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RESEARCHING THE MARKETPLACE

Before you initiate the actual application process, you need to know what’s out
there in your field. As a basic starting point, check out www.bls.gov, the Web site
for the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are some
factoids that may surprise you about the profession you’re entering:
Graphic designers held about 228,000 jobs in 2004. About 7 out of 10 were
wage and salary designers . . . About 3 out of 10 designers were self-employed.
Many did freelance work—full time or part time—in addition
to holding a salaried job in design or in another occupation.
Okay, how about the really important thing, M-O-N-E-Y? What light does
the Bureau of Labor Statistics have to shed on this important topic? (Their figures
are based on the American Institute of Graphic Arts 2005 study.)
Entry-level designers earned a median salary of $32,000 in 2005, while
staff-level graphic designers earned $42,500. Senior designers, who may
supervise junior staff or have some decision-making authority that reflects
their knowledge of graphic design, earned $56,000. Solo designers, who
freelanced or worked under contract to another company, reported median
earnings of $60,000.
Keep in mind these figures depend greatly on many factors, such as the
economy, geographic location, skill level, and, sometimes, just plain old luck. If
you’re a soon-to-be graduate or a degree holder who is still near campus, a good
place to dig deeper and inform yourself about your options is by visiting the college
career center. Many offer services that will help you prepare your resumé,
brush up on your interviewing skills, or search job postings. Often you’ll find
these services are free or available for a nominal fee.
By the way, if you’re interested in moving from one position to another, it
never hurts to ask if these same placement services are available to former graduates
as well.
Having stuck your toe in the job waters, next you’ll probably go online to
read job postings. Some common sites for design majors are: www.uptuto.com
Design periodicals also contain a wealth of information to aid you in
tracking down job postings. Make a date on your calendar to regularly review
publications you already receive and/or visit the library to read the most recent
issues or online versions. Browse through the following:
• The Graphic Artist’s Guild Directory of Illustration
• Creative Black Book
• American Illustration Showcase
• The Society of Illustrators
• The Alternative Pick
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A fourth stop on your job search is your local public library, which contains
a wealth of information. Libraries often carry newspapers from major cities or
can direct you to other resources (such as professional directories, associations,
trade journals, or phone books). If your research skills are shaky or nonexistent,
spend an hour with a reference librarian, who can help walk you through computerized
searches.
Another place for job-hunters is a visit to often-overlooked branches of the
regional, state, or federal employment office. Working with the employment
specialists at these places entitles you to access specialized databases, plus get
other benefits, such as free use of computers, phones, fax machines and copiers.
Some will even provide on-site interview rooms or allow you to use designated
office space while conducting your job search. Typically, they also have a slew of
books and videotapes on resumé preparation, interviewing, and other careerrelated
issues; in some cases, these are digitized so you can have access around
the clock.
At the “research” stage of your job search, you’re looking to inform yourself
about what positions are out there that you might qualify for, what skills and
abilities employers are looking for, and what the going rate of pay is. Make note
of key words or phrases that crop up in ads, and jot down unfamiliar terms or
job titles to look up later. Surf the Web sites of prospective employers, taking
note of recent press releases, awards, or client lists.
While you’re at the library or career center, you can look up and make
copies of other designers’ resumés. Studying them can help you to identify
words, phrases, or terms that you can legitimately apply when you describe your
own qualifications.