October 30, 2013

Curiouser and curiouser

While getting ready for yesterday's job interview, I had an odd sense of calm. The 'little voice' (God's quiet nudges) kept telling me to not stay up too late, not stress too much. For the most part, I listened.

Even while getting ready, I just didn't have much 'juice'. I kept thinking, well, if I get this one, it'll be like the story of Gideon where God kept taking away all the props that would have let him say he won the battle on his own. My go-to outfit needed hemming, my backup outfit didn't seem right for the company. I got that sorted and arrived with about 7 minutes to spare before my appointment.

I'd been told there would be two people in the interview; there was just one woman a couple years older than me. She started right away with this, "I hope you don't mind that I went ahead with the interview. The position you applied for is already filled, but honestly, that wouldn't have been a good fit for you. I wanted to meet you and talk through your work. I thought about calling to let you know, but I didn't want you to opt out! Is that ok?"

What do you say to that?! I was gracious, but kind of bummed.

She wanted me to walk through my portfolio. I have it all set up on 'my' iPad (I plan on returning it within the 30-day window...cause I just don't want to own one.) For last week's interview and this one, I tried to figure out the five key stories they need to hear. Last week was all about the big, sexy, fun ideas. This week was more about my capabilities for corporate clients. It's nuts that I have to spend a few hours prepping a new document for each interview. (OK, OK, 'it's' not nuts, I am!)

Here are some of the snippets from our conversation:

"Your work and thinking are very strong. You know you're not really an art director, right?"

She'd worked in California, too, so I could ask her about that, "Yeah, I'm starting to get the sense that in Dallas an art director is just a glorified graphic designer?"

"Exactly. When I hire someone from design school, they are a junior art director. You're working at the level of at least an Associate Creative Director, but really, you could be a Creative Director without a problem. If I were you, I'd consider freelancing in town for a while. Speaking from experience, if you go straight from a California company to a Dallas company, you're in for a lot of culture shock. It's better to get a sense of the players before you commit to one place. I think you could stay very busy as a freelancer. Would you mind if I tell people about you if I hear that someone is looking?"

Of course! I asked her about the need to 'tone it down' as a woman leader in Dallas culture. She nodded emphatically, "You have no idea! Not only have I worked in LA, I'm from Chicago!" I cracked up as she continued, "They had no idea what hit them. Eventually they realized my assertiveness was all on behalf of the client, so they stopped taking it personally and got used to me, but it was an adjustment for all of us. It helps that only 10 percent of our company are Dallas natives."

In the end, it was a great talk, she wants me to keep in touch, seems like someone worth meeting for lunch every month or two, and I'm really bummed I don't get to work with her (yet)!

I'm also bummed that I need to rework the website and redo my business cards. My Dad wants me to pause and rethink everything. What would I do if I had $100,000/year for the rest of my life. If money were no object, what would you do? I need to think about it more, but I think I'd still do design; perhaps teach it in underserved schools (after buying computers for the class) or do design for non-profits, etc.

In the meantime, given that it's nice to be paid for my expertise, I'll likely spend more time thinking about how to retool my 'brand'.
What do you think about the presumption factor? I can easily claim the title of Art Director on a business card, but calling myself a Creative Director is a bit of a leap. Do I put my current title: "2D Exper1ence Designer" and explain that it involves art direction and creative direction and that I'm seeking a job as a CD?

This definitely helps explain why it's been hard to find a good fit, or even get interviews. I'm overqualified for the job title here. It's amazing to get such a strong vote of confidence, but I'm intimidated!


Inkling said...

Wow. That sounds like quite the conversation. It actually makes me want to get to know that woman more, and have you get the chance to know her and work with her too. Totally intriguing.

As for the culture shock bit, I'm learning something new. It didn't dawn on me that they'd be so old-fashioned (I hope that's okay to say) when it comes to knowing how to work with women. It's a bummer you have to figure out how to beat around the bush and play their game, when it would seem to be nicer for them to just figure out that it's 2013 and women and men have been doing the same jobs for eons now. Maybe this explains all the big hair and polished nails in Texas. Geez, I'd never fit.

I hope you find the perfect niche for your talent and skills, and that it fulfills the requirements of provision and satisfaction.

OTR sister said...

She may be on to something. As I've been looking through resumes for our Creative Director hire, there is a wide range of how people interpret that title. We've gotten really senior people respond, which is what we're looking for, but we've also gotten people who I would describe as senior designers.

Can you say that you've managed people and managed a creative team? Even unofficially? Then claim it. I think you have the chops to back it up.

Also, at the AIGA conference I hung out briefly with some design students who gave me their cards. All of them said 'Art Director.' What total bull----.

I hope you find a good fit. Love you.