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Alumni Profile: Candice Dunlap

by Sessions Staff | October 1, 2010

Recent graduate Candice Dunlap has the kind of story that any creative career changer might envy. A photographer and a writer with IT experience, Candice decided she needed to something (more) creative for a living and enrolled in the Graphic Design Certificate program at Sessions College in Spring 2009. Before she graduated this September, Candice had already landed a design job doing marketing, Web design, and graphic design at an environmentally friendly office interiors supplier.

Can you talk about your background and why you decided to study design?

Well, I have a pretty random background actually. I have a BA in Music from Coastal Carolina University, I spent four years in an IT operations center, and 8 months in an HR recruiter role. It just so happened that my “quarter-life crisis” kicked in during those years in IT, and I decided to take a formal aptitude test to try and narrow down what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I knew that I wanted to do something that would be more creative, yet still allow me to use my technical knowledge and writing skills. I was familiar with Adobe products, which I’d used in the past for photo retouching and Web design, and during that time I was just starting to get into digital photography. The aptitude test basically confirmed what I’d already known: I would be good at visual arts. Then I started brainstorming…how can I make a living with visual arts…and I found “graphic design” and then I started researching ways I could learn more about the field and a whole new world opened up for me.

How are you enjoying your new position so far? Can you describe some of your responsibilities as a designer?

I’m enjoying my new position quite a lot actually! They’re definitely keeping me busy. So far I’ve been responsible for proofing/ordering new copies of the company’s product catalog, which I’ll be redesigning the next time they go to print. I’ve designed a few print ads, updated the company Web site, designed flyers, and I’m in the process of organizing the company’s image repository. I’ve also worked on a few presentations and taken product photography to incorporate into my work.  I’m working on redesigning the Web site as well.

>How important was having a portfolio in your job search? Do you have any advice for design grads beginning their job search?

For a designer, having a portfolio is just as important as having a resume. Something I learned from my brief time in HR: first impressions count. Big time. Having a Web portfolio is even more important, because a prospective employer expects to be able to find you online, and be able to see your work instantly. (Especially if you’re a Web designer—show proof of your work!)  Make your Web portfolio user friendly and organized, it doesn’t have to be over the top unless that’s what you’re going for. Also make sure your “digital history” is clean. Social networking sites can make or break a potential job candidate.

They say that a portfolio is never done. What are you continuing to learn or develop creatively, in or outside of work?

I’m spending a lot of time at home doing research for what I’m doing at work. I’m learning more about information design, which is increasingly important for me as I work to convert information into something that will be attractive and easy to understand for potential customers. I’m also learning more about studio lighting and photography, and interior photography…as well as Web design and development. It’s on my list to learn more about the coding side of Web sites. (I have a long list of things to learn!)

How important do you think it is for creative people to follow their career aspirations?

I’ve learned that I’m not the type of person who can just be creative in my spare time. For me, I wasn’t happy in a career where I was the only creative person around. I was kind of the odd one out a lot of the time, even though I picked up the technical information quickly. It’s a fine line; you want to be creative, but you have to earn a living. It’s our challenge, as creative people, to figure out how to become an asset to a client, company, or whoever, and apply our skills and talents in a way that helps everyone involved. That’s the key. If you keep searching, you’ll figure out where you “fit” in the creative world. I wish I’d realized years ago that the design field is so full of different opportunities. I’m the type of person who loves to learn, and since this is a field that’s constantly growing and expanding, I think I’ve finally found the field where I belong.

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Sessions Staff is a restless soul who loves to share Campus News stories with current and prospective students.