Designing your resume, portfolio and career in communication design

The Careers in Communication Design alumni and friends panel, hosted virtually on Oct. 19, offered students insight into professional design careers.

The Careers in Communication Design alumni and friends panel, virtually presented by the Student Professional Development Center and the School of Communications, provided valuable insights on Oct. 19 about resumes, portfolios and careers in the communication design industry.

A digital flyer promoting the Careers in Communication Design alumni and friends panel, which included Elon alumni Caroline Matthews ’10, Lucas Lovett ’12, G’14 and Corey Mitchell ’16, as well as Sierra Piland.

Panelists included Elon alumni Caroline Matthews ’10, Lucas Lovett ’12, G’14 and Corey Mitchell ’16, as well as Sierra Piland, daughter of Randy Piland, chair of the Communication Design Department.

For Matthews and Lovett, communication design was not an academic major during their time at Elon they explained to the online audience. Instead, Matthews graduated with degrees in journalism and public relations, while Lovett studied strategic communications and art, and completed the iMedia master’s program in 2014.

Getting into communication design was not originally Lovett’s plan, and he initially wanted to be a biomedical engineer. Yet his interest in design changed his course. Despite not being enrolled in a degree program for design, Lovett created early versions of the Elon In Los Angeles and Elon in New York graphics, and now works as a video editor and motion graphics designer for Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

“I’m curious about a lot of subjects. I played music. I played sports. Anything I wanted to do, Elon had it,” Lovett said. “All of those interests and my level of curiosity fed into design.”

A look at the panelists and attendees of the Oct. 19 panel. Ross Wade (top left), senior associate director of career services, helped facilitate the online conversation.

Matthews said that her involvement in different organizations while at Elon, such as the Colonnades literary magazine, The Pendulum and PRSSA, were great real-world experiences that she brought to her internships and professional career. Today, Matthews works as a project manager in design operations at CNN, where she originally started in the newsroom designing graphics and illustrations.

A digital content analyst at Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Mitchell got into design by chance. The former football player was originally studying computer science when the communication design major was introduced at Elon. Mitchell explained that the biggest reason he chose to switch to communication design was the opportunity to build brands from scratch.

“Somebody comes to you saying, ‘Hey, I have this business,’ and you take their vision, and put in on paper and put it out there for the world to consume and interact with,” Mitchell said. “I love doing that.”

A senior designer at Tom Ford Beauty, Piland was encouraged by her father to study what she was most interested in – design and media studies. That led her to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and eventually to creative positions in Nashville and now New York.

Students asked the panelists about resumes and portfolios, as well as key components to job searching and planning for a career. Regarding resumes, Mitchell told students that he has had success with a creatively designed resume, an option some communications design students should pursue.

“Obviously everyone’s different, but as the designer, you’re trying to get a creative job,” Mitchell said. “If your resume doesn’t show me the first piece of design you can offer me, you’re just selling yourself short because … that’s the way to catch their eye, to show off your talent already.”

Matthews said adding to a resume the software a student understands can be helpful and can better highlight an applicant’s skills to an employer. Adding in skills and interests, such as Matthews’ love for marathon swimming, are ways to start a conversation during an interview, as well.

“I had a fifth-round interview with NBC … and they talked to me about marathon swimming for half of the interview,” Matthews said. “That was awesome because I was freaking out, very nervous to speak to them, and then I got to talk about something I absolutely cherish.”

In addition to keeping a resume up to date and personal, panelists recommended doing the same for a portfolio. Whether it is an online portfolio, a website or another medium, Piland told students to choose a platform they are comfortable with, which will allow them to update it easily, and often.

“Definitely include anything that might make you stand out, even a personal project or a little experiment that might help you stand out when they’re looking at other applicants,” Piland said.