Music to My Ears

by Maggie Mullikin, coordinator of graduate outreach and special programs &  Karen Hartshorn, ’10

I know this blog is not about me but, I must say, I love my job.  I get to work with talented, hardworking people, both colleagues and students, I learn something new everyday, and when I travel to promote our programs I am able to connect with our recent graduates, hear about their achievements and then turn around and relay their success stories.  While in NYC last month, attending the College Media Advisors’ Convention, I met with three former students from our inaguaral class of 2010.  They are each living and working in Manhattan.  Karen Hartshorn is one of the people I met with and she is an Assistant Art Director, Web at Redcats USA.

This is how Karen describes her job.
“I work for, a plus size clothing brand owned by Redcats USA.  Roaman’s is a web and catalog company (no stores).  I am in charge of all web related designs (emails, website refreshes, affiliate creatives, social media creatives).  I do not do any coding at my current job; that is an entirely different department. Instead, I give direction on the website design (user interface, functional design) and make sure all creatives are up to date with a fresh feel.  Even though I work for the web side of the brand, I have to have a great understanding of the print side, because the catalogs are produced much further in advance than online creatives, so I have to make sure that there are consistencies between the two.  When a customer shops in the catalog and then goes online, the website must “feel” like the catalog (but with a more updated look).  It’s very important to enhance parallels between all platforms (catalog, website, Facebook, blogs), but it is also very difficult to stay so consistent!  A fun aspect of my job is being able to create interactive style guides and fit guides.”

The most positive feedback I receive from blog readers is, almost always, the answer to this question.  How did the iMedia program prepare you for your job?
“The iMedia program is presented as a degree that will teach you both production and theory in order to be a well rounded designer and a new media thinker.  The theory component is an extremely valuable skill to learn that most junior level designers do not embrace.  Many designers will design in a vacuum, trying to meet deadlines and crank out projects with little attention to the quality and substance of their work (the bigger picture).  Since the iMedia program has a heavy focus on theory, you learn not only how to produce new media, but you learn why you are producing the content you are creating, for which audiences and for which reasons.  If you don’t know the theory, you’re not going to make the right decisions during the different stages of production.  The iMedia program intends to produce well rounded designers and new media thinkers who understand all aspects of the design process.  There are so many good designers in the workforce right now that you have to bring something “fresh” to the table.  The theory component of the iMedia program will allow you to stand out to employers as a valuable commodity.  Social media platforms, design software, and all other forms of Internet communications are constantly changing, and it’s understood that you have to keep up to date with these changes (and if you don’t, you are hurting yourself).  It’s becoming impossible to master one program or one platform before it becomes obsolete or a new version is introduced, changing the rules of what you once thought you had mastered.  The iMedia program prepares you for this kind of planned obsolescence.  iMedia teaches you to be a well rounded thinker with supplemental knowledge of how all new media platforms work and function.  Then it is up to you to maintain that knowledge.  A well rounded new media thinker with strong knowledge of technology can be a more valuable asset to a company than an employee who has mastered only one or two Internet platforms.  A well rounded new media thinker will be able to adapt to emerging markets and trends, while still having a strong grasp on all technologies. I believe that the iMedia program has the capability to produce really valuable producers and project managers, the type of employee that can manage other employees doing the “dirty work”.  For example, an iMedia graduate knows how to use the Adobe Suite programs (and can use them well), but their theory background and new media thinking mindset makes them better suited to be the leaders of projects who then delegate tasks to designers and other junior level employees.”

Karen’s words of wisdom….
“You might be sick of this word, but NETWORKING is how you are going to find your job.  And to be honest, the best you might get is a paid internship (do NOT settle for less though!).  It seems like companies today don’t care how many internships you have had in the past.  They want you to have an internship with THEM before they will consider hiring you (if you haven’t had a job prior to graduate school).  Having a graduate degree on your resume is a strong plus, but it’s not enough.  You MUST be able to perform, and the people you network with have every right to know if you are telling them the truth or not about what you are capable of.  There is nothing scarier than promising that you can perform and then not performing, because your failure will also be reflected on your network, and that is embarrassing for both parties.
Once you get your internship or job, continue to network within your company.  I began as a web design intern for my company, and I made it a priority to familiarize myself with every employee and to learn what each person’s title was.  Once I learned who everyone was, I was able to establish relationships and then build on them.  I saw a lot of interns going in and out of my company, never meeting anyone new.  Because I made such strong connections, and because people knew what I was capable of and that I was a good fit for the company, I was able to secure myself a position on the creative design team.  Do not lose out on the FREE AND EASY opportunity of networking when you land your first job!  And my belief is that ESPECIALLY if they are paying you poorly, you have every right to make the most of your experience there!  You are working for your company and they should in return “work” for you. Internships are not guaranteed to become jobs, so make sure that you are getting the most out of them before you might be required to look for the next move!”

Karen has always had a way with words and these words, in particular, are music to my ears.


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