Career Fair Advice with SCAD Alum Achraf El Attar

SCAD Career Fair. Image courtesy of scad.edu

Like most universities across the country, SCAD hosts a career fair once a year for it’s students to come meet potential employers for internships and jobs. For many Atlanta students the thought of going all the way to Savannah can seem daunting, even with the shuttle provided by SCAD Atlanta. As a senior, I felt it was important for me to attend this year. The day before the career fair I was able to speak with SCAD 2013 alum and freelance illustrator Achraf El Attar, who took a bus from D.C. to attend.

Image courtesy of Achraf El Attar.

Chel Howard: You've been to the SCAD Career Fair for five years in a row now. Have you learned something new each time you came?

Achraf El Attar: Yes of course. The first time I went it was just for me to explore and be there. I went without anything, no business cards or resume. I only had two or three pieces of my work, not professional at all. It was important because I learned what I should have for the next time and how people present themselves. It wasn’t serious and I, as a student, just wanted to participate and to know how professional life goes. Every time I go with better work and talk with companies face to face, it gives me the experience to talk about myself and not be afraid from presenting myself. Every time I think there is an improvement from the feedback I get. It was really good last time and I walked away with two deals.

CH: What do you think is the complete package that students should take to the career fair?

AA: First of all, to have the complete package you have to have the spirit. This is really important. Of course wearing professional attire is something you must do, but I have my own opinion about that. Your personality, the way you approach, how you show you work, your voice, everything and your character is the main thing. I hate to say that you have to wear classic [attire] to meet these people. If you match with your work and personality then that’s it. I don’t think they will focus on you, but on your work. But of course wearing professional clothing is important. It shows you are taking things seriously. Of course you must have your business cards, resume and you have to have your resume printed with your logo to match your business cards to give the impression you are taking things seriously. You must print your work properly and how you show your work must be organized. You don’t want to look confused when showing your work. These things are really important for a first impression between you and the company. But lets go to the real work: you must spend time choosing the pieces you show; at the end of the day what you show as your work counts. If they’re smart they’ll pick you because your work is amazing or they love what you do, not what you wear.

CH: So as a freelance illustrator, you're meeting with companies to what end? Are you looking for a full-time job?

AA: I’m going for two reasons; the first is to possibly find the dream full-time job. The second is a good opportunity for them to see me face to face, so they can see my work, make the connections and then follow up with them afterwards to keep myself in their mind. In the follow up, I will send pieces of my work to remind them who I am, this is how you make good connections for freelance or a full-time job.

CH: And one of my usual questions when I speak to alumni, what is some advice you would give students who are about to graduate?

AA: To start as early as possible. Be ready; start thinking about your future before graduation. Make sure you have your business cards even before you have a class that forces you to have a business card. These are your tools after graduation, don’t do it just because you want to pass [the class]. Do it because you know this is your way to make money. So my advice is to attend events as much as you can. Not only the career fair, the career fair is only one of them. SCAD offers a lot of lectures, exhibitions and stuff like that. Be apart of it, go and see what advice [is offered]. Ask questions and write them down. Make a plan for yourself and make sure its clear. Sometimes you just want to graduate and be like “I’m done, my priority is to graduate from SCAD." Your preparation for life after SCAD must be parallel with your studies. Ask your professors questions; don’t make your relationship with them just about passing the class. Go beyond class. Think of this as an opportunity to speak with a professional in your career field. Have a relationship with your professors and career advisor. Mix all of the information together on how to be professional. Try to have a style. Contact people before you graduate so that after you will have a big part of finding a job done and your not starting from scratch. So that’s my advice: don’t wait till after graduation to start.