25 Super Smart Job Tips from Creative Pros in Springfield

March 14, 2018 | Kyle Drenon

So you wanna be a creative professional in Springfield, huh? That’s freaking awesome! We’d love to help you connect with the right people to make sure you find the job that’s right for you. Aside from joining SGFC, there are some important things to consider when you’re entering the professional world as a creative. We checked in with some of our veteran members to get some advice for people who are looking for creative work in the Queen City.


Adrienne Donica

Editor Biz417 Magazine

1- Dress the part. I know this sounds generic, but it’s especially important for young professionals at networking events. You are already going to stand out because of your age. Don’t give people another reason to second guess if you belong.

2- The only way to get better at networking is to network. Few people actually love the idea of making small talk with strangers, but it gets easier the more you do it. Bringing a co-worker along is a great way to make even more connections because chances are you will know different people than they do. Just remember your co-worker is a bridge, not a crutch. You can and should be talking to people without them.

3- Follow up with the people you meet. Don’t let the business cards you receive collect dust in a drawer at your desk. Sending a short follow-up email shows initiative and leaves a good impression. Didn’t get someone’s business card? Connect on LinkedIn and send a quick message.

4- Tell people your crazy ideas. Starting something from scratch can be daunting. Lucky for all of us, collaboration is woven into Springfield’s identity. There are people here who can and will want to help you create whatever thing you want to create.


Jarad Johnson

President at Mostly Serious

5- Stand Out. Most creative professions place an emphasis on your ability to tell stories that stand out from the crowd. After you’ve gotten in the door, trash your resume and be creative to showcase your talents and thought process. Side projects (where you’re most passionate) are great headliners when trying to stand out among your peers.

6- Own Your Problems. Don’t allow your problems to become other people’s problems. If something goes wrong—a missed error in proofing or your car broke down the day before a morning meeting—own the problem and find a solution.

7- Get Involved. One of the best aspects of living in Springfield is the strong creative community that has formed over the past decade. This is a crazy talented community—get out there, meet new people, and make cool things.


Paige Oxendine

Program Coordinator at Rosie

8- Warm up to the cold email: Sending a cold email out into the abyss can feel intimidating and sometimes even pointless. However, I’ve found the response rate (and the ‘yes’ rate, depending on what I’m asking) to be so much higher than I ever would have imagined! You’ll never know if you don’t ask, and you never get what you don’t ask for. So draft a short, clear message and go for it!

9- Zen and the art of the handwritten thank you: I am a big believer in the handwritten thank you note. They’re great as a follow-up after a particularly helpful meeting, to thank a client for allowing you to be part of a project, or anything in between. And if you really don’t have the time to write your own there are tons of great services that will produce and send them for you.

10- Make friends: Springfield has an amazing creative community, so reach out and get plugged in. These folks may have great contacts at the organization you’re trying to connect with or a lead on a great new job, plus they’re likely looking to grab a drink after work just like you.


Jessica Spencer

Director of Design at Mostly Serious

11- Find your inner unicorn. Local businesses or agencies in Springfield often have smaller teams that love finding “unicorn” job candidates—or people that have strengths in multiple areas. If you’re a writer with an eye for visual design or strength in marketing, or a designer with an illustration or photography skill set in your back pocket, be sure to call those things out clearly in your resumé and work samples and speak to your capabilities in interviews. If you find yourself as more of a one-trick pony, look for ways to expand your toolbox by taking on new challenges or learning a new skill.

12- Sweat the details. If there’s one thing that will shut down your job prospects in seconds flat, it’s a glaring typo or contextual oversight in your communications. This is a pet peeve of so many creative directors I know, whether it’s misspelling a recipient’s name, committing a copy/paste accident (with the name of the wrong businesses or recipient), or not knowing enough about the business with whom you’re engaging.

13- Make connections. One of the biggest things that Springfield Creatives has brought to the creative community is the chance to meet and rub elbows with other people in related fields. There’s so much opportunity to collaborate professionally in Springfield between writers, marketers, designers, photographers, developers and more. Making those new relationships will so often result in an opened door, new opportunity, or great client referral down the road—for you and others.

14- Shake some hands. If you’re new to the creative community and looking to learn more about a field or business, it never hurts to reach out. Find someone who is doing something you want to do, or a hiring manager at a company you admire and introduce yourself professionally. While being respectful of their time, express your interest in their field, and ask about what you can to get there. Not everyone will be able to take time to help, but no one will fault your polite initiative. These types of communications are most appropriate through LinkedIn, in person at events, or even in a well-written email.)

15- Get some experience. If you’re looking to find some real world experience in the beginning of your career, doing nonprofit work can be a great way to get started. There are a ton of community organizations that could greatly benefit from a set of creative hands, whether it’s doing actual work in your field (like designing them a poster or helping update website content) or getting actual work and team experience by contributing to a board or committee [insert Springfield Creatives committee plug here]. Helping with an organization’s creative assets can quickly help round out a portfolio, and organizational service fits perfectly on the experience section of a resumé.


Steve Popp

Owner at Popp Brand Advertising

16- Do your homework. Know how to pronounce the names of everyone you will be interviewed by. Know as much as you can about their background. This is so easy in the age of online sharing.
17- Only show your best work. An interviewer would only like to see the work you are proud of… not how much volume you have produced.
18- Bring an insight from your industry that is less than 2 days old. A new tech, app, font, news event, clients that are moving, new things to do with a slinky, etc. Thanks to reddit, blogs and other sources, you have a limitless data stream to learn from. Demonstrate that you do.
19- Listen. Mix in a few pauses to understand the conversation your interviewer is having with you. Be engaged. And if you pull your phone out, you won’t get hired.


Rachel Johnson

Director of Exhibits and Programming at the Springfield Regional Arts Council

20- My go to phrase has always been “work hard and be kind.” Every workplace will have office politics, but I have found [that] if you do what you do well, follow through when you say you’re going to, and kill ’em with kindness, you can keep most people happy and create a work environment for yourself that is very pleasant.

21- As for interviews, I always take a copy of the job description, highlight and makes notes on specific things listed that I feel like line up with my experience and skills, so that during the interview I can bring up those parallels to drive home why I would be a good fit for the job. Even if a portfolio is not expected, I have even brought a small folder with me of examples of works, plus that sheet of my own notes for personal reference and interviewing committees have never told me that that is cheating on a test or anything!


Mark Montgomery

Art Director at City of Springfield

22- From a nonprofit/government point of view, it’s important that you have a professional online identity. You will be an extension of the nonprofit, and we will choose someone who will represent us well to the citizens with whom we want to build trust. First impressions go a long way. If you provide a link to a personal blog you’ve been working on since college and the content is inappropriate, you won’t get a second look. Your personal brand online matters.

23- Nonprofits and government organizations are GREAT places for creatives to work. You get a lot of creative flexibility and are able to get your hands into all aspects of design and media. It’s not all boring brochures and presentations. It’s a lot of branding development, event marketing, and multimedia design. There is less pressure on creating mind-blowing designs and more on speed and output. You may not design the best work of your life, but you will do A LOT of it and it will matter. As a non-profit designer you have the opportunity to build the Springfield community.

24- Provide samples! A link to a PDF or website is fine. Even how you design your sample layout shows me something about how you think. Print is not dead. Show examples of print layouts and logo design from scratch. Many nonprofits still have to provide print pieces in communicating with a wide audience. If you’ve never been asked to design a logo, make one up.  I need to see how you choose fonts and the reasons behind the choice, and if you know what vector art is. Your resume is the first sample. Make it look professional and watch for spelling mistakes.

25- Be able to explain how you created a sample in your portfolio. I have to assume everything you want to show a potential boss was built from scratch. If not, tell me how resourceful you are and how you made something new out of recycled images. Did you take the photo? Did you draw the clip art? Did you create a custom brush or pallet? Or do you have a good eye to find the right element? In the nonprofit world, you have to be scrappy because you may not have a stock photo budget. Being a jack of many trades is always welcome. The agency might have titled the job “designer” but they may adjust the position to fit your strengths if they see something special. Be humble, resourceful, teachable, and flexible and you can find your place.


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