: https://vimeo.com/517095115.
What happened after you made the video?
I prepared a spreadsheet of companies I was interested in working for and searched their websites for specific contacts. I paid for a short-term Premium subscription on LinkedIn (though this was more limiting than I thought so I am not necessarily recommending) and posted my video, using several tags to hopefully get it noticed. Last time I looked it had 900+ views!
I sent out 100 speculative emails, adding my video link, and immediately received several positive replies. In the end, three companies were seriously interested and gave me an interview from which I got two job offers – all within a few weeks of emailing individuals and posting my video online. I am now working for a fantastic animation studio as a Junior Animator & Illustrator – remotely for now but I can’t wait to meet the team in person when we return to the office shortly.
Any advice for final year students?
Firstly, don’t give up. It’s not easy to believe there is a job out there when you don’t hear back from an application or you get a ‘no thanks’ email. There’s always a way forward – it’s a matter of finding it. Ask anyone you know who might be able to help you. Keep applying but keep updating skills and knowledge where you can. I enrolled on a few free online courses to keep busy and also learn new skills to add to my CV, to keep it fresh. LinkedIn Learning has many different programmes and is available free to students.
Research the company values when applying so you can show you’re a good match. The company I work for values enthusiasm and the first thing they noticed was my energy and drive, which came across from making the video. They told me that this first impression and my motivation at interview, helped them decide that I would be a good fit for their team.
There is merit in thinking outside the box in your job search. For example, if you like writing, post a blog or article to your LinkedIn or if you prefer a visual, make a short video about yourself or something you have read that you enjoyed or that has given you inspiration.
Send to companies on a Friday morning. They are more likely to read as during the week they are maybe too busy to make your email a priority read.
Dedicate specific days/times each week for your job search – but do something different each day e.g., researching, a course to upskill, applications. This will give you a schedule to follow.
The Employability Service has advice on using LinkedIn to make speculative approaches and building your network and you can contact [email protected] for ongoing careers support throughout the summer.
Jenna Borley was speaking to Kim Holbrook, Employability & Careers Adviser
Our Employability Service works with students throughout their time at ARU and after they graduate. The Service offers careers advice, online resources, and help with job searches, applications and interview preparation. Our Employability & Careers Advisers may mention some of these resources and services in their blogs, to give you an idea of the careers support that's on offer at ARU. Some of these resources sit behind a log in and can only be accessed by current students.