If you’re a creative looking to land a job in the marketing industry, you’ve got competition. The most recent Bureau of Labor statistics clock approximately 100,000 art directors, 160,000 web developers, and 290,000 graphic designers in the U.S. So how can you make yourself stand out? By focusing on your creative skills, you can improve your output, find inspiration, and impress recruiters looking for top creative talent to add to their rosters. Below, we share our recommendations for creative skills to learn for your specific role, as well as general skills and certifications that apply to all creatives.
Production designers must regularly bring a rough sketch, a mood board, and some key design elements together to create an asset for clients. So it will come as no surprise that one of the most important creative skills recruiters look for when hiring for these positions is the ability to execute on limited direction. Yes, Adobe Creative Suite certification is impressive and can be an easy shorthand to signify you have a handle on the application. However, the certification is not as important as the execution. That’s why one of the most important mindsets you can possess as a production designer is that of being an eternal student of your craft. Following social media accounts, blogs, and advertisements of designers, brands, and creative firms you love will help you generate ideas, and will keep you on the cutting edge of design aesthetics.
Art directors are artistic magicians, creating something from nothing. Their primary role is to translate client needs into creative design that is cohesive and compelling — no small feat. So creative skills that recruiters are looking for to fill this role center around that imaginative big-picture vision. Even if an art director is no longer down in the weeds with their production team creating individual assets, here it can be helpful to have certifications in creative applications so that you demonstrate context and understanding of your team’s jobs. Expect interview questions and exercises that require contextual thinking, creativity, and experience bringing client vision to life.
Whereas successful production designers and art directors tend to have more artistic leanings, creative developers act more as architects for agencies. Recruiters find that the most successful developers have that, “Tell me how to do it, and I’ll do it perfectly,” attitude. They are business-minded and understand the bigger picture — like how their project should operate to improve the life of the client. One creative certificate that will really impress recruiters is a bootcamp certificate. That’s because it tells the recruiter that you were dedicated enough to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Demonstrating that hunger for knowledge and commitment to self-improvement can really set you apart from other developers in your industry.
As creative skills go, one of the most important universal skills recruiters look for in their candidates is curiosity. This curiosity should manifest both in relation to your profession, and also within your profession. By paying attention to trends in creative marketing, by consuming content and training, and by seeking out information that might impact the way your assets are viewed in the world, you make yourself indispensable to your team. For example, if a client wants to use imagery that you know might be controversial based on a recent event, being able to speak up in the ideation meeting can save everyone time and heartache. If you’re a developer and you know that the standard coding language is changing, you can direct your team towards the lasting standard so that your website or application can withstand future innovations. Seek out certifications that are unexpected for your line of work, but complimentary. By adding depth to your knowledge — say, a certification in nature drawing for a graphic designer, or a business certification for an art director — you’ll show the recruiter you’re truly “thinking like a marketer,” in that you understand context is critical.
At a creative agency, you’re bound to have to work not only within your own team of like-skilled individuals, but also across departments to support your clients successfully. That is why collaboration is a creative skill that is essential — in moderation. The life of a creative can bounce between heavily collaborative brainstorming sessions to very individualistic tasks, like designing an asset, coding a website, or putting together a pitch deck for your client. If you are able to think through all of the teams who will be affected by a project and loop them in, and then go execute your own responsibilities successfully, you will be an asset to your agency. This is why recruiters want employees who aspire to collaborate, and also have a drive to execute individually. This can also show up in your own personal standards of excellence. If it’s clear that you take pride in your work not only as it represents your company, but also as it represents you, recruiters will take notice and trust you to get your job done well.
Hand-in-hand with collaboration is the ability to communicate clearly. While recruiters take into account nerves that might impede clarity of communication, they still expect you to be able to express your skills and views effectively. Particularly for smaller agencies, the likelihood of an all-hands-on-deck scenario for multiple projects is high, so communication becomes even more critical to your team’s overall success. For a role like that of an art director, communication is crucial because you’ll work directly with clients. But while an introverted developer can thrive in an agency, it’s still important they can work with teammates on projects where cross-collaboration is necessary.
Overall, it’s important to do research into the creative agencies you’re hoping to work for. This can help you understand if there are certifications common to the team, or potential gaps you see that you could fill via courses you take or skills you bring to the table. Improve your creative skills in your specific line of work, but go beyond and think big picture to stand out from the crowd.
If you want to familiarize yourself with a project management tool to prepare for an interview, try CROOW! It’s a creative collaboration platform that features standard functionality like to-do’s, approvals, a stock photo library and more.