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Visiting Artist: Alumni Jason Rodgers

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Academy Graduate Jason Rodgers on Career Advice for the Creative Industry

In the past, lifelong employment with one company was the ultimate career goal. It established a stable income and showed that you were loyal and reliable. In today’s job market, it’s more common for someone to receive training and hone their skills by working for several different companies, moving from one to another when they’re ready to learn more.

Alumni Jason Rodgers graduated from the Academy in 1999. He interned with Design Resources Group during his senior year and had been marketing himself as an illustrator and graphic designer. Jason learned quickly that his fundamental training and watercolor skills were valuable, but he’d need to develop additional digital skills to maintain employment in the creative industry, knowing that “it always feels good to continue creative work.”

Over the years, Jason held jobs with many different companies in the creative realm. When job searching, he found more success when he showed up in person. Whether knocking on the doors of local businesses or delivering his resume in person, Jason was able to show his personality and get his foot in the door in ways that aren’t always possible through online job sites.

When he took a job at Studio North, an independent marketing agency in Chicago, they weren’t actively hiring. But Jason was intrigued by their work and lived nearby, so he decided to cold-email them asking for a tour of their offices and a possible portfolio review. This creative way of introducing himself to the company ended with them offering him a job. He’s also learned that sometimes, the best opportunities are with smaller, less-known companies.

“Everyone always wants to work at big companies, but the benefit of a smaller company is having a hand in everything and gaining lots of creative experience.”

American Academy of Art College faculty member Rich Kryczka with alumni Jason Rodgers
Academy faculty member Rich Kryzcka with Jason Rodgers.

Throughout his presentation, Jason used the phrase “shopped around my portfolio” which faculty member Mat Barber Kennedy asked him to expand on. In Jason’s case, this means tailoring his website to appeal to his audience. The work most relevant to the job would be moved to the top of the page, followed by other work that showed his impressive range of skills, including his watercolor work, but didn’t speak specifically to the job role.

Jason is now a full-time Digital Media and Design instructor at the College of Lake County and does freelance design work for Aldon Company, a manufacturing business based in Waukegan, Illinois.

If you’d like to see more of Jason’s work, please visit his website

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