life after graduation: CREATIVE JOBS IN A TOUGH ECONOMY

December 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

Graham W. Clinard, BS 2008, shares his insightful story on landing a permanent job in a city unfamiliar to him. Read his inspirational story below to find out the good and the bad of job searching.

Do Not Give Up : NETWORK

The phrase, “It is all about who you know” has great truth. This phrase seems like a simple expression, but the magnitude of who you know, in the “real world”, becomes your greatest asset.

What is expressed here is not a get rich quick scheme, nor to let you know I am banking. This is simply to state : NETWORK.

I moved to the Greater Atlanta Area on New Year’s Eve, 2008, in order to pursue an internship with Howard House Interiors. The co-owner of the company, Kerry Howard, was on Bravo TV’s Season Two of Top Design. One night, while watching the show it crossed my mind to contact him, because he was in Atlanta and that was where I wanted to be. He responded to an email and said he would be at the High Point Market and would like to meet for dinner. We had an amazing conversation and later set up plans to meet in Atlanta to discuss the internship.

The internship was for school credit and no paycheck. I was blessed with school loans/grants and my parents to help pay for the cost of living. Being successful, no matter what came my way was the most important thing. Success is not always monetary, and it may happen with an opportunity unthought-of, as I soon found out. During the internship, Kerry opened up the opportunity to work at market with a well-known company, Jdouglas, at Americasmart downtown [Atlanta’s Furniture + Apparel market]. Jdouglas represents 19 furniture, accessory, and lighting lines. These lines and this showroom are sought by well-known designers and retailers, nationwide. This opportunity was exciting. Meeting designers, buyers, and retailers allowed not only industry conversation, but a support system from peers in understanding what opportunities were available. Collecting business cards, conversing via email, and going on the occasional night out adventure, led to connections unforeseen.

On a side note, this is an example of how you never know what will come out of talking to someone. The first day I walked into market there was a young lady, Jenn, who looked to be my age. Being the person I am, I felt an immediate connection, walked up to her and said, “Hi, I’m Graham Clinard and I think we are going to be best friends.” She laughed, smiled and said, “Okay!?” We are still friends and hang out on a regular basis; she is one of the most important reasons I am still in Atlanta. Jenn, one of the permanent staff members, has a marketing and communications degree, and her father is the product designer for one of the lines at Jdouglas. Jenn made mention my need for part time work, and thus for a year jdouglas has been my part time employment until finding a fulltime position.

When the group of fourth year students came to Atlanta we met up at Herman Miller and heard the best advice for this tough time, “get creative and interject design into whatever you are doing”. These words would resonate in my mind for quite some time. What could I do to still be passionate about design and be successful? After working market a couple of times the potential of being successful in sales was apparent. If you had told me in school that selling would become a passion I would have laughed in your face. In a time of economic instability we must become creative with the adventure of employment in the design world. This unexpected path, personally, has become a learning experience and allows education from another viewpoint of the industry. Consider it another layer to the design field.

One day, I decided to talk to the owner, Doug, of Jdouglas, about opportunities within the industry. His insight was inspiring and refreshing. He revealed things were turning around in the economy as far as Atlanta was concerned. The next advice was this : do not send electronic versions of resumes. Dress up, walk into a place and leave your resume and business card. Let them know you are serious; people like face time. Many will hire someone that physically, instead of electronically, shows interest in a company. I understand with most firms and places of business this is hard to do, but there are ways around it.

Recently, the opportunity arose, through Jdouglas, to work for a designer selling her product line at the High Point Market. [Jdouglas was kind enough to set this up, in order to both gain experience at a new location and allow me to see fellow classmates in the area.] This was another way to meet people and gain experience in selling and interacting with the public. Other manufacturers in the area around my booth had products I really enjoyed. Therefore, conversations took place about liking their line and asking if they knew of opportunities within their company. Surprisingly, they had a showroom one floor below Jdouglas in Atlanta. They are expanding to four showrooms and expressed interest in employing someone for this expansion. That has not taken place yet and another opportunity arose, but this was an example of how one thing leads to another.

During the High Point Market, Bassett Furniture, who expressed interest in an interview, contacted me. I interviewed, took a personality assessment test, and interviewed at another location with another manager. Their main concern was how could a strong design background and selling product work together. Working at Jdouglas and retail locations, in previous years, were the best assets to bring to the table and what I believe to be a contributor in getting the job. When interviewing for a Sales/Design Consultant position, be sure you can sell yourself as a confident person and let them know you can sell a product. There is a very similar correlation between residential design and being a design consultant with a company. The difference, hours are like retail.

Whatever you pursue, I suggest this. Think positively about yourself and others. Interview with confidence and take that opportunity to wow the employer. Show enthusiasm! [this was verbally expressed as a contributing factor to my employment] Do not feel like you are above taking a job that is not exactly what you expected to be doing; opportunities arise from everything if you let it. Do not be afraid to talk to people. More than likely you will not talk to them again, but if something is meant to be it will turn out to be a lasting relationship. Do not beg for jobs, but rather express interest in opportunities, you are more likely to get suggestions about other companies. DO NOT be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call, set up an appointment, or do lunch/dinner. The future is truly in your hands and I believe what you do for yourself is what will create success.

I wish each and every student success in their journey of employment. It is not easy right now, but things ARE turning around. High Point Market, for some, was the most successful it has been in 15 years. People are feeling a little more at ease, based upon their spending.

People are not going to come to you.

Now is the time : GO NETWORK!!

Graham W. Clinard

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