By Edward Cruz
Prior to looking through the viewfinder of a camera, a photographer needs to make a few decisions on what they are shooting. For instance, what is the purpose of the photograph? Is it to evoke an emotion, share a scene, or focus on a specific subject of interest? When preparing for an event shoot, other items that need to be considered include the client’s needs, the venue layout, and inventory of equipment needed to capture the event. As an aspiring photographer and a full-time career advisor, I have observed many similarities between shooting an event and gearing up for a job search. Let me explain.

One of the most common emotions many photographers face when starting out is their worth. Many times, the question that has run through my own mind is, Is my work up to par? or Is my equipment good enough to start out as a ‘professional photographer’? Well, in many cases we soon realize the equipment only enhances what we already have within. Having an eye for pictures is a tough skill to teach, many times a person either has it or they don’t. Learning the technical aspects of photography can assist someone in taking the camera off the auto mode. However, after that is accomplished, the creativity or skill required to take a great picture is not found in the equipment used. It is found within the person behind the lens. It comes from an interest, a passion, a curiosity to see the world differently and to express that view through the pictures taken.
As a job seeker, the common themes are similar. The questions that are raised include:
Is my resume good enough?
Are my skills top-notch?
Do I have enough experience to be marketable?
Before attending an event shoot, there are a few steps that photographers must take to ensure a quality product and experience for the client. In a similar fashion, a job seeker, recent graduate or not, should take similar steps to ensure a successful transition or career search. First, conduct an inventory of equipment; secondly, meet with the client; thirdly, conduct a walkthrough of the venue.
Inventory of Equipment
Prior to working an event, a photographer must conduct an inventory of their equipment and be aware of the type of event. One must understand the layout, the event schedule, the subject, and the purpose of the event to capture the best pictures possible. As such, a job seeker should take time out to conduct an inventory of their own equipment or skills that make them unique and standout from the crowd. Just as photographers need to analyze their own work, interests, and the passion that fuels their creativity, a job seeker must determine where their interests lie, what fuels their passion, and provides them with meaning. Unfortunately, there is not a standard response that encompasses every person. Therefore, one of the first things necessary for any job seeker is to understand who they are, what have they accomplished, and what they enjoy. I provided a few questions that can assist in this first step.
  • What are my interests; what am I passionate about?
    • What interests you most in life? 
      •  Favorite hobbies
      • A Particular subject matter 
      •  Lights fire within 
      •  Gives meaning/satisfaction 
  •   What are my values?
    •   Non-negotiable (regardless of pay, location, job title, etc.)
    • Family traditions/background and upbringing
  • What skills/strengths would I most like to use? 
    •  Skills you find yourself using over and over again – they may reveal what you do well and enjoy doing 
    • Recall an accomplishment and determine the skills used during the achievement 
    • When possible, do not forget to quantify your results
 As mentioned previously, event photographers need to answer a few questions prior to an event. However, some of these questions cannot be answered on their own. Therefore the next step can be extremely important if a photographer is to be successful at their next event. Remember, there is not a cookie cutter way to conduct a job search and there is not a set way to shoot every event. This brings us to our next step, meet with the client. 
Meet with Client
It is extremely important for a photographer to conduct a meeting or multiple meetings, if necessary, with their client to fully understand what the client’s needs are, what they expect, and what they would like to be captured within the photos taken. For example, when shooting weddings, the details of the day are important like the decorations used, the bridal party’s dresses and tuxedos, the rings, and most importantly the bride’s dress. Other items to consider would be the family and friends in attendance. Knowing which people are important to the bride and groom to include in photos can ensure they receive a product they’ll be happy with. When a client is happy, through word of mouth, a photographer receives more business and clients, and the cycle continues. This step is a major piece that some individuals do not consider or tend to overlook. The importance of understanding what you are trying to accomplish at an event that is being photographed or conducting a job search is extremely important. Before we can get to the end result, we have to remember without a roadmap it could be difficult to go from point A to point B. It is vital to prepare and to network to ensure success.
Like a photographer, a job seeker should be using meetings, specifically informational interview meetings, to make a great first impression on a person who has the ability to hire them or refer them on to another client. When setting up an informational interview, be prepared to ask the right questions to get the information needed to be more prepared and to make a better decision in a future search. Please be patient with this process, in most cases, the results will not be instant.
Additionally, remember this is a networking opportunity. So the first impression is extremely important to continue the relationship past the initial meeting. The question most commonly asked during my advising meetings is, How should I prepare for an informational interview meeting or an upcoming interview? My response, besides becoming more self-aware (discussed in the previous section), is take the necessary time to research the company (discussed further in the next section Conduct a Walkthrough); understand its mission/vision and how it fits in with your own values or outlook on life. Next, learn as much as possible about the services/products provided or sold, the competitors, and the organization’s most recent accomplishments and/or shortcomings. As you determine who you should first reach out to, remember to first utilize your already established network or connect with fellow ‘Canes through resources such as LinkedIn. The goal of these meetings is to learn more about the unwritten stories or experiences of individuals that most likely will not be available through a company website or other promotional materials.  
Here are sample questions you can use on your next informational interview or in-person networking encounter:
  • What are tasks/duties performed during a typical day/week/month?
  • What type of degrees, courses, internships should be completed to be a competitive candidate upon graduation?
  • What are the keywords or buzz terms I should include in my resume or cover letter when applying in this field?
  • What skills/characteristics are important to have or acquire?
  • Who else would you recommend I speak to?
Conduct a Walkthrough of the Venue 
Prior to any event or meeting, it is recommended for a photographer to conduct a walkthrough of the venue to be the most prepared to succeed. Once a walkthrough is completed the photographer and staff are more familiar with the lighting and layout prior to arrival on the event date. The walkthrough allows the photographer to anticipate any possible challenges ahead of time, resulting in less distractions and more freedom to be creative the day of the event.
It is the responsibility of the job seeker to conduct similar research, either in the field or online. Today, there are a variety of resources to assist candidates with their research on an organization, industry, or position. Students and recent graduates should take advantage of the Toppel Career Center’s HireACane website by logging into their account (scroll to the bottom of the page and click the green Gobutton). Once you login to HireACane, you will have access to a variety of online resources paid for by the Toppel Career Center. Take advantage of these resources to find job postings and to conduct company and industry research. By utilizing these resources you will be better prepared and have a sharper focus of what you would like to accomplish within your search. Also, do not forget to take advantage of a mock interview prior to experiencing the real thing. During this simulation interview, one of the Toppel advisors will ask you questions tailored to a specific organization, job or industry of your choice. To schedule a mock interview, you must first attend an interviewing skills workshop at the Center. 
Just like the advantage a photographer gains by preparing ahead of time for an event shoot or client meeting, a job seeker will gain a similar advantage through preparation. They will become more confident, relaxed, and better able to share their experience with another person during an interview or informational interview meeting. As a result, they will leave a lasting positive impression on people they meet.