Industry artists stress networking, share career experiences during Comm Week

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Bill Thompson, principal partner and photographer for Pencilbox Studios speaks to students in a panel discussion about ‘Starting a Career in the Creative Industries. photo By Christa connelly/Daily Titan Photo Editor

Students and faculty, as well as a few curious others wandering around campus for Comm. Week, were made privy to the highs, lows and misconceptions of a career in communications – design and photography specifically – Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Gabrielino room of the Titan Student Union.

“Starting a Career in the Creative Industries” was presented by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Orange County and hosted by the Cal State Fullerton Creative Industries Club. Several industry experts offered advice and perspective during the hour-long question and answer session.

Bridget Soden, principal and creative director for Creative Vortex and AIGA OC, and president of Creative Vortex and AIGA; Daniel Wayland, senior manager of Graphics and Marketing Communications for Broadcom and Bill Thompson, principal and photographer of Pencilbox Studios fielded questions ranging from how to put together a portfolio to what their paychecks looked like.

“I think that the stuff about the job searching and getting a portfolio together kind of helped me think of what I can start getting together,” said 26-year-old public relations major Jamie Baker.

From beginning to end, one consistent theme seemed to present itself in both the discussion and answers of the panel.

“Networking,” Soden said, when asked how she broke into the industry. “Having a positive attitude and being able and willing to put in the effort.”

When asked what they might change looking back on their careers, the word echoed.

“Networking,” Thompson said.

“I’m not even kidding when I say that’s a big one for me too,” Wayland said. “I would’ve taken more business classes.”

The graphic design industry is something Wayland referred to as “the intersection of art and business,” stating that once he learned the skills of dealing with corporate decision makers as well networking, his creativity lent itself to a career.

Another unanimous point among the panel was that dealing with the “suits” doesn’t come without its share of frustration.

This particular point of contention surfaced when the trio was asked what they loved or hated about their industry.

“I hate the fact that people discount something that they can’t do,” Wayland said. “The unspoken narrative is, ‘I don’t know how to do what you do, but it shouldn’t take you very long.’ I hate that. ‘$40 should cover it, right? You artists don’t need to live. That’s a lot of Top Ramen!’”

Soden, a self-proclaimed optimist living in a world where “the sky is hot pink and everything is polka dots,” chose to speak to the opposite end of the question.

“I love the diversity,” she said. “No day is ever the same as the day before or the day after.”

“What I love is really more selfish,” Thompson said. “I really enjoy having a good time.”

Soden agreed, stating that she doesn’t even listen to negative music and spoke of the importance of finding a balance.

This, they agreed, is not an industry of nine to five hours.

“All the time,” Wayland said when asked how much time he devotes to work.

But it would appear the effort in certain cases is not without reward.

After touching on the sensitive subject of salaries, and consistent six-figure salaries were dropped – “I’m not drinking champagne every night,” Thompson said. “But I’m not eating macaroni, either.” – the discouraging starving-artist stigma was laid to rest.

“I don’t ever answer the question of how much money I make,” he said. “But I live a comfortable life. I have a friend in finance … I’m doing better than he is.”

Perhaps inevitably, the economy was on the table.

“I have an interesting take on a recession,” Wayland said. “I think a recession is shaking a tree to make all the dead branches fall off.”

“I also think recessions are exactly what you want,” he said, pointing out that there is still work to be done if not the usual amount of compensation available, availing new opportunities to those with the skills attempting to break into the industry and willing to work for less.

Wayland went on to conclude the discussion by once again focusing on the importance of networking.

He recounted that his first “real” job came from a phone call asking him to interview for a position he had never even applied for.

“I’m not necessarily creative,” said Adrienne Voltaggio, a 21 year-old advertising major on her way out of Gabrielino. “But it was interesting listening to them because my job will be working with creatives so hearing form their aspect of how they feel underappreciated in their work and that kind of thing was interesting for me because now I know interacting with them I might have to appreciatethem more than I think that I would have.”

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