If you’re a creative who’s worked on campaigns, designs, and more for large companies but you can’t share it thanks to NDA, I feel your pain – welcome to my life. With so many recruiters vetting candidates based only on their online presence, this can be a real (and painful) challenge but it can be overcome. Let’s talk about a few ways to bulk up your personal brand presence.
Please note that you should always consult your own contracts + legal advisors prior to sharing any sensitive or NDA protected work. This is only meant to provide you with some ideas of where to start – not to be legal advice.
Check your Contracts
Some NDA’s will occasionally allow for creatives to share representative samples of work in the context of hiring – check your contracts and reach out to the company legal team to see if these companies will approve of your sharing the design spec. Obviously, ensure that no company secrets or sensitive information are included in the spec – and be mindful of when the design will be made public (example: asking to share a website or print design that is not yet public is unlikely to be approved).
Ask a Favor
If you have a long-standing, good relationship with a company you’ve worked with in the past – you could ask for legal approval to share work as a personal favor. Draft an email to your contact explaining exactly what work you’d like to share, in what context it will be shared, and attach a copy of the text and images you’d like to include. Be prepared to ask nicely, to answer questions, and to gracefully accept no as an answer.
Do Some Spec Work
I can almost feel folks starting to frown when they see “Spec Work”. Here’s the thing, when you can’t share your past creative to prove your design chops it’s worth it to spend some time creating a representative sample of work to demonstrate how you think. Even if it’s just a quick brand mood board or an idea for a log-in screen or marketing campaign – take some time to draft some visuals and write down the thought behind them. If you create these in reference to an existing brand – be sure to note that it is not contracted work (ie – that no one paid you for it and you were not employed by the brand). If a prospective employer shared sensitive information with you to create spec work, that information should be removed after use, even if you didn’t sign an NDA (good manners – this is a small world folks and people do talk).
Tip: If your online portfolio is lacking, attaching spec work to your cover letter can help to make a better first impression.
Know How to Talk About It
Sometimes – sharing the visuals is just not an option. That doesn’t mean you have to be caught off-guard or unprepared in an interview. Always let prospective employers know why you can’t share your work (ie. that you are under NDA), and have a prepared statement (and if possible a similar, non-NDA protected sample) about any relevant aspects of design experience you have such as marketing campaigns, ad campaigns, graphic or web designs, etc. Preparing your statements in advance will help you to ensure that you don’t share any NDA protected information as well.
Hang in There + Keep Track of Work You Can Share
Truth be told – it will take longer to find a job. But keep trying and as you go, keep a folder of vetted, “safe to share”, creative work. If you’re making non-NDA spec work you’ll build up a nice little cache and it will help in the long run.