I always thought acquiring a college degree would make job searching less grueling. Apparently not in this economy, and certainly not for a nontraditional artist. Despite earning a degree in art with an emphasis in digital media, it was very difficult putting myself out there. I had no experience, nor did I know where to start.

Staffing Agency Bias

I was initially against going through a staffing agency to find a job. I thought I could just do it myself. Then four months passed before I was hired for a temporary role.

Two months later, I was again jobless and stressed. Applying for multiple jobs through craigslist and company websites gave rise to no leads. I then decided to put my résumé up on Monster. I felt I had hit rock bottom.

But it paid off. Recruiters from several staffing agencies contacted me, but none were for positions I was interested in. A week later, however, I received an email from a staffing agency for an opportunity with a large corporation. I was hesitant to respond as I’d never heard of that particular staffing agency and questioned its legitimacy. But I was intrigued by the email and wanted to know more about the position. The staffing firm was very quick to respond to my queries and I got an interview with the agency the following day.

During my interview at the client site, I learned the position itself did not involve much graphic design work, but they were looking for graphic designers because of the skills we possess, such as being detail-oriented and having an eye for design. It was also a contract position, but I took it.

The Contract Experience

I’m glad I did. Three months in, I became one of the leaders within the team working on the project. Even though my position is not directly related to graphic design, I am able to work directly with some of the client’s top UI/UX developers on a tool — something that will definitely enhance my résumé. How did I get here? I have to thank the staffing firm that reached out to me.

Sure, there are issues. For starters, my recruiter made no effort to answer questions or respond to emails after I started. It would be really helpful to potential applicants and new temporary workers to know the lay of the land. A recruiter’s job shouldn’t stop when the placement is made. Fortunately, the client’s hiring manager truly cares about what we are able to get out of this job to put on our résumés. That’s what I call a great manager. Anything that we workers find interest in and would possibly want to build for our résumé, he will try to find projects in relation to it.

What I’ve learned from this experience — and what I hope others can learn from as well — is to put yourself out there and take chances. If you end up not liking where you are at, just say no. And don’t be afraid to give staffing firms a shot. Keep trying to build on opportunities that you are given. Even if it is a contract position, the experience from an assignment can build your résumé. Same goes for jobs outside your chosen career. To nurture my design side, I took up a volunteer position that helps me apply my design skills. And I work fulltime at the client company building my résumé.

Always take pride in everything that you do even if it is a volunteer position. When you put forth your best work, it shows that you are a hard worker even if you are not being paid, and in the end, what comes out of it can be so much more than you had hoped for. You can be proud of your work and others will as well. And it could lead a to a great job as it did for me.