Interview the Expert: Lucy Cheatham

This week I was given an amazing opportunity to interview one of the masterminds behind Grand Central. Grad Central specializes in the recruitment of graduates and provides a dedicated service for creative businesses. Lucy Cheatham of Grad Central talks about her role within the company and some of their latest success stories. If you are a designer you cannot afford not to read this informative interview which is jam-packed with useful tips and ideas on how to win your next job as a creative professional. Could you please start by telling us a little bit about yourself and Grad Central?

I am the marketing director for Grad Central, a graduate recruitment specialist dedicated to helping young talent in the West Midlands to land their dream job. We help both graduates fresh out of university looking to get their foot on the career ladder, as well as those with a number of years of experience under their belt looking to take the next step in their career path or a change in direction. We have a dedicated team on hand to help graduates every step of the way when searching for a job.

Anything from sprucing up your CV to advice on the best interview techniques. We aim to take the pressure off graduates on the lookout for a job by searching through the most suitable vacancies on offer in the region. We also provide a service for creative businesses who are looking to expand on their existing workforces and find the best in graduate talent, completely free of charge. Grad Central has helped loads of creative individuals find suitable employment, is there any advice you could give on writing a winning CV? Your CV is your chance to shine when it comes to showing employers that you have what it takes. Highlight your achievements so that they stand out from the page and make sure you relate your experience and skills back to the requirements of the role.

The obvious tips when writing CVs are making sure you check your spelling and grammar throughout, as well as keeping it snappy and to the point with all your relevant creative skills, education, and experience, usually with bullet points or short sentences. No employer will have the time to trawl through pages of information unnecessarily I’d also advise being mindful of including in your CV keywords and phrases that prospective employers will be looking for, whether that is personal qualities or specific technical and creative skills. Professional recruiters and employers are using more and more online and database-driven

candidate search tools to match the right candidate to jobs, so getting your keywords right is really ‘key’! Also, one final piece of advice is don’t think that one CV fits all jobs, be prepared to do your homework on a company and the role and really highlight your skills and experience that fit what that company is looking for. Don’t try and be overly creative with your CV, remember it’s a factual document and not a license to showcase how many funky fonts and images you can use.

Would you advise a designer to include any of their portfolios with their CV? There is no right way to go about this as it differs for each company. However, we would suggest that you keep your CV and portfolio separate. Yes, it’s always a good way to send employers a ‘taster’ of your work when submitting a job application, but those applicants who take their portfolio to an interview get the opportunity to explain the thought processes behind their work face-to-face with the employer, who will be the one potentially giving you a job. Approaches to portfolios have changed over the years and more graduates are trying to catch the eye of the employer in unusual ways. No matter what way you go about this, aim to get into the mindset of those working in the company so that employers will know that you understand their needs.

I remember as a graphic design student, even trying to gain voluntary work in a design studio was a hard task. Can you give any advice to the younger generation who may be trying to gain some experience? Finding work experience is tough and often comes with the bugbear of being unpaid. One thing we are seeing more creative graduates doing if they can’t afford to do this is to use the Internet to their advantage. Blogs are a great way for graduates keen to showcase their talents completely free of charge and talk with like-minded individuals about the latest goings on in the creative industry.

Keeping it up-to-date with regular blog posts and discussions means a high level of dedication, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you have taken the initiative to keep ahead of the game, despite any budget constraints you may have. Some graduates have been known to make a name for themselves with their own blogs and have gone on to produce similar ones for their employers. Can you tell us a bit more about “Talking CV” and what are the success rates when using this style of CV?

Talking CV is an ingenious online tool that allows you to upload a short video of yourself explaining your career expectations, skills, experience, and what you can offer businesses as potential employees. It’s a great way for you to express yourself and put across your personality, that way employers can get a real idea of your passion and determination in your craft. Lots of graduates have also said that using Talking CV gave them a confidence boost. Having the guts to record yourself on camera is a real challenge in itself, but graduates who have done this have said that they feel more prepared when it comes to getting an interview. We have seen a rising number of employers keen to interview graduates who have used Talking CV as part of their application. It doesn’t mean that those sticking to the traditional paper format will lose out on the best jobs,

however, it does give you a better chance to impress more employers. In your experience, what do you believe employers are really looking for in a creative professional? The creative industry is ever-changing and can take you down so many different routes as a graduate. As a whole, we know that employers are on the lookout for a few general characteristics when hiring a creative professional. They want someone who is naturally creative, who doesn’t have to force any ideas, and who can think on their own two feet. They also need a certain innovation behind their work, something that is really going to ‘wow’ employers and get them excited.

Creatives also should let their personality shine through their work and illustrate their individual talents as best as they can. A final note of caution though – whilst employers are looking for evidence of individual creative talent and confidence in your own ideas, it’s also essential to remember that as a designer working in commerce, you’re

going to need to be able to communicate your ideas well. You will have to take on a brief and really deliver against a client’s needs, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the requirements; you need to be able to work within the limitations and parameters of the budget. And finally, be prepared at times to have your ideas rejected, challenged, or tweaked to meet a client’s individual needs or requirements. Resilience and flexibility are often key traits to have in your portfolio if you really want to succeed in your creative career!

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