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How to get your creative career started

Creative positions such as graphic designer, writer and Web designer may seem like unattainable dream jobs, and jumping into the creative professional world can seem intimidating. However, these jobs are attainable. If you're interested in pursuing a creative job but aren't sure where to start, here are some tips to help you get organized and begin your search:

Create a portfolio
Having a digital portfolio is essential for creative individuals. Not only is it a great tool to keep your work organized and easily accessible, but it makes it easier to show your work to potential employers. Including a link to your portfolio in your cover letter and résumé is more secure and professional than including attachments for the hiring manager to download. Check out free websites such as Coroflot or Behance to start organizing your work.

Know and use industry terms
Whether you're formally trained or self-taught, it's important to be comfortable using industry terms for your work. If you're a designer, you should be familiar with popular software programs, in case the company you're interested in uses a different one than you. If you want to write for a living, learn about the different writing positions for which companies hire. Most creative jobs also require working knowledge of Internet publishing, an important subject area to research.

Develop a personal brand
Just as creative individuals help a business develop a company identity and share it with the public, creative professionals can also establish their own personal brand. Decide what professional identity you want, what direction you want your career to go in and any special focus or concentration you want to pursue. This step may be a lot of work, but it can also be fun, especially when customizing your résumé, business cards, social media profiles and portfolio to match your brand.

Use social media as a career tool
Social media are a great resource for networking and staying involved with your industry. You can share your creative work with your social-media community and participate in industry conversations. Take advantage of the resources available to creative workers and use the tools to their full potential.

Treat volunteer opportunities like entry-level gigs
If you're new to your field and don't have much experience, you can expand your portfolio and add to your résumé by doing free creative work for local nonprofits. Reach out to local businesses, and include your portfolio and a project pitch. Offer to create or redesign their website, write and publish a newsletter, photograph and create videos of an event or help with publicity. These businesses will appreciate the complimentary services, and your portfolio will continue to grow.

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