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Artist Profile – Justin Kauffmann

Every so often, I see the work of an artist that brings on an immediate rush of emotions. For me, it feels like envy, jealousy, happiness, appreciation, and love with a side order of how the hell did they do that and an order of that’s awesome to go. A garbage plate of emotions, if you will.

Of course, I get those types of feelings when I go to a museum and view a piece (or a collection) from one of the greats. I am intrigued by the mind of Pablo Picasso and the use of color by Henry Matisse. I love Norman Rockwell because his work is a slice of Americana. These are artists that, as a youth, drew me to have a career in a creative field or, in some way or another, influenced the beginnings of my creative process.

I like these dudes! But, in the end, I can only guess what Picasso was thinking during his Blue Period or read in a book about how Norman Rockwell came to work at the Saturday Evening Post. And, I will have to view it entirely through somebody else’s eyes.

More exciting for me is making that same type of connection with artists who are my contemporaries. There is something extra cool about being able to walk right up to Plein Air artist Ethan Jack Harrington (@ejakcity) and talk with him while he pushes around his paint in the middle of a crowded Seattle street. Or, as I recently wrote about, talking Chicago Cubs Baseball with the likes of Regan Dunnick (@ibraygunz).

Another, on my very short list of inspiring artists that I have the pleasure of knowing and whose work I am privileged enough to have hanging in my collection, is my Ringling classmate, Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother and friend, Justin Kauffmann.

Justin recently completed a 2-year long journey that resulted in it the completion of his first published book called “Yesterdaze.” Though, at its inception, it was meant to be a compilation of witty quips with his art as a backdrop. It evolved into a career retrospective, of sorts, highlighting 25 years of creativity, which began in Atlanta, GA, and landed him in Chicago via New York City.

Growing up in Goshen, Indiana, Justin’s earliest creative influence was his father, Joel, who was a cartoonist. Joel’s influence (and most likely his genetics) are an obvious link to the evolution of his style and what led Justin to attend The Ringling School of Art and Design with the hope of someday working as an animator at Disney.

Post Ringling Justin worked for 12 years as a “9-5 graphic designer”, first in Atlanta and then in New York City. Honing his fine art skills after hours, his mixed media work of collage, pencil, paint, and chalk was influenced by the likes of Ray Gun Magazines, David Carson and painter, Phil Frost. One of Justin’s proudest moments as an artist happened in 2001 while curating his show in New York. A gentleman approached to compliment him on his work. Serendipitously, the gentleman was none other than David Carson (that’s freakin cool). The two hit it off and have worked together on several projects over the years. A few samples of Justin’s work even appear in one of Mr. Carson’s books.

As for his book, Yesterdaze is a collection of Justin’s personal and professional finished work, accompanied by printed articles, thumbnail sketches, and “in action” photos weaved in throughout. Packed with inspiration, my favorite part of this explosion of color and creativity comes near the end of my signed first edition. A piece that I begged Justin to do for me for 10 years called “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” appears along with an original sketch (and a Cubs pencil) in a 2-page spread. “I made it into the book,” I shouted upon first seeing the page.

Also worthy of mention, as a designer, Justin has had the opportunity to integrate his fine art into a line of t-shirts working with apparel giant, Quicksilver. Additionally, if you’re a fan of winter sports, you may have seen Justin’s work while shredding the mountainside. As he worked alongside, Creative Director, Sven Hoffman at Head to create the artwork for their Rocka snowboard line (drop me a line if you have one of those boards).

Justin is currently available for both fine art and graphic design work! If you want to be inspired check him out online at justink.com or follow him on Instagram @justink

Challenge Accepted: Five common obstacles of working with your team remotely

I’m sure you know, working remotely is not a new concept. Sure, in certain fields like Healthcare or Manufacturing, it’s a tricky proposition. But for companies in the areas of Knowledge and Service, the possibility for remote working does exist. Many companies (smartdept. inc. included) have been taking advantage of some form of work-from-home policy, even well before it was thrust upon us as the “new norm.” Until now, working from home was often considered a privilege and had been used in corporate settings as motivation, or for the advancement of a negotiation. And, even as a replacement for salary.

Experts have been predicting that remote working will become commonplace for half a century now. Heck, in my research for this blog, I came across something I wrote 10 years ago about how to vet a candidate in a remote location properly. You know, voice inflection, speech pattern, pitch and all that.

But, like anything else, remote working (even under the best of circumstances) isn’t without its challenges. Here are five challenges of remote working and how you might find your way through them.

 

Challenge: Keeping your team focused during a remote meeting.

My Suggestion: Don’t let the “power person” dominate the meeting.

Possible Action: Every person’s input matters! By engaging each of your co-workers during a remote meeting and allow them to share their unique views and insights on the topic at hand, you will begin to problem-solve as a group. Rather than one person giving their opinion and everyone else agreeing or following, the entire team will feel they are adding value to the meeting.

Desired Result: Getting everyone involved will help to establish open channels of communication between you and the team, now and into the future. Additionally, it will help to develop mutual respect among teammates.

 

Challenge: Continuing to build trust with teammates while working remotely.

My Suggestion: Work towards creating (or maintaining) a Shared Identity and a Shared Understanding. A Shared Identity can be helped along by promoting a sense that we are all in this together, and as a group, we share one common goal. Talk to your team as “we” rather than “I and you.” Gaining a Shared Understanding can help you get to know who your teammates genuinely are (and vice versa) and what they truly value.

Possible Action: Make an effort to learn about your co-workers outside of their work responsibilities. Ask them to give you a tour of their at-home workspace. Try and gain a further understanding of their context. Why do they set up their day the way they do?

Desired Result: Learning a little bit about what makes your teammates tick can help gain trust, give them added confidence, and lead to improved productivity.

 

Challenge: Getting the most out of introverted co-workers.

My Suggestion: Pay attention to your teammates during a video call, you could be losing introverts by only using video. It’s possible that they may be distracted by the knowledge that they are on camera, and they might be less inclined to join the conversation. Everybody is different!

Possible Action: Turn off the video portion of your meeting.

Desired Result: Not relying on visual cues can help people to focus more on what someone is saying, and eliminating the video may help to put your more introverted workmates in a better position to focus and contribute.

 

Challenge: Staying focused throughout your workday.

My Suggestion: Avoid the problem of time becoming meaningless by creating a routine at home that includes all of the variables that you would have had during your typical workday. Consider your commute, lunchtime, breaks, and worktime when solving this equation.

Possible Action: Be creative! Exercise or listen to a podcast during the time you would typically be commuting. Set up your unique workspace and make sure it is not in the same place you eat your meals.  Use break times to run short errands. Get the most out of your work time, but make sure to have a definitive end to your day.

Desired Result: Your work routine, all be it different, will have structure and some sense of familiarity. Having a definitive start and end time will keep you motivated to work at achieving your usual daily goals, and being creative with your commute and break times might lead to more productive results during the scheduled work time.

 

Challenge: How to prevent worry from taking over during this unprecedented time.

My Suggestion: Allow yourself to think about things in the past, present, and future tense. Be aware of the difference between worry and rumination. Worry can be an attempt by your mind to problem solve a current issue going on in your life. Rumination is your mind continuously obsessing over that same issue without trying to solve it.

Possible Action: Set aside 15 minutes every day to worry. Focus on thinking about what troubles you during this dedicated time and then move on.

Desired Result: Reminiscing can lead to nostalgia. Nostalgic events generally make you happy, which can lead to motivation. Thinking about the future can be productive, even if those future thoughts include worry. For some, thinking about the future can help motivate us to get through the present. For others, it can make us feel thankful for what we have in the present. Setting aside time for worry can allow you to contemplate and move on.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other challenges to consider when setting up a home office. Technical issues are right at the top! Slow internet, bad sound quality, or a lack of technical ability might slow you down. But I believe focusing on a few of my top 5 will get you and your team pointed in the right direction and on your way to successfully working remotely.

If you have questions about these tips or what to discuss with other challenges, drop us a line at getsmart@thesmartdept.com or reach out to us directly.

 

By smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

At the Old Ball Game with Regan Dunnick

Did I ever tell you about the time I played softball against World-renowned Illustrator, Regan Dunnick? It was late August 1990, and I had just been dropped off at the Ringling School of Art and Design for my freshman year to study graphic design. My father is a 40-year veteran of the fire service and parent to six kids, of which I was the last. So, for me, being dropped off at college was something akin to being thrown out of a moving car at the front gate of the school. You know. Don’t call us…

Spring Training Spread, February 2016

One of the activities mixed in with trust falls and meet your R.A., which are devised to ease a new student into life on campus, was the faculty/student softball game. Even though this was an Art School with a total student body of 600 (at the time), I could see immediately that there was a sense of pride among the faculty about this game. I imagined that they had done this for many years before I arrived, and being that the incoming freshman were all “artists,” the faculty had expected, like usual, to win going away. The clear but unspoken leader of the faculty team was Regan Dunnick.

I liked Regan right away. Honestly, I had no idea that this guy standing on the opposite side of the diamond, representing the Illustration Department for the faculty team, was an internationally known illustrator. Nor did I know that his works are in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. What is unique about him as an instructor and a creative professional is his ability to asked for (and receive) your respect while continuously putting you at ease with his unique brand of humor. Best of all, he is as comfortable being the butt of the joke as he is its creator.

Off the ball field, Regan has been selected to such major exhibitions as the United Nations Environmental Show, the New Pop Show – which toured Europe and chronicled innovators, American Illustration, and The Hiroshima Memorial Design Show. Additionally, his works appear in several books, he has been the subject of many published articles, and his client list (which includes smartdept. inc.) is too long to get into. On the ball field, he was a fierce competitor. And, on the day of our initial meeting, it was clear that he does not like to lose. A high school teammate of Hall of Fame outfielder, Andre Dawson, he is a lifelong sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs and Miami Dolphins (clearly, he likes misery).

As unaware as I was of his creative accomplishments, Dunnick and his band of faculty softballers had even less information about this incoming class of Art School Freshman. It turns out that our group went against the grain. We were, in fact, loaded with kids who were both artistic and athletic. Several of us played ball in high school and lived for the game. I doubt any of us had the sense to give way to the rag-tag group of middle agers who held our creative futures in their gnarled hands. The details of the actual game are a bit cloudy after 30 years. I do recall that nobody was taking it easy on one another and that there was at least one collision at home plate, we were all filthy by games end and the faculty was quite surprised (and irritated) by its defeat at the hands of its new students.

Sadly, that brief moment, at the very start of my 4 years at what is now called Ringling College of Art, is the only common thread that Regan Dunnick and I shared during my studies. He taught illustration, and I studied Graphic Design. I had studio art classes with some very talented instructors, but he was not one of them. I can only assume that learning illustration from Regan Dunnick would be similar to learning stand-up comedy from Jerry Seinfeld. Maybe you prefer Eddie Murphy? Still, that game, which should have been considered an instant classic (later to air on ESPN), was enough for the two of us to acknowledge each other and exchange pleasantries when passing by on the way to classes on the tiny campus. Years later I would reconnect with my old nemesis when we collaborated on the smartdept. inc. bakers dozen anniversary poster. It was during that project that I learned we shared a common interest in our love for the Cubs and about his annual family visits to IL.  Following that successful venture, we collaborated once again to use his handywork for the smartdept. inc. website. We enjoyed sharing stories about our favorite Cubs moments, talking about family, the Midwest and about his infamous pet bird, Mr. Pickles. After all of his success, he is still unassuming, still warm, and still hilarious. I am proud to have his work represented on our website and to have one of his original works on display in my home.

If you haven’t seen the works of Regan Dunnick, I’d recommend you have a look. Just type his name into the Google machine and if you really want to be entertained (and learn more about Mr. Pickles), follow him on Instagram @ibraygunz.

 

By smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

Header Illustration by Regan Dunnick from my personal collection,  Spring Training Spread, 2016 by Regan Dunnick via his portfolio,  smartdept. inc. poster illustrations by Regan Dunnick, 2014

Tips to make the most of your face-to-virtual-face interview or presentation

Working remotely is gaining in popularity and becoming more accepted by the day. Even without the current conditions forcing us all to think differently. I believe companies and hiring managers alike will soon realize what I already know. If the job can be done remotely, your prospective employer will have the opportunity to hire the best choice in the country and not just the best choice in your geographical area.

If you’re interviewing over video (or even presenting), here are some tips to make the most of your face-to-virtual-face meeting. Hang on to this information because there’s a good chance you’ll need it.

  1. Be ready. Set up 10 minutes before the call to work out technical issues with your audio, video, and connection. (You can mute and turn off your video until 2 minutes before to assure yourself it’s working).
  2. Sit in a quiet, neutral area. Check your backdrop – try to minimize visual and audio clutter as much as possible to keep attention on you.
  3. Check your framing. Set the camera at eye level. Pick a well-lit, neutral background. Make sure your computer screen and camera are faced away from direct light. You want directional light towards your face, not coming from behind you.
  4. Dress professionally. Dress as though you were going to an in-person job interview. At least from the waist up 😉
  5. Turn off your phone or put it on DO NOT DISTURB (just as you would in person).
  6. Smile! Just as you would in real life, watch your body language. Sit up straight, talk articulately, interact as you would in-person.
  7. Be Prepared. Have your resume and key points you want to explain in front of you so that you stay focused, on track, and can point to specifics. Be ready to talk about the job, why you would be a good fit, and how your experience translates to this position.
  8. Have your portfolio ready. If possible, have an iPad or another device with your portfolio up (or be ready to screen-share) so that you can seamlessly walk the hiring manager through it and direct them to specific examples.
  9. Practice with a friend. People tend to look at their own video on the screen. Practice looking at the person and getting comfortable seeing yourself and looking at the camera.
  10. Roll with the punches. Much of this is obviously harder in quarantine, so if a child or pet wanders in, make the best of it. We can all relate right now, and being flexible and having a sense of humor is a great attribute for any job.

A post that was 18 years in the making

Michelle pictured with her four girls.Hi everyone. My name is Michelle Pairitz, and like many of you, I am currently acting as principal, administrator and home-school teacher to my four daughters (8th, 7th, 5th and 4th grade.) But up until a few weeks ago, my main credentials were being a twenty-year veteran of the staffing industry and the majority owner of smartdept. inc.

It’s difficult to craft a meaningful message that isn’t somehow related to COVID-19 or a Stay at Home order right now. So, to each of you taking the time to read this, I appreciate your time and hope you and your loved ones are safe. And before I get to the good news portion of this post, does anyone remember how to divide fractions? Asking for a friend.

Okay, onto some good news about smartdept. inc. Because we could all use a little right now!

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by one of our largest clients to apply for certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise. This certification affirms that smartdept. inc. is an organization owned and entirely operated by a woman and earning this certification would prove to be no small task. After filling out the initial application, I had the next three months to provide all critical information to tell the story of how smartdept. inc. came to be. This trip down memory lane (and into some very dusty flat files) included everything from sharing our latest financials, contracts with my stamp of approval, rental agreement and equipment lists, to rediscovering the corporate documents we created nearly two decades ago. And everything in between. In addition, I was quizzed on every aspect of our creative staffing business. The goal was to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was in control of every process vital to successfully operating the company.

On the day of my site visit, I was asked to connect all the dots. What was my inspiration for starting the company? What was a typical day and week at smartdept. inc.? How had I helped push the organization forward? How exactly did I get from a two-person staffing company in Seattle in 2002, to a staffing company spanning nationally with thousands of placements?  The conversation was long, but reflective. And it gave me the chance to think honestly about my journey as a business owner and appreciate how my organization, with the help of so many along the way, has been able to achieve some very unique goals.

Michelle pictured with her four girls.

As a woman in recruiting:
When I started this company at 27, I looked and sounded young for my age. (Oh, the good old days!) But I remember struggling to overcome doubters and naysayers – both women and men. And I vowed I would not treat others that way. I earned respect, I gave respect and I lifted others up every chance I got. At smartdept, our culture is based on encouragement and kindness. What we do is more than just recruiting, it’s creating an environment of confidence and support for our clients, candidates and each other.

As a mom:
When I began, I was part ignorant and part fearless, and I am proud of it all. I want my girls to have the same confidence and be fearless in making something happen. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be a company, but I want them to know that anything is possible.

As a business owner:
Some of our biggest clients were my candidates just starting their careers 18 years ago. Long-standing relationships and treating people with respect means everything to me, and to us. We are all humans, and it’s important to really get to know people beyond what position they’re looking for or looking to fill.  We take the time to do that, so each person could potentially work with us for the next 18 years whether they are a client or candidate.

I am proud to report that on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 (at 3pm CDT), smartdept. inc. received its Women’s Business Enterprise certification! It represents so much, and to receive it during Women’s History month made me even prouder.

So, thank you to all who have played a part in our growth and this milestone achievement.

It’s a little something that allows me to pause, to celebrate how far we’ve come, and have hope for better days ahead.

Be safe, be well and best of luck with all the math homework.

Love, Michelle

Welcome to “Hipsturbia” – Millennials are leaving the big city for the suburban lifestyle

Millennial’s coming to age, we all knew it would happen, but what does that mean for business and the creative candidate pool? Millennial’s are approaching a different stage of their life. They are at the age of settling down, moving away from the city to the suburbs to buy a home and plan for a family. Welcome to “Hipsturbia”! (Axios Cities)

While suburban growth decreased during the financial crisis in 2013, Millennials were just graduating college and migrating to big cities like Chicago, where jobs were concentrated. Now, suburban businesses get ready because the millennials are heading back! Suburban organizations of all sizes – start-ups, mid-size, and large corporations need to take the “if you build it, they will come” approach to attract and retain talent.

Millennials grew up in a time of rapid change, which has given them a different worldview perspective on how to conduct business and expectations of the ideal workplace. From the luxury collaborative culture of Google to the free breakfast and lunch buffets at Facebook. Suburban businesses are going to have to think like the big time city-biz and upgrade their work environments – “if you build it, they will come.” Here are 5 benefits/perks to attract and retain Millennials during the Hipsturbia wave.

  1. Remote flexibility/ flexible schedules
  2. Health Insurance/Dental Insurance/ 401(K)
  3. Vacation/paid time off/paid sick days
  4. Maternity/paternity leave
  5. Gym Membership or Wellness programs

Another adaptation of the Hipsturbia wave that suburban companies need to adjust is the speed in which they can identify top talent and on-board candidates. Millennials have taken the act of “ghosting” in dating to their professional endeavors. We are working with a candidate-driven market, Forbes stated: “businesses are reporting anywhere from 20-50% of applicants are pulling no-shows in some form during the hiring process, according to USA Today”. The creative talent pool is already shallow, multiple rounds of interviews and extending the process to longer than a week will present a challenge in winning over top talent against competing companies.

 

– by Heather Gouldsberry

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For more smart insight, industry tips and other tidbits, check us out on Instagram @smartdept.inc.

All Sides – What is the most stressful part of the hiring process?

Welcome to our newest blog! We like to call this an ALL SIDES. That means we asked the same question to three different people to see how their responses compare and contrast. The question — what is the most stressful part of the job search. Our participants represent a hiring manager, a candidate and a smartdept. inc. staff member. Enjoy!

Hiring Manager
“From my perspective, as one of the hiring managers, the most stressful part of the job search is reviewing the resumes and seeing that the skill sets do not match the job requirements. Filling a creative position is difficult and especially challenging when the portfolio isn’t specific to our industry. Although, since we have been using smartdept. inc. as our hiring resource, the resume searching is no longer an issue. Your team is able to filter and screen the top-notch candidates and send them our way!”

smartdept. inc. Staff Member
“As a Creative Account Manager with smartdept. inc., my favorite part of this job is collaborating with clients to identify top talent for their team. In a candidate driven market, it’s critical to have a detailed job description to help successfully fill a position. In order for me to successfully identify top talent it would be ideal to know the skill sets needed, what the top responsibilities of the position will be, the ideal years of experience, budget for the role, a good understanding of the culture/environment and (last but not least) the preferred interview process and start date. When presenting candidates, time is of the essence and feedback is necessary. An open line of communication with my client is essential to customizing a strategic sourcing plan, especially if my candidates are not hitting the mark.”

smartdept. inc. Candidate
“As someone who has been in the working world for many years, I have seen a real difference in the process of looking for a job. When I started my professional journey, it was all about who you knew and how to get your resume in the hands of decision makers. Today, the opportunities come straight to you via online recruitment tools, virtual networking and the internet. But with these new tools come new challenges: the sheer volume of information and opportunities available via digital mediums is overwhelming and misleading. Every day I receive dozens of emails from online recruitment companies listing thousands of ‘real’ job opportunities seemingly curated just for me. While I appreciate access to these leads and the implied ‘foot in the door,’ the reality is that I am one of millions who receive these emails for these same positions. My resume gets placed on top of a big pile along with the other numerous, qualified applicants. In the end, it still comes down to who you know and how to get your resume in the hands of decision makers.”

Conclusion
Building relationships is key in making a successful placement. One of the most effective ways to work through the challenges of the hiring process is through communication. In order to make the best match, it is crucial that the person you are partnering with during this process has all the information. While technology is offering many innovative solutions to finding top talent and new opportunities, the most effective solution might still be to reach out to an expert in your field, take the time to give them the details and trust that they have done the same with people they are considering for your open position.

5 Trends We’ve Seen at smartdept. inc. in Q1

Marketing related roles are on the rise! During the first 13 weeks of 2019 we have seen a wide variety of marketing roles open up for both freelance and direct hire. A few of the titles we have done searches for include Marketing Associate, Marketing Analyst, Marketing Specialist and Marketing Project Manager. It’s a good time to be in marketing!

Healthcare is hot! We have seen a wide variety of creative, interactive, marketing and technology opportunities related to the healthcare field. Our healthcare related clients come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s in retail, advertising or associations, employment opportunities are up in Q1.

First half is prime for senior level opportunities! According to an article published by Monster, senior level opportunities are on the rise during Q1 (and Q2). We concur.

It’s a candidate’s market! Unemployment is at an all-time low and that means we have to work feverishly in order to have success. For us, proactive recruiting will continue to be a key factor for staying ahead under the current market conditions. Our direct hire candidates are available for an average of 10 business days before they find their next opportunity. This means if you identify a candidate that is a good fit, it would be best to act fast!

Company culture is key! Our candidates are expressing that work life balance is high on the list of  things they are seeking in a new opportunity. Additionally, our candidates are seeking some flexibility in schedules, opportunities to work off-site and unlimited PTO

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly if you’d like to discuss these or other trends that smartdept. inc. has observed during the first part of 2019.

Adventures in Bookland

Here at smartdept. inc. our internal Smarties love to learn and grow both personally and professionally through reading. In the spirit of the always popular, “book club” we put together a quick list of our current (or favorite) reads.

So, have a look and share your book! Or, just let us know if you prefer to come to the book club prepared or are you just in it for the snacks!

MINDY MARVIN – National Director of Sales and Strategy
The Way of the HR Warrior by Monica Frede & Keri Ohlrich, PhD. 

Human Resources has immense power to affect an organization’s bottom line as well as its culture, but it gets a bad rap. The Way of the HR Warrior is a guide for HR professionals who really care to demonstrate the true power of the HR department to influence business strategy and the bottom line, especially in the changing landscape of business with a multi-generational and global workforce, the gig economy, the knowledge economy, the rise of conscious consumerism, and increasing regulations.

Why I chose this book – Being in the staffing industry, I was automatically drawn to the subject matter. And I hate the eye roll that often accompanies a conversation about HR. I like the straight forward, honest and conversational tone of the book, and am excited to put the authors’ advice in to practice.


ANDI PAFFORD – Senior Creative Account Manager
Mismatch – How Inclusion Shapes Design By Kat Holmes

Sometimes designed objects reject their users: a computer mouse that doesn’t work for left-handed people, for example, or a touchscreen payment system that only works for people who read English phrases, have 20/20 vision, and use a credit card. Something as simple as color choices can render a product unusable for millions. These mismatches are the building blocks of exclusion. In Mismatch, Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion. Inclusive design methods―designing objects with rather than for excluded users―can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all.

Why I chose this book – Having experience as both a personal who is both a creative professional and a creative recruiter, I was inspired by the subject matter and look forward to sharing it with the creative professionals I connect with every day.


MELISSA IMBROGNO – Creative Account Manager
The Art Of Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

“This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially—statistically speaking—there aren’t any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius.”

Why I chose this book – Art is in the eye of the beholder. This book addresses coping with insecurities commonly felt by creative people and made me feel like all people should explore (and be proud of) their creativity.


ANNA LARSON – Creative Account Manager
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

America’s most sought-after executive coach shows how to climb the last few rungs of the ladder.

The corporate world is filled with executives, men and women who have worked hard for years to reach the upper levels of management. They’re intelligent, skilled, and even charismatic. But only a handful of them will ever reach the pinnacle — and as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shows in this book, subtle nuances make all the difference. These are small “transactional flaws” performed by one person against another (as simple as not saying thank you enough), which lead to negative perceptions that can hold any executive back. Using Goldsmith’s straightforward, jargon-free advice, it’s amazingly easy behavior to change.

Why I chose this book –  This book reminded me of the importance of self-reflection and how making time for it can lead to personal growth.


ERIC PAIRITZ – Principal
Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball. In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis follows the low-budget Oakland A’s, visionary general manager Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball theorists. They are all in search of new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.

Why I chose this book – Of course, I love this book because it’s about baseball. But more importantly, it proves that, if you take the correct approach, an underdog operating on a small budget can out preform its most powerful competitors.


MICHELLE PAIRITZ – Principal
Dare to Lead by Brené Brow

Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.

When we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have the right answers; we stay curious and ask the right questions. We don’t see power as finite and hoard it; we know that power becomes infinite when we share it with others. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we lean into vulnerability when it’s necessary to do good work.

Why I chose this book – I like all of her books. This particular book helped me put being a leader into a proper prospective and challenged me to re-examine my approach to being a leader in my own organization.


APRIL LEVINS – Accounting and Operations Manager
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi

In 2015 Manoush Zomorodi, creator of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show Note to Self, led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jump-start their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to rethink our gadget use to live better and smarter in this new digital ecosystem. Manoush explains the connection between boredom and original thinking, exploring how we can harness boredom’s hidden benefits to become our most productive and creative selves without totally abandoning our gadgets in the process. Grounding the book in the neuroscience and cognitive psychology of “mind wandering” what our brains do when we’re doing nothing at all―Manoush includes practical steps you can take to ease the nonstop busyness and enhance your ability to dream, wonder, and gain clarity in your work and life. The outcome is mind-blowing.

Why I chose this book – The subject spoke to the operations side of my work here at smartdept. inc. And, the author sounded smart on NPR.


COLLEEN FUELLING – Creative Account Manager
The 7 Critical Principles Of Digital Marketing by Kasim Aslam

The 7 Critical Principles of Effective Digital Marketing is an attempt at establishing a baseline for one of the most tumultuous and change-ridden industries in existence. It takes a step back from the strategies and tactics that most digital marketing approaches start with and, instead, establishes a core and foundational structure from which all digital marketing initiatives can and should operate. The 7 Principles are simple without being simplistic and help to align digital marketers with a set of axiomatic, unchanging and foundational beliefs. In fact, these 7 principles may be the only thing about digital marketing that won’t change.

Why I chose this book – I’m interested in the marketing aspect of my job and love researching new ways to improve our marketing.

Book images via Amazon.

EXTRA, EXTRA… Read All About It!

On January 14th the smartdept. inc. will celebrate its 17th anniversary. While it’s not a milestone celebration and nobody will be receiving a gold watch, it is still a proud accomplishment for us. Heck, anything that a person (or group of people) can remain passionate about for 17 years is worthy of mention in my opinion.

Our Mission – I believe our success over the years in routed in our core values. We strive to engage in long lasting, mutually respectful relationships with both the candidates we represent and the clients we service.

My favorite quote (related to staffing) – “I will keep searching for new opportunities, until you tell me to stop.” – Michelle Pairitz, Principal at smartdept. inc.

My favorite memory (related to staffing) – Receiving a heartfelt message, sent from the spouse of a candidate that we had recently placed, letting us know that we had just helped her husband get his dream job.

That never gets old!

Most valuable lesson learned – Always stay engaged with your work and your teammates, and don’t ever take your foot off the gas.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years (that too, never gets old)!

smartdept. inc. gets smart(er)

We’ve made some changes at smartdept. inc., and we’re so happy about them, we want to shout from the rooftops. Or at least here in this blog post.

We’re so pleased with these tweaks, we’ve taken to calling ourselves the smart(er)dept. inc. And when we’re that proud of something, we figure it’s wise to let people know what we’re up to. So, after emailing our key contacts the following news, we lifted the juiciest bits and plunked them into this blog post. (Bonus: referring people to this post may help keep our smarties from getting hoarse when talking with candidates or clients.)

Here are a handful of changes we think you should know about!

Improved Candidate Benefits – We’ve changed our Blue Cross and Blue Shield healthcare enrollment waiting period to 90 days, down from 12 months. I think it goes without saying when it comes to healthcare, offering it sooner is smart(er). We also offer 401(k) through Merill Lynch, but we’ve been doing that for a while now.

Organizational Changes – We’ve added both speed and power to the lineup! April Levins has joined our team as Accounting and Operations Manager. She is diligently working to improve many of our internal processes. Mindy Marvin has also joined our team as National Director of Sales and Strategy. Mindy is working alongside us to help grow our national presence and create strategies to support our growth.

Electronic Timecard and Approval System – Okay, so it’s not that revolutionary. But, technically, it does make us smart(er).

Recruiting Philosophy – We’ve changed our recruiting philosophy, too. I KNOW! Under this updated model we offer the same boutique approach to service locally, while adding the ability to source and recruit nationwide. (Yup, we’re fancy.)

smartdept. inc. Strategy – If explained in detail, this would most likely draw a close comparison to the effects of tryptophan on Thanksgiving Day. Just trust me, it’s smart(er).

If you’d like to find out more about how we’ve gotten smart(er), feel free to drop us a line at getsmart@thesmartdept.com. I’m confident that the minutes we spend together will be a wise investment of your time (see how I didn’t use the term smart(er) there).

smartdept. inc. Seattle moves to the historic Pioneer Building

In case you hadn’t heard, the Seattle smarties just got a shiny new office! We’ve achieved the dream of every couple on House Hunters gotten a new space in our current neighborhood. We even got the elusive open plan kitchen!

We’re now in the historic Pioneer Building on the corner of 1st and James. Don’t let the vintage exterior fool you though, inside we’ve got all the latest amenities including elevators and air conditioning! Our new building can be a little confusing if it’s your first time visiting us so here’s a crash course on how to get to the coolest staffing office in Seattle.

Once you’ve found the building (600 1st Ave), your going to have to find your way inside. At first, you might think the big, fancy doors with “Pioneer Building” written over them are the entrance, but those are just for decoration. The real entrance is the much smaller door off to the side with “Level” written on it.

Once you get inside take the first right you see and then take another right. Now you’re in front of our elevators! They may look old, but don’t worry, they’re very safe. Push the button for the sixth floor and then “door close.” Don’t forget to check yourself out in the mirror on your way up!

Once you get out of the elevator, the hard part is over. We’re across the atrium in Suite 618. You’ll know you’re in the right place because the door says smartdept. inc. and the entrance looks just like in the picture. See you soon!

smartie spotlight: Jennifer in Grand Rapids

I’m Jennifer Wallace, a Business Development Intern. I’m a lucky wife, a doting mommy of two, and an USAF intelligence veteran who graduates from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s in public relations this April.

What got you into staffing? (Or how did you become a smartie?) 
I was assigned smartdept. inc. in my Advertising and Public Relations Capstone course at Grand Valley State University. I researched the staffing industry and smartdept. inc., and formulated a campaign to suit smartdept. inc.’s needs to reach a narrowed target audience in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. When I heard about this job opening, I jumped on it.

Do you have any pets? 
I have a pug named Gidget and an ornery cat named Indiana “Tiny Paws” Jones. They’re both naughty.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you? 
A machete, a hunting rifle with ammo, and a case of whiskey. I would like to survive.

What is the best thing about being a smartie? 
All the people I get to meet and know!

What is your favorite band? 
I don’t have a favorite band, but my favorite composer is Tchaikovsky.

What is your favorite type of pizza? 
Hand-tossed with garlic crust, thick-cut pepperoni, maitake mushrooms, and banana pepper slices.

What is your favorite movie? 
Burn After Reading

What is your dream job (not in staffing)? 
Chief Communications Officer for a large corporation or investor relations practitioner at a public relations firm that operates nationally.

Top tip for any job seeker: 
Apply to jobs you’re passionate about and talk about what facets of that job interest you (and why) during the interview. Being passionate about the job and displaying your knowledge thereof will work in your favor.

smartdept. inc. is indeed Good for Grand Rapids, Business as a Force for Good

What does it feel like to be deemed “Good for Grand Rapids” you ask? It’s that moment when Grandma walks in the door with her famous blueberry pie, and she baked it just for you (it feels awesome)! When we got involved with Local First and Good for Grand Rapids, we had no idea the knowledge that the organization would be able to share with us, and the impact it would have.

The process of being recognized as a Good for Grand Rapids business was completed in two steps. We first met with Dana of Local First to learn more about the initiatives the team was working on, and how we could get involved. The second step was a bit more intricate. We completed a thorough assessment that asked for our deepest and darkest secrets i.e. environmental impact, employee satisfaction numbers, community involvement, and most importantly our dedication to our local community.

The Good for Grand Rapids initiative celebrates companies using business as a force for good. These companies have a demonstrated commitment to positive environmental and social change. They create high-quality jobs, stronger communities and a healthier Great Lakes region. To be accepted into this group of celebrated businesses after taking the assessment was certainly an honor.

Once accepted, Local First supplies you with an incredible visual tool to show you where you’re located on the scale of environmental impact, social impact, employee satisfaction, and more. The team offers multiple networking and workshop opportunities to learn and improve. Because it’s never good to stay stagnant, even when you’re GOOD – you should be working to be GREAT, right!?

On February 8th, we attended the Lakeshore Annual Meeting and Local Motion Awards, where we were recognized as one of the Top 8 Finalists in the running for the Good for Grand Rapids Awards.

We are honored to be involved with Local First and Good for Grand Rapids, and look forward to continuing our efforts of positively impacting our GR community! Good for Grand Rapids is open to all Grand Rapids local businesses and we definitely recommend getting involved, and hey, maybe we will see you at the next workshop! Information on Local First can be found at www.localfirst.com.

From the desk of Hannah Staal, smartdept. inc. Grand Rapids Branch Manager

What are the best (and worst) questions to ask during an interview?

An important part of preparing for an interview is thinking through (and writing down) questions for your interviewers. While there is such a thing as asking too many questions, coming in with a short list of smart questions will go a long way to both understand the role and impress the hiring manager. It’s always best to focus on the role, the team and company – not the vacation package.

Great questions:

  • What are the biggest professional challenges that the person in this role is likely to encounter?
  • What are your long term goals for this role and department?
  • How is the team structured?
  • How closely will I work with a supervisor or mentor?
  • What types of employee tend to succeed here? OR – What qualities are most important for success in this role?
  • Are there opportunities to take on new projects and challenges that may fall out of the actual job responsibilities? 
  • Is there any experience you’re looking for that I haven’t yet spoken to?
  • What are the next steps/best way to follow up after our meeting?

Avoid asking:

  • How long will it take for a promotion? (You seem like you’re only interested in climbing the ladder, not focused on being successful in the current opportunity)
  • How long until I can take vacation? (Wait until offer stage or a conversation with HR to ask about benefits, PTO, etc.)
  • How soon can I apply for another job here? (Don’t jump ship so quickly! Stay focused on the one position.)
  • How much PTO do I get? (You shouldn’t be planning your vacation before you even get the job.)
  • Flexible Schedule or special privileges (Save these for when you actually have an offer.)
  • Anything generic – So…. What do you like about working in X industry? (Really, how is this helping you evaluate the job?) 

Start Off Your 2018 Job Search in Style With These Classic Blogs from smartdept. inc.

If your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions include a new job in the Creative and Digital world, the creative consultants at smartdept. inc. are here to help! We’ve ventured into the archives to pull some of our favorite tips to get your search started out right. As always, we’d love to be a part of your journey to a new career (and even included a blog for that too!), so get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Give your resume an overhaul: Read more >

Spruce up your LinkedIn profile: Read more >

Upgrade your portfolio: Read more >

What NOT to do on an interview: Read more >

What to expect from working with smartie: Read more >

 

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

Get Smart

Having choices is generally a good thing. When it comes to staffing resources, we recommend that job seekers take advantage of several options (as long as smartdept. inc. is one of them). If you’re a hiring manager searching for candidates niched in creative, interactive and marketing, however, we would prefer you look no further. 

Started by a couple (literally) of former creative professionals, smartdept. inc. is a staffing resource that specializes in creative, interactive, and marketing placements. We have been operating in the Chicago & Seattle markets for 16 years, and in Grand Rapids, Michigan for just under 2 years. While we compete with the largest staffing companies in these markets, our boutique approach to service sets us apart. 

Our goal is to develop meaningful relationships with people, so that we can accurately and efficiently make a match. How do we do it? Well, we are accessible! We don’t have voicemail and we answer your call even if it’s after hours. And, by asking the right questions and putting on our listening ears, we efficiently get to know the people we represent. It’s no different for our clients! If we know you better, our results will be better. So, we’re always curious about how you’ve been successful in your organization, we love seeing your environment and digging deeper about how people work best with you.

Making good relationships takes time and effort and I’m proud to say that the people at smartdept. inc. take the time to do what it takes to move our relationships forward in a positive direction.

My name is Colin Wodarski and I am an Enterprise Business Development Manager here at smartdept. inc. I believe in our process because I have seen it work.

So, if you haven’t already, get smart and give us a try! Reach out to me any time at colin@thesmartdept.com to talk about or your next hire or your job search.

smartie spotlight: Colleen in Seattle

Colleen Walton is smartdept’s resident expert in all things glitter, and she works in our Seattle office. She has a sunny disposition and an unyielding passion for Disneyland, Harry Potter and Starbucks. 

What got you into staffing?
I basically fell into staffing. I knew that I wanted to be a recruiter, and I interviewed for a position through an agency. Even though I didn’t get that job, the agency hired me for an internal position. So it worked out. 

Do you have any pets?
No, but whenever I see a dog tied up outside I come up with a strategy for taking it home with me.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you?
I was going to be smart and say a boat… But I could be happy anywhere with a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and my Nintendo Switch.

What is the best thing about being a smartie?
The people! (I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.) Even though I’m halfway across the country from the Chicago and Grand Rapids offices, I still feel like I’m part of the team. 

What is your favorite band?
Does Britney Spears count as a band? If not, then I’d have to go with ABBA. 

What is your favorite staffing story?
I got to interview my hero – a UX Designer who worked on the Starbucks mobile app. 

The call was going well until I admitted that I’m a huge fan of his work. I LOVE the Starbucks app, especially mobile orders (which he designed). This caught him a little bit off-guard. And then I causally mentioned that I tell every person I meet about the app and encourage him or her to use it. I really thought I had found someone as passionate about the app as I am… but I think I ended up scaring him a little bit because of how excited I was. 

I still hope that if he ever feels a little down, he remembers that one recruiter who totally fan-girled over his Starbucks work, and it makes him feel better.

What is your favorite type of pizza?
I’m sure everyone in Chicago is absolutely horrified, but nothing beats Domino’s pepperoni. #SorryNotSorry

What is your favorite movie?
It’s a tie between Legally Blonde and Clueless. 

What is your dream job (not in staffing)?
A back up dancer for Britney Spears. 

Top tip for any job seeker:
When you’re talking about your experience, highlight the things you’d like to do more of. If you have a portfolio, your favorite types of projects should be the first thing people see. 

Reach out to Colleen at colleen@thesmartdept.com.

So you want a fresh resume…. where to start?

In the 10 years I’ve been in staffing, I’ve looked at 3 million resumes (give or take a few 100,000). I’m excited to share some expert advice on making your resume excellent.

First at foremost, tailor your resume to align with the job you want, while keeping in mind that formatting, organization, and readability are important as well. Take a long look at the job description for the role you have in mind. What key words and ideas jump out at you? What have you accomplished in your career that makes you an awesome fit for the position? Do you have the software/technical skills reflected in your resume that are required? Your resume should reflect all of these things.

The closer your resume matches up with the job description, the more compelling it will be for a Recruiter or Hiring Manager to follow up with you. It may be easy to assume that having a certain job title means you have a specific kind of experience, but you need to spell things out for someone like a recruiter who might have many candidates in front of them with the same job title. If you are applying for a role that requires certain experiences, and you have that experience – add a specific section with examples of those.

LENGTH: Stick to a one-page resume if you have less than five years of experience, and expand into two pages if you’re more seasoned.

FORMATTING:

  • Stick with standard fonts like Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman or Calibri. They’re easy on the eyes
  • Choose size 11 or 12 font – making the font smaller to fit everything on one page is not ideal – it needs to be legible
  • Avoid script fonts. Use italics, bolding and caps sparingly
  • “Creative” formatting like using heavy graphics or running text diagonally across the page is never a good idea – sometimes your resume only gets a quick glance, make it count!

STRUCTURE:

  • Header: Your name, email address, phone number, city, state and zip code should be clearly listed at the top of the page. No need to share your street address.
  • Summary: A well-written Summary sets the stage for the rest of your resume. Five to seven sentences are ideal. Speak to your years of experience, area of specialization, and industries in which you’ve worked.  Do you have an advanced degree? Do you have staff management experience? Are you a strong project manager? Have you worked for a big name company or client? What are your technical or software skills?  Look at that job description again – and format each summary to each specific role you are applying for. What can you call attention to on a high-level to matches the things that the description calls for?
  • Tools/Skills: After your summary, make a quick list of the programs and skills in your toolkit – leading with those called for in the job description. Whether you’re a marketing analyst well-versed in Adobe Analytics and SQL or a designer skilled at using Adobe Creative Cloud, call attention to your familiarity with the required and nice-to-have tools.
  • Professional Experience:
    – List your experience chronologically, with your most recent job listed first.
    – If you have been working for an agency or freelancing, include the names/industries of your top clients. Unless your company is a house-hold name, include a one line description about your company. Are they national or global? This helps put your experience into context.
    – Lead with your company, title, start and end dates including months, not just the year.
    – When describing your role, think about the job description again. Lead with information that ties back to the job you’re applying to. More than just a list of tasks, speak to your measurable accomplishments. How have you impacted the bottom line?
    – Format these points in a bulleted list, rather than a big block of text.

EDUCATION: If you are early in your career (less than three years out of school), consider floating your Education as the first item on your resume. If not, the Education section should be toward the end. Include the name of your school, the degree earned, and your graduation date.

THINGS TO LEAVE OFF:

  • “References available upon request.” This is assumed.
  • Personal interests can be appealing to potential hiring managers, but avoid anything that is polarizing such as religious affiliations.

For feedback on your resume and a hand with your job search, get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

 

from the desk of Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

Are you making the most of LinkedIn?

Whether you’re actively looking for the next step in your career or just open to hearing about new opportunities, LinkedIn is an excellent resource. But how do you make the most of it?

  • Check your status: The Privacy Settings in your profile includes a button labeled “Let recruiters know that you’re open to new opportunities.” Checking “Yes” helps you show up in recruiter searches matching your career interests.
  • Check your mail: Push InMails to your email. Under the Communications tab, set “Messages from Members” to “Yes” so you always know when a recruiter or hiring manager is reaching out.
  • Check your facts: Do the start and dates on your resume match up with your profile? Big discrepancies in dates and titles will be a red flag to recruiters and hiring managers.
  • Include an updated resume, your email address, and a current portfolio link (if applicable) on your profile.
  • Describe your current and past experience. Prioritize details that are relevant to the job you seek.
  • Expand your network in a thoughtful way. Send a short intro with your invite and respond with a purpose when your new connecting accepts.
  • Your Summary/Bio is the best place for your “elevator pitch.” This quick intro should leave a positive impression about who you are, what you do, and why you are doing it. Let people get to know you without having to read a novel.
  • Keywords: Fill your skills section with relevant technology, programming languages, activities, and certifications.
  • A clean headshot is all you need. Avoid unprofessional options like a car selfie (complete with SnapChat filter), a poorly edited group shot (whose arm is that?), or your cat.
  • Feel free to include a little bit about your hobbies, passion projects, and volunteer work.
  • Remove irrelevant jobs from your bio (food service, child care, etc), but do include volunteer work.
  • When a recruiter reaches out, take a moment to engage with them. Even if the job isn’t a great match, or if you’re genuinely not looking right now – things can change on a dime. You can always reach back out to them 6-months or a year from now if your situation changes.

If you’d like to get a jump-start on your search – get in touch with a real-life smartie today!

Find a job in Chicago >
Find a job in Grand Rapids >
Find a job in Seattle >

from the desk of Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

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