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It can be a real challenge to wake up every morning and head to a job that is unsatisfying, where you feel less than appreciated, and are either overworked, underpaid, or both. Sure, many of us suffered these same feelings at our high school job, but now we're adults, right?! Isn't this the time we're supposed to be doing meaningful work we actually like?

Sit back and remember the rosy-hazed days when you first started at your current job: you were excited for something new, you had a better paycheck than your last position, you were a new voice in the crowd and people listened, and you went home feeling refreshed and revitalized. If you long for those days again, it isn't too late to save yourself from the downward spiral of burnout.

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With employee engagement considered the biggest factor in job satisfaction, it's no surprise that companies who don't have a handle on it are seeing high turnover rates. Burnout is real, but it can either be seen as a hurdle or an exit sign. It's not always easy to navigate, so we're here to help.

1) Don't work overtime.

Unless you have a job where overtime is paid, don't spend any more time than you must in a place that's draining you of all motivation. If "everybody works more than 40 hours," too bad. Tell your boss you need to get a fresh outlook on things and that you hope cutting work out when it isn't necessary will help you stay focused when you're in the office.

2) Do some serious reflection.

Put some thought into what exactly has changed to make you feel burned out. Is it a problem with your boss's management style, or something that is so engrained in the company that it's unlikely to change? Or is it something a little more fixable, like a too-heavy workload, too many meetings, or catching up a new employee?

3) Talk to others.

Don't accelerate a toxic work environment by constantly airing grievances, but sniff around a little and see if maybe you aren't alone. Hearing it from others can validate your concerns and also help all of you collectively address management.

4) Be honest about all those meetings.

If you boil it down, there are very often two main types of employees: managers who scatter meetings, phone calls, administrative tasks and directives throughout their day, and creatives who require large chunks of uninterrupted time. When these two styles overlap, there is a huge disconnect, with the manager's plan usually trumping that of their team. Be honest with your supervisor – tell them that meetings put a block in the middle of your creative thinking, or that you often feel like a meeting could have been covered in an email. There's a good chance a manager just doesn't understand how detrimental a meeting can be to your creative process, so tell them!

5) Ask for a raise.

What's better, silently resenting your company for not (monetarily) appreciating you, OR asking for a raise and being pleasantly surprised? If they can't accommodate your salary increase, ask for more days off. A company will (or should) be interested in retaining employees above all else, so there may be some wiggle room in your current benefits.

6) Be clear about your goals at the company.

It's easy to assume your manager knows you plan to climb the ladder, but be crystal clear. If you have goals at the company that are known, management can better help you get there, and if you're left unsatisfied than at least feel good about the fact that you fought for yourself.

Don't get discouraged! Burnout happens to almost everyone, and with the right tools, you can better advocate for your professional self and thrive in an environment that works for you.

Posted: 4/2/2018 10:09:12 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


Picture this: you're at work. You look at the clock. Ten minutes until a meeting, and you think, Ugh, another meeting. Why do we even have these? They're such a waste of time. Walk into the meeting room, politely smile at a few colleagues, prepare to take some notes, and before you know it – "Chris, what do you think about that?" 

Cripes, you weren't even listening.

You answer the question, grab some coffee before heading back to your desk to move along with your day and again– "Hey, did you have a chance to finish up that project?"

Whoops, you completely forgot about that.

You stay until 6 because you got in a few minutes late and the office is still full, head home a to leftover dinner and sit and fondly remember days where you were practically running those meetings. You used to think this job was going somewhere, used to feel like you were conquering projects and shining in the eyes of your boss, but those days are long gone. On top of it all, you think to yourself, I don't make enough money for this. 

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Employee burnout is a real thing, and nearly half of HR leaders in the U.S. think it's the reason for almost half (46%) of annual workforce turnover. With such an obvious problem, you'd think the focus would now be on employee retention, but you'd be wrong – 97% of HR leaders planned to increase their investment in recruiting technology by 2020.

This begs the question, Is employee burnout worth addressing, or is it inevitable?

If your company employs more than a single person who is burned out, it is absolutely 100% worth addressing. In almost every case of employee burnout, it is caused by an issue with the company and not the person. So, how can you fix it?

1. Talk to your employees.

Ask them what's working for them, what isn't. If you only discuss this once a year, up the frequency and meet monthly or quarterly. Go in with an open mind and don't take anything they say personally. Remember – this is the feedback you need to make your company a better place to work

2. Pay attention to workloads.

Unloading the most work onto the most capable is, in theory, a good and reliable tactic, but in practice you're smothering the best and brightest with a heavier workload and letting the less talented skate by. Take a deeper look at who is responsible for what, keeping workloads as even as possible. There is a difference between a highly skilled overworked employee and and under-skilled and inefficient one, but the difference is small. Let your proficient team members shine and don't turn a blind eye to those who struggle from the beginning.

3. Cut down on the meetings.

Creative people only have so much juice to run on in a single day. Do you really want them to waste any of it talking to you about a schedule or answering questions about something? If you have a creative team, there's a good chance they only benefit from certain meetings– others are situations that could be solved with an email (if you see one of these mugs in your office, take a hint). Don't cut out all face-to-face chats with your people, but try not to go crazy on the conference room time. For many, meetings throw a block right in the middle of a creative and productive day.

4. Stop emailing on weekends.

You probably don't do this, right? You're in the smaller percentage of the country? Unlikely, since over half of adults in the U.S. say monitoring emails outside of the workplace is routine, with almost 70 percent of employees under 30 saying it isn't a problem. But here's the thing: it IS. In one Fortune 500 company, they found that for every hour a superior worked outside of work hours, their team worked an average of 20 minutes away from the office. So, even if you expect an email to go unanswered until Monday morning, your employees assume otherwise.

Overworked, poorly compensated employees can only go so far at a company. Extend the life of your team and nip these problems (company-wide) in the bud. Your business's future success depends on it.

Posted: 3/14/2018 12:21:57 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


Back when we were first starting out, we remember being the shoulder to lean on when an interview didn't go well. "I answered a question terribly," or "How was I supposed to know how to do [x, y, z]?" were common concerns, and we always remember thinking: they have it so easy. All they had to do was sell themselves while we creative types had to work so hard to be wanted. You can't just sell yourself in an interview, you also have to convince someone that your work and your process is worth hiring as well. As much as we'd all love to insist on our talents and have them talk to us and be reminded of the L'Oreal slogan ("because you're worth it"), we have to work a little more than others to get what we want. Selling yourself along with your skills is a fine art, one that demands some practice.

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So we have some tips to help you put your best portfolio foot forward.

1) Treat it like an actual project.

A portfolio involves pieces of information and visual components that need to be organized, just like any of your other projects. Remember that pieces compete or shine based on adjacent work, and pay attention to layout, color, thematic relationships, type of work, and chronology. There is a chance you will be asked to leave your portfolio if the hiring manager lacks sufficient time to review in person, and a portfolio should be self explanatory.

2) Discuss your role.

Unless you are a one-man design machine, it's likely you have some work included that involved a larger team. There's no shame in being one chef in the kitchen, but be prepared to talk up your role – were you part of the planning or execution? Did you participate in brainstorming sessions or tweak the final project? A team player is just as valuable as a lone wolf, so don't feel like your backseat on a project isn't worth discussing.

3) Read the room.

If you're being asked a lot about your process, show some sketches (prepared separately, or as part of your portfolio). Fielding questions about your production skills? Be sure to highlight the project that you had a hand in getting printed. Each hiring manager will be searching for different qualities in an employee, so make sure you cater your portfolio presentation to the audience, showing them exactly what they're looking for.

4) Speak up.

Prepare some words to say about projects in your portfolio, don't wait for questions to be asked or comments made. What you're saying is just as important as how you're saying it, so be confident, clear, and concise. And don't be afraid to be a little self-critical. Obviously avoid showing anything you aren't proud of, but demonstrating that you know the difference between great work and good work is useful for a hiring manager to see.

5) Let your personality shine.

Inject some of your personal humor into the presentation – your future coworkers aren't working with your portfolio, they're working with YOU. Show a bit of yourself and give them an idea of what you would bring to the team.

With these ideas under your belt, your portfolio presentation should go swimmingly. Happy job hunting!

Posted: 2/21/2018 1:29:32 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


You've put out the work, selected the strongest pieces to highlight, and have even organized it chronologically or categorically or visually. Mockups have been made, photographs have been taken, and you're looking to display projects in a way that looks cohesive and confident. You're ready to take the next step and create a portfolio website that, well... feels like "yours."
 
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Before you start stressing over the time it'll take to troubleshoot your way through creating a website, there's good news. You don't have to have web design listed on your resume to throw together a portfolio that's set to impress. There are tons of options available for every skill level. We go through them all below:
 
Cargo Collective - $13/month or $99/year
With many templates and inspired design, it's no surprise that Cargo Collective is a community that requires approval for you to have a site. Having some HTML or CSS knowledge allows you to customize your site and control how everything is displayed, but if coding isn't your forte, Cargo puts everything right at your fingertips.
 
Adobe Portfolio - Free with CC subscription
A newcomer to the field of online portfolio sites, but an established face in the creative world, Adobe presents their relatively new option for showing your work. It leads designers, artists, and photographers to a small selection of templates, complete with web hosting and fully integrated with one's Behance portfolio. The finished product is polished, straightforward, and easy to navigate, making it no surprise that we have seen a lot of success among candidates that use Adobe Portfolio!
 
Squarespace - $16/month or $144/year
If you listen to any podcasts, you've probably heard a host mention Squarespace a few times or twelve. Sleek and simple, with many templates to choose from, Squarespace knows have to give your work room to breathe. Plus, they make it easy to sell products right from your site (make that $, honey).
 
Behance - Free
Considered more of a social platform and networking site for creatives, Behance is at its core a portfolio site. It also displays jobs, comments, and offers the ability to show your creative clout with likes and follows. Being surrounded by a community of talented creators is inspiring, but even better is being vouched for by them. One downside? The free site only allows you to upload projects to their existing interface.
 
Berta - €9.99/ month
A newer site builder on the block, Berta is a startup from the minds of a few designers around the world. It's open source, the prices are reasonable, and their templates are simple, in a good way. Sometimes all you need is a somewhat-structured blank canvas to make your work shine, and Berta provides just that.
 
Posted: 1/11/2018 1:56:32 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


When you walk into a grocery store to buy cereal, how do you know what you want? You stand before a sea of boxes, fifteen different types of cornflakes, all designed differently to prove each is better than the next.

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Applying for a job is no different, except the product on the shelf is something a little more important: it's YOU. Resumes can look very similar across the board, but portfolios are the way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. How will you package yourself to look better than the rest? What does your portfolio need to stand out from the crowd?

 
Be selective...
You might be tempted to throw everything you've ever done onto a website, but keep in mind - curation of your own work is judged just as harshly as the work contained. An employer looking at your site will assume you're proud of all the work shown, so.. be proud of everything you show.
 
... but still show a variety
If you do branding, show it. UI/UX? Show it. Art Direction? Show it. The point is: a company will see you as a more valuable candidate if your skills are widespread (and strong). The jury is still out on whether it's better to include a ho-hum project just to show your capabilities in a different category, or whether it's best to omit that work and mention those skills in your resume and potential interview. We think it's best to have a strong portfolio above all else, so just because you did branding for the first time doesn't mean it's going to help your future career to include it. This goes back to our first tip: make sure every project is strong.
 
Narrow it down.
Knowing how many projects to show can be a challenge – a good rule of thumb is to choose a solid 10, and add a few more if you have really strong work or a wide range of skills. Keep it below 20 and you're in the sweet spot.
 
Physical or digital?
If you're anything but a print designer, having a digital portfolio is all that is *necessary*. When it comes time for the interview you might want to consider having either physical products to show, or a printed portfolio. It will always give off the impression of preparedness and respect for your work.
 
Order matters.
Pay attention to how a viewer flows through your work. No need to group by category, but look at colors and style and make sure there is a steady path to travel through all the pieces.
 
Shoot it.
For printed pieces, spend some time (or money) taking proper photographs. To show a digital or mobile project, include the context and demonstrate the product "in use" on a computer or phone screen. Putting in some effort to present your work professionally will make a huge difference in your perceived value.

Posted: 12/28/2017 11:23:08 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments