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3D DIRECT • February 27, 2001

The Reel Deal

Self-Propelling Promotion

by Pat Johnson

The following documents are provided only as a guide. When creating or revising your package, please remember to start fresh with your own style.*

* Yes, the addresses have been changed. If you are interested in hiring any of the people listed here, contact 3Dgate.

In past articles, I've referenced how to package credentials and prepare demo reels for that big job search. However, because many of us are not as comfortable with writing about ourselves and marketing our skills, the fine points of writing a resume and cover letter as well as developing a well designed, self promotion package bears closer examination. I've included actual examples of resumes and cover letters written by several 3D graduates. This work will bring to light a number of common weaknesses as well as surprising strengths. In addition, actual presentation materials with all of the essentials offer concrete examples of what a great self-promotion package looks like.

Where to begin

Building an effective self-promotion package starts with a thorough analysis of your background and experience. This goes beyond professional or job-related experience to include your interests, achievements, and even hobbies. For instance, Jeffrey Reed Penn, a student in a recent self-promotion class at the Ex'pression Center for New Media in Emeryville, CA, had been a member of a New York organization dedicated to fighting for a moratorium on new prison construction. Another student, Ken McNaughton, had been a stuntman and had worked in Japan for several years.

Although these experiences may not seem relevant to 3D, they mean a lot to employers who value experiences beyond the classroom. By participating in a social movement, Penn was able to master the skills needed to work in an emotionally charged setting filled with unexpected challenges. McNaughton mastered another language and learned how to contribute to a team in an unfamiliar world.

Even students looking for work right out of high school can find experiences to include in a resume. Some of my students did part-time computer maintenance or documented big family events as the videographer. The things you learn as an amateur videographer or computer tech can be rolled into narrative descriptions of your strengths and can be related to work in the CG field.

The resume

Writing an effective resume begins by selecting the appropriate elements from your background and describing these along with your professional experience. If at all possible, start your resume with your experience—your real-world education. Employers are interested in your work-related experience because someone who has been in the work force is able to adapt more quickly to any professional environment. How can you include non-work experience in this portion of your resume? The easiest way to include unusual or non-traditional experience is to compose a functional rather than a chronological resume.

Functional resume

A functional resume might begin with a one- or two-sentence "job objective," followed by one-paragraph narratives describing experience and highlighting skills, achievements, and information relevant to the job market you are targeting. Information contained within each paragraph should be consistent with a specific set of skills, experiences, and abilities. These paragraphs form the body of the resume, and are followed by a technical skills lists, education and additional training, associations, awards, and publications. This resume does not include a list of your prior jobs. Limit your resume to one page, and keep your descriptions concise and pertinent to your professional objectives. The functional resume is particularly effective when you have little professional experience in your field, changed professions, or had a period of unemployment.

Always use a snap case on your demo reel. Label the top and spine, including contact information and runtimes.

Chronological resume

The chronological resume is a good choice for anyone who has held several jobs relating directly to the field for which they are applying. The chronological format starts with an objective statement, followed by a professional experience in reverse chronological order, listing the most recent work experience first. You should include the company name, location, title you held, dates of employment, and a brief description of your responsibilities using power phrases such as "responsible for," "managed," "created," "supervised," "founded," or "designed." Even if you have not worked in 3D—if you have been a graphic designer, desktop publishing specialist, Web designer, artist, theater or television or film professional, or have any technical computer experience—you would be wise to use the chronological resume. You should describe relevant, non-work-related experience in either a summary of your qualifications at the beginning of the resume or in an "additional experience" section at the end of your chronology of professional experience. Experience is followed by a technical skills list, education and additional training, associations, awards, and publications. Again, keep this resume to one page if possible.

Combined resume

The combined format is the choice most commonly used by most job seekers. Most of us have at least some related work experience that can be listed chronologically. And everyone has life experience worth describing in a narrative form. The combined format resume starts with an objective statement, then includes brief, narrative, functional paragraph or two, chronological work experience, a skills list or additional experience, education, associations, and awards.


Remember to include all of your contact information, including your email address, in your resume. If possible, start the resume with an objective statement that matches the job for which you are applying. Always end your resume with the statement "references available upon request." This signifies the end of the document and informs the reader that you are aware of the need for references. In this first communication, try to limit your resume to one page, two at the most. Revise your resume if necessary, highlighting more closely to the job description to which you are responding. You can always furnish a full curriculum vitae at a later time if more information is requested.

Label the outside of your folder as Gonzales has done, and place a business card in the slots on the inside pocket. Use the folder for your resume, cover letter, and also for samples of your work.

The cover letter

The cover letter is essential and should be included in your self-promotion packet. The cover letter enables you to describe your qualifications in much the same way as a functional resume. However, in the cover letter, you have the opportunity to discuss your background directly as it relates to the job for which you are applying. When writing cover letters, always customize them to reflect the job description.

One common mistake made by those just starting a job search is the use of grandiose, sweeping statements of abilities and comments that seem to dictate to the potential employer how the candidate can mold or change the company. Believe it or not, this happens. When presenting your capabilities, it is more effective to describe a situation in which you were able to make a significant contribution than to simply list your superlative qualities and expect the reader to take them on faith. Keep your comments grounded in reality and be modest. Once you are hired, you will have your chance to prove how talented you are.

The cover letter is intended to inform the reader that you are aware of the needs of the industry and that you have qualifications that will make you a good risk as a new employee. Its purpose is to offer convincing evidence of how well you can fit in and contribute to the existing environment. Remember that you probably don't have enough information or experience to tell the company you are contacting how it should approach its mission. Concentrate on information that will encourage the reader to want to explore your qualifications further by reading your resume and looking at your portfolio and demo materials.

Composition safety nets

When composing your resume and cover letter, remember that nothing makes a worse impression than incorrect spelling and usage. Use the spell checker in your word processing program, but don't just assume that the spell check is right. Instead, get someone else to proofread the copy for proper usage and wording. And after your final proof reading, recheck the documents again for consistent use of punctuation, and spacing, particularly in the resume.

Logo, letterhead, business cards, and labels

Packaging your resume and cover letter along with other materials is essential to making a good first impression. If two candidates with similar experience and qualifications apply for the same job, the one with the most professionally packaged application will have the upper hand. And even if you have little experience, professional presentation of your credentials will go a long way to making your application attractive and interesting to the employer.

If fate intervenes, and you are offered a marvelous opportunity before you have completed your packaging mission, the world will not end if you have to forgo a Fab Logo and use standard addressing for resume, cover letter and even your labels. In this case, format your name and address attractively. Open the leading slightly (spacing between lines of type) to insure that your heading is easy to read, use a slightly larger point size for your name, and be sure to list all your contact information.

Your logo

A good place to begin planning the look and feel of your promotional package is to come up with a simple logo. This logo will be used on all materials to create a coherent, consistent look and feel. This consistency immediately carries the message: "This person is organized, considers all aspects of a project, is attentive to detail, and takes pride in his or her work." Although a logo could be a graphic or small illustration, it can also be a tasteful use of interesting type to display your name or initials. Don't make the logo design too complicated. It is best to keep it simple and make it easy to identify.

Because you may have to fax or email your documents as well as mail them, always design logos that print well in grayscale and use type that is easy to read.

Your logo should then be applied first to your business card. The business card layout, including your address, contact phone numbers, and email, should be easy to read. Some rules of thumb to follow include using 8-point to 10-point type, and leaving some empty space in the layout. When the business card has been properly designed, this layout can be easily moved, with minor modifications, to letterhead, mailing labels (with your logo and address as well as space for writing the address of the recipient), business envelopes, tape and CD labels, and all other materials.

When you're preparing and printing these materials, there are a few pointers that can make it easier and less expensive.

  • Colored logos are interesting, but a well-designed grayscale version is equally effective and much cheaper to print.
  • If you print in color, do not print black on a red or blue background or vice versa. These colors are very difficult to read, and red and blue do not reproduce well. Your materials may have to be run through a copy machine or faxed.
  • Because you may have to fax or email your documents as well as mail them, always design logos that print well in grayscale and use type that is easy to read.
  • Fonts can be most effectively used if you avoid fancy fonts and never combine more than one serif and one sans serif font per document. The serif is the little foot or extra stroke at the base or end of a letter. Times and Palatino are two commonly uses serif fonts. Sans serif fonts have straight lines with no extra strokes. Helvetica and Arial are two commonly used sans serif fonts.
  • Use good-quality paper. Ink jet paper works best with ink jet printers, but good linen papers and formal stationary created just for ink jet printers are also a good choice.
  • Don't use plain white paper if other options are available because white gets dirty fast when handled and your materials will be passed to many hands.
  • Avoid mailing materials in a white envelope, which will get dirty as soon as it hits the mailbox and is guaranteed to make a bad first impression.
  • You don't need to use perforated business card or label paper.
  • Business cards are easier to print with at least six on a page. Print them on card stock that matches your stationery and then cut them. You can also have this done at a copy shop where they can advise you on the proper layout and usually have the tools to cut your cards perfectly.
  • Labels can be printed on stationery that matches the rest of your package and glued onto envelopes and other surfaces with a glue stick.

A mailing label includes space for the signature of the addressee. It is somewhat larger than a business card, but it looks fine and it is less trouble to design one multipurpose label and use it for a variety of functions.

Packaging with a pocket folder

The easiest way to package all documents and print materials—including a small portfolio of drawings if this is required—is inside a pocket folder. Place a business card in the slots inside the folder and use either a business card or specially designed identity label on the front of the folder as well. I use my mailing label as a folder label as well as a label for large envelopes. A mailing label includes space for the signature of the addressee. It is somewhat larger than a business card, but it looks fine and it is less trouble to design one multipurpose label and use it for a variety of functions.

The demo reel and snap case must contain several labels. (Never use a slip case because the tape can easily fall out and the slip case does not allow you to include an insert.)

Dressing up your demo reel

A critical component of self-promotion for 3D or any other digital- or CG-related field is the demo reel, demo CD, or portfolio of professional materials. As with the cover letter and resume a properly designed label is an essential component of your package. In the case of these materials, however, the mailing label does not serve the proper function. The demo reel and snap case must contain several labels. (Never use a slip case because the tape can easily fall out and the slip case does not allow you to include an insert.)

Snap case labels

  • The snap case should have front and spine labels, and a back label if it is possible to attach one. These labels must contain the following:
  • Name and contact information.
  • Titles and run times of your work.
  • Your logo or an attractive graphic if possible.

Snap case resume

The snap case should hold another copy of your resume, designed as an insert that is taped or glued to the inside cover of the case. The insert be arranged as a two- or three-fold cut to fit the inside cover. The reason for this is that your resume often gets filed in the human resources office and does not get sent along to the person reviewing your tape. When reviewing your reel, I am told that studio staff find it very helpful to have this extra resume for review because is gives them a clearer picture and makes it easier to do a proper evaluation of the candidates and credentials.

Your videotape should be labeled on the top and on the spine.

Tape labels

  • Your videotape should be labeled on the top and on the spine. These labels should contain the following:
  • (Top Label) Name and contact information, titles, and run times.
  • (Spine Label) Name and contact information.

If you are presenting information on a CD or DVD, the same information applies. The cover insert should contain the resume on the inside fold, and, of course, you would need a circular CD label containing name, contact information, titles, and, run times.


As you forge ahead with your job search, these methods should prove valuable as you create an effective picture of who you are and how you can benefit your employer. Though these are the traditional methods and materials for launching a job search, there are now other methods available for sharing this information. The most effective of these is to create a Web portfolio. My next article will explore the dos and don'ts of Web portfolio development.

For further information about developing effective resumes and cover letters, researching the job market, and making a good first impression, a great guide is the book, Knock 'em Dead 2001, by Martin Yate (Adams Media Corporation, 2000). Or visit the www.knockemdead.com and www.careercity.com Web sites.

Pat Johnson, formerly of Pratt Institute, is a CG consultant and educational advisor.