The work will speak for you when you can’t.

In 1989 I was a design student and graduating soon. The internet wasn’t a thing and the day I rolled out of college they were rolling in macs, literally. We scoured the OC Register newspaper ads for jobs and there were probably two.

With portfolio in hand I found a printer down the street with a design agency on the top floor looking for someone. I was a quiet kid, an outlier as it turns out, so my selling skills were severely lacking. Throw in a ton nerves and you have one rattled student walking into a business for the first time looking for input on his life’s work.

I remember it perfectly. I walked in and said, “bleebed-bop-errr-booboo-bop” at least that is what I remember. All speech had left me and with tail between my legs I left the portfolio with three folks in the lobby. I was devastated. How could I have blown this opportunity? They must have had a great laugh.

An hour later I got a call asking if I wanted a job.

You see, my work spoke for me when I couldn’t. I didn’t have a lot going for me back then so I worked hard on my portfolio. Bumbling through a sentence did not keep the art director from seeing something in the work.

My message to students is the very same. I have literally seen students get jobs or internships from other states because of their work. One of our students won best-of-show and was handed two business cards on the way back to her seat after receiving the trophy. Ad guys are not dumb. They wanted to snag her while she was cheap and could be trained in their ways. She did not have to sell herself— the work did it.

Talent is the currency of the creative industries these days not experience. Experience will come but talent, raw talent, is gold. Mix in work ethic, maybe a chip-on-the-shoulder, and some vision then you have a rock star. But it starts with the work. So dig in.

Your work will literally enter the room before you. It will speak volumes of you who are. Those who know what to look for will see it every time.

Thanks for reading.

Michael Berger, MFA is program director for the award-winning Graphic Design + Visual Experience program at CBU, design director at Harvest with Greg Laurie, and owner of mbdx creative.

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