Written by Sydney Seifried

As Career Fair looms closer, we thought it best to start off our new Alumni Spotlight with an Alumna who landed her first job there.

Meet Gabby Manotoc, a self-expressed crazy dog mom, and design aficionado.

She graduated SCAD in Spring 2015 with a B.F.A in Graphic Design.

We asked her a few questions to help you prepare:

What were some of the best resources you had at SCAD before entering the ‘real’ world? 

Honestly, the classroom is one of the best resources you have. Everything else, like books and websites you can find anywhere else. But what made SCAD so integral to my career is the learning environment.

You may think that 2–3 projects in 10 weeks per class is stressful, but compared to a real job it’s very easy. Often times, I’ve had to juggle 2–3 projects in a week. On top of that, you have to deal with office politics, getting approval from other people, waiting on your co-workers to send you information you need to start and clients who keep changing their mind every few hours. Don’t forget that the stakes are higher too, you need to work to put food on the table and keep the heat running.

photo via scad.edu

How important was Career Fair to you?

Career fair was extremely important to me. I started volunteering in sophomore year, and then went as a prospective hire in my junior and senior year. I’m glad I went as early as sophomore year because I scoped out the scene and was extra prepared for the years that followed. I knew exactly how to manage the long lines and observed students who did well (as well as those who didn’t).

Then in my junior year, I actually even went to the online career fair they had in Fall quarter. From this, I got my internship at Time Inc. in New York. Then, in senior year, when I went again, I earned my first job. I was offered a full-time position at R/GA New York, as early as the first week of April. It was a great feeling to have a plan in motion before graduation.

When it comes to the portfolio, Manotoc had a few pointers to help put you ahead.

Procrastinating is the worst thing you could do. Prepare early, it’s as simple as that. You have summer and you have winter break. If you’re vegetating for 7 weeks during winter break, you should rethink about how serious you are about wanting a job after college.

I bought a website domain as early as sophomore year and worked on it consistently. By the time career fair was a few weeks away, it was just a matter of updating and tweaking a few things, rather than doing a lot of all-nighters. The extra sleep was a major factor in interviewing well during the career fair.

One of the biggest things that’s helped me be so prepared is to accept that my portfolio is never going to “feel finished.” It’s important to get over yourself and just work on it. It takes a lot of organizing and planning, but it’s definitely possible. Write down all the steps you need to do and create a timeline for yourself. List down all the projects you want to publish, and every thing within those projects you still need to tweak. Make sure you keep on top of your file management because it helps you in the long-term when keeping your portfolio up to date.

How often does your portfolio evolve and update?

When I was in school I would update it after every project I did that I thought was portfolio-worthy. Your professors are a good resource when deciding if a project has legs. During the breaks between quarters, I would go and edit the projects I just finished to make them better.

Now that I’m in the professional world, I make sure to update it every month (or at least, go in and check to make sure everything is up to date). There’s always something you miss, even if it’s as simple as aligning a paragraph for a brochure you did six months ago or updating a typo in your resumé. You never know when a good opportunity is around the corner and you need to send in a website link as soon as possible.

You’ve gone to career fair and prepped your portfolio, now you’re awaiting the interview.

How was it from waiting outside the room to walking out of there?

You’re obviously more exhausted when walking out. I wasn’t nervous while waiting because, again, I was very prepared. I had a prioritized list of companies I wanted to see, a portfolio app I made myself and a printed one as back up. My business cards were paper clipped to my resumé so I wouldn’t be fumbling around.

photo via scad.edu

Waiting outside is a good time to study the map of the booths and formulate a plan. You waste a lot of time and energy walking back and forth across the room like a headless chicken.

What kind of questions did they ask you?

For international students, like myself, do your research. If a company doesn’t sponsor a work visa, then you’re wasting their time even asking.

The trick is to pre-empt the basic questions, such as, “Are you looking for an internship or a full-time position,” “Which of our offices are you most interested in,” “What type of work are you interested in,”“Why do you want to work for us,” and “When are you available?” By doing this, you give them more time to ask you questions that will make them remember you.

Sometimes, they ask specific questions about a project or about something on your resumé.

Did you mention or discuss any experiences you had at SCAD in your interview?

Yes, taking part in a few CLCs showed them I had client experience; while filling several leadership roles at SCAD showed them that I knew how to collaborate with people, and make decisions when I needed to. I did a lot of extracurriculars while at SCAD, and a lot of interviewers were impressed with my time management and organization skills. My intention was to show them I would be a useful asset, without them feeling like they’d have to take a chance when I say, “I’m an organized and collaborative designer.” I had hard proof that I was.

It’s important to keep in mind that your soft skills are just as useful as your hard skills. Yes, you may create the most beautiful work, but if you can’t meet a deadline, multi-task, stick to a budget or work with other people, then any job you have won’t last long.

Are there any skills you’ve honed or realized have been invaluable to you in your jobs after SCAD?

This isn’t a skill per se, but it’s a big realization for me.

Before I graduated, a lot of people told me that you needed connections to get into big companies. However, every job and internship I’ve ever done came out of cold emails and online applications. This doesn’t mean I didn’t ask people I knew to drop my resumé at the top of a recruiter’s pile, though.

I’ve noticed that people who think that connections are everything, tend to just go where the connections take them. If that path is perfectly aligned with what you want, then good for you, but don’t make it deter you from applying to places you find interesting, especially when you’re at the stage in your career where you’re figuring out what you want.

It’s always going to be scary to apply for jobs, but the worst someone can do is say “no.” And for the rest of our lives, we have to be used to hearing that and then proving that person wrong.