A deacon in my church spoke at some length this past Sunday about aspirations, and making dreams reality. He reminisced over the long months in college during which he worked up the nerve to ask the woman that would someday be his wife and the mother of his children on their first date. None of the reality he’d achieved would ever have been more than dreams had they never gone out. My first real relationship felt like a dream come true. After being convinced there would be things in life I was fated to never experience, suddenly I was living a dream. We're all gifted with imagination and hope, without which we'd never have a vision of a better life. Of course, aspirations alone are not enough to make a better reality. As good as my first girlfriend was, I worked hard to maintain our relationship. The first year we were together, I was certain never to take her to the same restaurant twice. I scoured newspapers throughout the week, looking for museum exhibits or shows or fairs or other unique activities to do on the weekend. Eventually, I ran out of zoos and museums and restaurants and, as repetition set in, she soon moved to another state and a better job and life, to pursue her own hopes and aspirations. We can have what we want in this life, but we have to work for it and, once we have it, work to keep it. And that's not easy.

A friend of mine left our company several years ago to teach art full time. She and her husband are both professors at a nearby university, and tonight they held a portfolio review for their students. People from various companies were on hand to review designs, and collect business cards and resumes. It was an impressive and interesting experience and, though nine years on the other side of the table from these students, I learned some things as well.

Some of the projects were impressive and grounded in the real world. Menus. Packaging. Magazine layouts. Most of the students had a focus, which is important in the design field. A potential client will not hire an illustrator if his or her portfolio consists mainly of logos. An artist may be capable of executing many different skills, but needs to tailor his or her portfolio to the specific job they're looking for. One girl had an impressive magazine design, one of the best in the show, but made what I consider two mistakes. First and foremost, while every page she did was strong, she included EVERY page in her portfolio. After the tenth sheet I was simply flipping through to be polite. An interviewer is concerned with time over manners, and quantity is not necessarily a good thing. Ten to twelve of her strongest pieces would have sufficed. Her other mistake was in separating each page. Magazine and catalog designs rely not on the single page but on a spread, and carrying a reader from the left side to the right. Her spreads were very strong and I could see they flowed smoothly, but the disruption of the black border around each individual sheet and the rings in the middle were not a good thing. She'd have been better with a slightly larger portfolio or, if that was too expensive(and I remember all too well the ironic cost of art supplies as a student), she could have printed them slightly smaller to fit horizontally. Things that are reduced generally seem tighter as well.

Some students were very neat, and one girl even offered chocolates along with her business cards. Others apologized for wrinkled pages and prints being smudged by spray mount. Neatness counts, especially in this field, but I was leery of offering too much advice. Some of the students seemed like they would have been receptive while others barely made eye contact and mumbled apologies or “dat's my stuff” with a wave of the hand. Attitude sells as much as talent. If you're proud of your work and believe it's good, you may sway an interviewer to agree. If you think your stuff is crap and convey that attitude, you may sway the interviewer negatively, even if the work itself isn't that bad. I could see so many mistakes I had made in some of my first interviews, and realized the progress I'd made in my own work without realizing it, simply by DOING it for so long.

One girl, a goth chick with purple hair dismissed a friend nearby from my company who intentionally wasn't wearing an identifying name tag. He noted which students treated everyone the same and which were overly friendly to those they thought would get work for them. While she ignored him, I was asked to sign in and take her card, and call her “for lunch or better yet cosmopolitans.” It was all said with a barely concealed sneer in her voice, and our friend later confirmed that the girl was a problem student whom she had failed once. The girl brought in her mother to complain, and didn't even have the name of the class she'd failed correct. Another day she was spasming in the hallway and when the paramedics arrived, sat up and said she was fine, that she just had back problems. Another student, who looked suspiciously like I did a decade ago, stared at our attractive professor friend from the shadows and mumbled a lot to himself. I wonder if that would have been me if hadn't gotten by with a little help from my friends, and been included in the various clubs, parties, movies and other social outings of my core classmates.

Tonight was also the third occasion I'd gone out, felt a little dizzy and had the feelings subside as I laughed with my friends, culminating in a nearly anxiety-free drive home. A lot of people in that room tonight will not find jobs right away, even the really good ones. It's important that they don't give up and keep working to make their aspirations a reality. There are a lot of amazing things we can achieve and obstacles we can overcome in life with a mix of desire, effort, and time.

All we need is just a little patience. And work. And aspirations.


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