There is one thing Isabella, Kendra and I all have in common. We’re all connected through Nikky Lyle, who placed us perfectly here at Chapter, so we have her to thank for being here today! You may have read about her when we interviewed her about how she’s bringing conscience into the world of recruitment.
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As a creative agency, we’re always working with and looking for creatives to join our talented network. We specialise in working with brands and founders, but a large part of our community is made up of experienced freelancers. Because of this, we’re always pushing to create valuable content for both our clients and our network, so we turned to the one who nurtures storytellers best. We turned to Nikky.
Today, we sat down with her to talk about how creatives are navigating exceptional circumstances, particularly those that have been made redundant over the last year. People are literally being catapulted into the world of freelance as more and more companies look to make short-term contractual commitments. For many, current economic uncertainties are creating a push out of full-time roles and a pull into the gig-economy. Nikky walks us through her top tips for your CV, portfolio, reputation, research and going freelance so that you can supply the demand. Let’s dive in.
What can I do to make my CV stand out?
Your CV is a factual document that supports your portfolio. It’s a snapshot of your experience, so be sure to show where you have worked, for how long, and how you worked there. They’re also looking at your portfolio, so make sure your CV is your top-level info, not just filled with bullet points listing an endless array of tasks and duties. The people who are in hiring wrote the job specs, so they’ll recognize the skills you have from your job titles.
What if you have gaps in your CV timeline, though?
This is so important. You should definitely fill in the gaps in your CV. Life happens, people get sick, go travelling, and employers are ok with that. Transparency and honesty build trust. If you tell your potential future employers when ‘life happened’, they’ll appreciate it loads.
Nikky, I know you’re never out of great resources, where should creatives looking to revamp or build a new CV go?
I am always running sessions for entry-level grads, so keep an eye out on my IG for more details. I have also created a downloadable CV guide with my 10 years of recruitment. I’ve seen thousands of CV’s and I’ve worked with hundreds of clients- I know exactly what they’re looking for and have boiled all this knowledge into one place.
You mentioned avoiding bullet points on your CV, what about the portfolio?
No bullet points here, either- key achievements are fine for some, though! Potential employers in creative or design just want to know what your role was in each project. It is important to be honest here too, a lot of people are connected in the design world and may catch you out for inflating your role or involvement on a project! For other roles, let’s say Social Media Manager for example, it would be good to highlight your key achievements. Designers just need to focus way more on your portfolio.
And how about getting some more of your assistance on a portfolio, are you running online webinar sessions and do you have a downloadable guide for that?
I do! I like to run sessions on portfolios too, so keep up to date with my latest events on Instagram. As for a downloadable guide, check out my Fool-Proof Guide to Nailing Your Portfolio.
Do you have any advice on the way we appear in applications or on social media?
For me as a recruiter, I’m looking at you with importance weighted at 50% skillset and 50% personality. I am the buffer between you, the applicant, and my client, the employer.
For the people who spend all their time bitching on social media (looking at you, LinkedIn)- be careful. Are you someone complaining with others online about not getting a job, because a hiring manager you’re reaching out to might see this and see it as a red flag. It’s best to stay professional at all times.
First, stop feeding that negative cycle. You need to research and create action plans. Chances are you want one job. So why are you sending your CV to 500 companies?
And what if someone feels helpless blasting their CV out everywhere all at once?
Pause, take a deep breath, give yourself time to process if you’ve recently lost your job. Don’t panic. Madly speccing your CV portfolio around in the market without much consideration could be setting yourself up for 500 rejections. What you need to do is make sure you hear back from people. Tailor your approach. Spend an afternoon, think about the companies you want to work for and who would be interested in hiring you. Consider where your experiences are relevant, an example would be at competitors of your past companies. Then plan your attack in a more tailored way.
Companies respond well to this. If they receive something tailored to them. Take the time to include their branding – which should take 20% more time. You’re more likely to get a response, and even if they say why you’re not quite right. Blanket bombing cover letters, CV’s and portfolios are obvious. After all, they want someone who is so excited by the prospect of being a part of their team.
Lastly, companies see how you present yourself online, so do check in to see how you appear to potential employers on Instagram, Twitter, and so on. Do an audit and ask yourself ‘do I want my future boss seeing that?’ If not, have a think. Social media keeps us frozen in time, so be mindful of your old content too. Your online presence is so important, especially when you can’t meet face to face these days. There is also potential for a lot of your future interviews to be digital as companies adopt more flexible working setups.
Do you have any outreach tips that everyone can benefit from?
If you’re reaching out to someone regarding a job you’re applying for, pay them the compliment first. We’re in a pandemic, everyone is stressed. It feels demanding when people put a demand on you, and the person looking at your CV may be on partial furlough and not feeling great either. You’re way more likely to get a reason behind a rejected application if you compliment the work they’ve done at their brand.
How you reach out is so important because your personality comes across as soon as you send that first email (as well as the moment you react to receiving a rejection). Do you add the hiring manager on LinkedIn and hound them? Or are you sending them a really nice message instead? People need to be mindful of how they come across and their first impressions. Take a bit of time to do your outreach right.
Dig into some free (valuable) content from Nikky
Nikky is a content powerhouse when it comes to creating content for people working in the creative industry. She didn’t furlough herself when the pandemic hit in March 2020, she instead said “The market was quiet, so I took it upon myself to provide content for people to learn from.”
Checking out her Industry Leaders series is worth your time when it comes to gaining insight on what Creative Directors and other Hiring Creatives are looking for in their applicants.
She also spent the last year working on her Fool-Proof guides after making loads of content and then was able to continue to make even more content. Nikky is always looking to serve her community, so she also provides industry check-in videos on Instagram Stories weekly – they’ll keep you entertained and informed.
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Nikky Lyle will also be giving a TEDxFolkestone Talk where she’ll be talking about diversity and inclusion in the creative industry as she discloses observations about systemic barriers. Her aim is to direct companies towards getting that perspective while using her platform to share all voices and other peoples stories. The TEDxFolkestone event will be rescheduled after covid-related postponement. Keep an eye out for new dates by signing up for the TEDxFolkestone newsletter.
Nikky’s take on consuming valuable content?
Let’s show the industry for what it is. I’m a fan of replacing doors with windows. So people can look in rather than feeling shut out. Then it’s up to each individual person to mine all this knowledge I’m providing. If you come and consume the content, you’re well on your way to creating a good career for yourself because you’re learning.
Taking the plunge | What do I need to do when going freelance?
You need to sit down and work through your freelance strategy. Is this long-term or short-term? If long-term, do you want to set up a limited company? Or do you want to be a sole-trader? There are so many roads you can take as a freelancer, some come with a lot of responsibility and some with less. Some have different setups when it comes to tax, and whether you like it or not, you’ll have to make up your mind on what your strategy will be. I know this area of life can be daunting or confusing, which is why I just released my latest guide, Fool-Proof Guide to Going Freelance, so that I can hold your hand as you walk through setting yourself up for success.
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Wait, there’s more…
If you’re interested in Nikky’s CV, cover letter, portfolio, rates or freelancing guides, check out her shop here and use Chapter21 for 20% off your purchase. Also, be sure to follow Nikky on LinkedIn and Instagram to keep up with the latest content, job postings and events.