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Thank you for reading our NYIT Career Services Blog. We have moved to a new site which can be found here:
At NYIT, we are constantly working to improve our connection with alumni all over the world. NYIT’s alumni can help enhance the NYIT experience by sharing their experiences, tips, and insight that have helped many students obtain internships, jobs, or other opportunities.
When Daniel Afrahim came to NYIT, he had a different vision and goal from his current career path that included a career in animation and motion graphics. He graduated from NYIT in 2009 with a BFA in Computer Graphics.
The unemployment rate was much higher back in 2009 when Daniel graduated and he faced many challenges with his job search process. However, the experiences and skills that he acquired in order to further his career are applicable in various job climates.
I had the pleasure to talk to Daniel recently about his job search experience while he was at NYIT.
Tell me about your experience at NYIT
When I came to NYIT my vision and career goals were different than what they are now. I wanted to do animation and motion graphics. Exciting work, and I liked it a lot since I was a kid, so I enrolled at NYIT in 2006 since it was offering one of the best programs out there.
I started doing graphic and web design in 2004 and slowly learned different skills by myself while I was getting my Associate Degree from Bramson ORT College. I started working as an unpaid intern for a local design firm in that year. Then I bought a domain name called DesignbyDaniel.com for few dollars and started my freelance business. Later on, I managed to get a work-study role at the Bramson ORT College to help design the flyers and advertisements, which later on became my full time job for 3 years.
While I was at NYIT, I tried to learn as much as I could about animation, but I was also very involved with the graphic design and web design courses. I had couple of amazing teachers whom I cannot thank enough. My goal was to learn any skill I could because I wasn’t sure what was in my future.
A few months before graduation, I realized getting into the motion graphics field is very hard, especially on the east coast. Many of my friends wanted to move out west to stay in this career path. That was not an option for me; I wanted to stay here in NYC. I couldn’t find an internship in my field with the little experience I had (there weren’t many internship opportunities to begin with).. The job market in general was really bad: people were losing their jobs, the market was crashing, no one was hiring that easily, and I was graduating.
Having graphic/web design skills offered me couple of different career opportunities. So I decided to take the safe route and create a backup plan just in case motion graphics couldn’t work out.
After graduating from NYIT, I got many rejections but finally I started working at Blue Fountain Media, a very small design agency. When I first started, there were only 7-8 people there. By the time I left, it had grown to about 80 people in our NYC office with two more offices. I grew with the company and learned many new skills.
Did you use Career Services at NYIT?
I sat down with someone my senior year and had my resume reviewed and I got some good feedback on my portfolio. One of the good things about NYIT’s Career Services is that they are always available and I knew where to find them if I did need help.
When I started looking for graphic design opportunities, the job search was easier. My portfolio was good and it was a lot different than looking for work in motion graphics. My situation was also a little different from most students because I was already out and working. I wasn’t afraid of putting myself out there to get rejected and criticized.
Where do you work now?
I currently work at Fidelity Investments as a Senior Information Architect. I really like the work and the collaborative environment. I work with an amazing team. There’s a nice, personal touch at our company in the solutions and service we provide for our customers. Financial industry is very complicated and therefore the issues facing customers are complex. We take the time to find solutions that help millions of our customers do a certain task easier and faster.
Early on in my career, I worked for different agencies or as a freelancer, which was very interesting yet never had a good opportunity to try out different design solutions and find the best design possible. Now, as in-house designer with the work we’re doing, I get to really go through the entire design process, research, usability, etc. whereas in the past I just focused on one section or one specific product or service. I think this makes all the difference and you can be proud of the outcome at the end of the day.
If you could do it over again, what would you do differently in regards to the job search process?
I think it starts with academics. I would not go after computer graphics and stay in general graphic and UX design. I also would have considered staying at NYIT for a graduate degree. I think it helps a lot down the road. I am currently looking to get a masters but it will probably take me a few years–more than the two years I could have afforded while I was in the school already.
I also would have only stayed with each company for only two years. I think no matter how happy you are with the position, you need to switch jobs to gain more experiences and get new opportunities.
Plus, I would’ve become an in-house designer much sooner. Working for agencies is exciting but I think you’ll rarely get to dive deep into issues and find creative solutions.
And always negotiate your salary. There’s always room to ask for more. Do some research and learn to negotiate.
Any thoughts / advice for current students in terms of career planning?
NYC is a big city. You would be surprised as to who needs what and what opportunities are out there based on the job that you’re looking for and the skill set that you have.
You have to keep going and keep pushing. I never waited for jobs to find me. I went after many different things and worked as a freelancer to gain experience.
Networking is huge. Getting and keeping in touch with people in the industry led to more projects and referrals. Some came later around 7-8 months later but it was all because of the networking. There are so many ways to network and you need find what works for you and the industry you are interested in.
I was always out meeting people, had my portfolio online (just Google my name), and was ready to talk to someone about any opportunity.
If you have the skills, you will be able to do what’s asked of you. But also remember to practice and work on your craft. Show any of your skills in any form you can. Show you can do this better than anyone else. Show that you offer variety and are willing to learn. Show value as a team member.
When I went to interview for a position at Infor, the world’s third-largest enterprise application provider, the creative director was looking for someone who had designed for enterprise applications. I didn’t have that specific experience but that didn’t stop me from offering to redesign one of their iPad apps right in front of him. I quickly redesigned the app in Photoshop into what I felt was a more user-friendly layout. All I had to do was to apply many of the best UX practices to the app, that’s all. It took under an hour and made a lasting impression on the creative director. After couple of days, he offered me the job. I simply earned his trust based on my work and my design thinking. Later on, he told me, some people had the perfect resume, great portfolio, and work experience but couldn’t do what I did on the spot. Whether they lacked the confidence or the motivation, they couldn’t rise up to the challenge. Never back down from a challenge or an opportunity to show what you can do.
Networking remains an important component of the job search process. Like Daniel, our alumni base can share their experiences with current students. NYIT Campus Tap is a platform that provides career networking and alumni mentoring communities to help students launch their career.
If you are an NYIT alum and would like to volunteer as a mentor or seek mentorship, please email Sabrina Polidoro at email@example.com.
A lot of the guidance and counseling that we provide our students at NYIT’s Career Services comes from our own experiences and professional development.
Starting a career is like any project: a process where you will learn and grow. In a previous post, “What to Expect at Your First Job,” we shared some of our experiences and one of those included salary negotiation.
One study showed that most recent graduates are not negotiating salary at their first job.
If you’re in the middle of your first job search, know that there are websites like Payscale and Salary.com for job seekers to research salary profile databases based on location, company, and industry.
Once you have that information, you’ll be better prepared to negotiate a salary offer. Here are a few more tips to help you through the process.
Let the employer say a number first
Always let the employer provide a number first. If you say a number before they do, you run the risk of losing out what your employer is willing to offer. Remember to do your research and know your value before the interview.
You will also want to know how you will handle the situation when asked about your salary requirements. If asked, here are some responses you can provide:
(If it’s early in the interview process)
My main focus is finding a position that is a good fit for my skills and interests. I’m confident that we can come to an agreement on salary if this is a match.
I would like to learn more about this position before we discuss salary. Perhaps you can tell me what is budgeted for this position.
(If it’s the late in the interview process)
What is the hiring range for someone with my education and background for this position in your company?
(If you absolutely must provide a number first)
Based on my research, I’m looking for a salary in the $70-80,000 range. Is that in line with what you have budgeted?
The number that you have in your head will be based on the research you have done prior to the interview. Most hiring managers will be expecting you to go higher on salary requirements. Pick the top of the salary range for the position based on your research, and start from there.
Thank them for the offer
One often-overlooked aspect of negotiating is getting things off on the right foot. You don’t want to seem ungrateful or uninterested in the job. Thank them for the offer and ask for some time to think it over. Then set up a time or date to discuss after you have given their offer some consideration. Remember, an initial offer will very likely be lower than what you want so don’t take it personally, this is all just part of the process.
Prepare the counteroffer
When preparing the counteroffer, it’s important to resell yourself to the employer on why you deserve a higher salary than their initial offer. Highlight your skills, education, and experience.
If your range is $70-80,000 and you were offered $60,000, you’ll have to think of a number in between their offer and your top range that you are comfortable with in order to form a counteroffer. There are also other factors to consider with a counteroffer.
Do you have other offers on the table? This can determine how aggressive you are in negotiating if you have another offer lined up and this one doesn’t work out.
Are they considering other candidates? If you don’t accept, do they have another candidate lined up?
What are some of the benefits that are being offered? The entire offer goes beyond salary and could include flexibility in your schedule, growth, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits that could make up for a salary lower than one you originally planned.
For example, the VCU Career Services team surveyed employers regarding their views on negotiation and found that many were open to negotiating other perks.
This is a great reminder to consider the big picture and to be open-minded during negotiation.
Remember, the goal is not to end with getting the highest salary possible, but to get an offer that you will feel good about at the end of the day.
Accept or decline
When you have the final offer in hand, it basically comes down to what you want. You should be prepared to walk away if you are not comfortable with the salary that you have been offered. At the same time, your feelings about the job should take priority.
Will you be comfortable making the salary that is offered for the next 2 years?
Will you enjoy this role at this company with the people that you have met during the interview process?
Does this job have good prospects? Is it a stepping-stone to your dream job?
If you can answer those questions, then the only thing left to do is accept or decline the offer.
Be honest and clear about what you want from your potential employer and most of all, yourself.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin
Interviewing for jobs can be stressful and difficult. You’ll be asked a great deal of questions about your background, education, experience, and goals. You’ll be asked about what you know regarding the position and company. It’s always good to do your homework ahead of time so you can provide thoughtful answers during your interviews.
In order to have a successful interview, these are a few areas in which you should prepare to discuss and research before the big day.
It’s not just enough to know the company you’re interviewing with is a construction company or a marketing agency, you must also know the services they provide. Do they help clients grow their businesses? Do they offer copywriting or video production services?
Understanding the company’s services, what they offer or don’t offer, will allow you to present the skills that you can bring to a company in an effective manner.
Has the company been in the news as of late? Are they rolling out any new products? Was there a recent change in leadership? Did they just go public? Companies change all the time and by keeping up to date with news and current events, you can show your interest in the company and its success. You can search this information on a company’s site, as most will have a news page or press center.
Researching the company’s performance and work with clients can provide valuable insight on its operations and values. By looking at past case studies, testimonials, success stories, and campaigns, you will be able to offer your own thoughts on approaches, tie in your own experiences, and find ways to improve.
Once you’re hired, this insight will help you do your job as it will give you a sense of the types of work you’ll be doing with clients.
What type of environment will you be working in? Is there a formal corporate structure or is it a smaller and less formal office? Will you be expected to show up at a specific time and dress a certain way or will the office be a little loose where people come and stay late while taking breaks at the ping pong table ?
This is important to know, as only you know the environment in which you perform best. Some people need a structured organization while others work better in a looser environment. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as it’s right for you.
Some companies also stress the importance of a proper work/life balance by providing access and facilities that help their employees become more productive and live better lifestyles. Last year, Fortune examined The 15 Best Workplaces in New York that featured companies like Google, Goldman Sachs and Whole Foods for their fitness centers, workshops on balancing work and family life, and free office meals.
Person Interviewing You
When you receive the phone call or email to set up your interview, make sure you find out who you’re interviewing with. You’ll want to know the first and last name, as well as their title. Once you have this information, you can do some research on LinkedIn or the company’s website to learn more about this person’s background, role, and responsibilities. You don’t have to stalk this person on Facebook or Instagram but finding something that you both share like education, the city you’re from, or a conference or workshop that you both attended could be a good ice breaker.
Questions? Can you think of anything else to research before an interview?
This feature will be recurring with questions on career related topics, industry insight and our services. If you have a question that you would like featured on this blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask Career Services.”
I attended the all majors career fair back in the spring and I didn’t find anything I wanted in terms of jobs. What can I do to maximize my time at the next fair or event?
I often hear this from students when we ask for feedback about our events. There is plenty one can do before a career fair to get the most out of it. I advise our students to take a couple of steps in order to prepare.
Keep these steps in mind during our career fairs this year including the R:EACT Career Fair on October 26th, at our Manhattan campus.
I get nervous when I go on interviews. What should I do?
It’s normal to get nervous when you’re on an interview. You’re being asked a lot of questions about your experience and background, and there may be a lot riding on how you do. I encourage job seekers to go on as many interviews as possible as you will learn about yourself and the interview process the more you do it. It also helps to ease some of the anxiety as you gain interview experience. Other tips to keep in mind,
I submitted my resume for review and I was told one thing, but then when I met with someone else in your office, I was told something else. Why is that?
Our career advisors provide feedback based on our experience working with job seekers, employers, recruiters, and our own personal experience in the working world as well. We each have different styles on how to format a resume, write a cover letter, and approach to networking. Our style may differ but we utilize the same best practices. For example, one advisor may recommend using an objective on your resume as long as it’s clear and concise while another may want to leave it out altogether. At the end of the day, we each provide feedback that we think will best help you with the job search process.
So you’ve sent out a ton of resumes and applied for more jobs that you can count. If you’re lucky enough to land an interview, you want to be prepared for it. Here are some helpful tips to remember for your interview.
Dressing for the Interview
No matter what the attire is for the job you’re applying for, dressing professionally and conservatively for the interview is the safest way to go.
Make sure you’ve reviewed the job description along with researching the organization, product lines, and competitors. Review the company website, LinkedIn, and industry publications. Keep up to date with new products or services as well as current events and news on the company’s blog. For example, HubSpot’s blog provides marketing information that many of their customers would find valuable and utilize within their industry.
Practice with your friends, using common interview questions.. Think of examples and scenarios from previous jobs or internships that can illustrate your experience, skills, and strengths to the person interviewing you.
You will be asked a lot of questions about your resume, experience, and goals during the interview. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions.
The interview is an opportunity for you and the employer to find out more about each other, and if this will be a good fit. Here are some examples of questions you should ask and some you should not ask:
Always, always, always follow up on the interview and send a thank you note. This is one of the most crucial elements to an interview and sometimes the most forgotten. Hiring managers interview many applicants and you want to thank them for their time and the opportunity to interview.
The best way to send a thank you note is via email and within 24 hours of the interview while you’re still fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Something brief that thanks them for their time, recapping a particular subject or topic during the interview, and reconfirming next steps or the interview timeline if it was discussed.
Questions? Comments? Do you have any tips for job interviews?
One common question that we get when meeting with students is, “How am I supposed to get a job without experience, when every company requires that I have experience in my field?” It’s a frustrating dilemma that can discourage people from finding that perfect job.
The job search process can be intimidating, but finding the right job without experience is not impossible. Here are a few tips to gaining job experience before you land a job.
Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door with any company. 50% of NYIT interns are offered full-time positions upon graduation. Whether the internship is paid or unpaid, interns have the opportunity to show their skills and establish a foundation for their career.
For companies, offering internships is a great way to evaluate potential employees at little (or no) cost. It allows them to familiarize young talent with their business, services, and organization while determining if they want to offer them full-time positions.
The Vault is a notable resource for finding some of the best internships out there. They surveyed current and former interns about their internship experience and were able to produce the Vault’s 50 Best Internships for 2017 report last year.
As a volunteer, you would be working without being paid and…wait, so what’s the difference between an intern and a volunteer?
An internship can be something you choose to do to develop the skills and experience in a specific profession. As a volunteer, you can also do that, but it’s more about contributing to a cause. For example, you may volunteer your skills as a graphic designer with a non-profit organization but may also be asked to help with an event or with conducting outreach. Volunteers typically help out wherever they are needed even if it is outside of their specified role.
Volunteering is still valuable and relevant experience that can provide you with great networking opportunities, even if the organization is not directly related to your industry. Idealist is a great resource for searching nonprofit and volunteering opportunities.
Networking is one of the most important skills in finding career opportunities. In 2016, Lou Adler, CEO of a consulting and training firm specializing in hiring, conducted a survey that revealed 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.
That figure is significant and emphasizes how critical effective networking can be, especially when you consider how much time is spent on searching for jobs, applying, and interviewing.
Students often ask, “Where and how can I improve my network?” Networking goes beyond asking for someone’s business card. It’s about making connections and building relationships.
You can build your network by:
Networking is free, takes hard work and communication, and enables you to build a community that can lead to future opportunities.
Consider giving yourself experience by working on your own. Freelancing is great for a variety of reasons. It allows you to earn money while you seek full-time employment, and you can always continue freelancing for extra money once you find full-time employment.
So where do you start?
First, decide on what viable skills you have, whether it’s in your field of study or a talent outside of your major area of focus.
Second, compile a portfolio or basic website to market your skills.
Third, start looking for clients.
But isn’t that the same as finding an internship or volunteer work?
The answer is yes and no. You may have to work for little or no money in order to gain this experience and build your client base. But remember, experience is the most important thing. As your portfolio expands, you’ll be able to pitch your freelance services at your desired rate based on experience and client testimonials.