The Professor: Judy Nylen
The Course: Professional Practices and Portfolio
Judy Nylen (M.L.S. ’96, M.F.A. ’68) is a woman of many parts: an exhibiting photographer and printmaker who has worked in the field of educational exhibition design; a Pratt faculty member who has taught a Professional Practices and Portfolio course since 2005; and director of Pratt’s Office of Career and Professional Development since 1975, a position from which she is retiring after more than 40 years of dedicated service to the Institute, effective June 1, 2012.
A third-generation Californian and graduate of Scripps College, Nylen moved east in 1966 to earn an M.F.A. in Pratt’s printmaking program and to live in New York City. Today, she divides her time between the Brooklyn townhouse she and her husband renovated in the early 1980s and their lakeside country home in Sussex, New Jersey, which houses her studio and pets, including an adopted cat found on Pratt’s campus.
In her capacity as director of Career and Professional Development, Nylen reviewed portfolios in all majors for three decades, launching and tracking the successful careers of hundreds of students and alumni.
From this experience, Nylen evolved her yearlong Professional Practices and Portfolio course, through which she shared her know-how with undergraduates in the Industrial Design department. The course, which Nylen hopes to continue teaching after retirement as director, stresses the importance of participating in design competitions and developing effective presentations. In its second semester, the course covers the concepts of legal rights, responsibilities, and obligations of the designer and reviews contracts, patents, copyrights, and royalties.
Over the years, Nylen has taught numerous students how to create a complete portfolio designed to best present their work in a highly professional and visually interesting manner and how to establish a professional industrial design practice following a step-by-step procedure.
Transitioning into the “real world” may be difficult for new graduates, but Nylen’s expertise at setting up a design practice or finding a job has relieved the stress for countless graduates.
Nylen acknowledges that modern job-seeking tools—the computer, the Internet, LinkedIn, and all other social media—have made it easier to become well informed about a target employer than ever before. This has also placed more responsibility on the job seeker, she points out, while also offering him or her more avenues for self-promotion to prospective employers. “Now,” Nylen cautions, “there is no excuse to not know a great deal about who you are interviewing with, and if you haven't done the research it will definitely count against you.”
“In the last fifteen years,” she adds, “companies have increased their ‘productivity.’ That frequently means they are doing more work with less people, so job seekers need to target and make it very obvious how they are a fit for a position. Visual folks have a distinct advantage because they can say a great deal with images.”
A well-designed résumé has become an important factor in a successful job search now.
“Today,” Nylen asserts, “you are lucky if an employer reads your entire résumé unless you summarize the contents at the top. Résumés get maybe a three-second glance initially. Only a few years ago, that time was at least three minutes, not seconds. Again, the visual impact of design makes all materials more easily read and absorbed.”
Judy Nylen's Top Job Hunting Tips
The first two tips are easy when you are in New York City, says Nylen, since few cities have such easy access to "industry neighborhoods" and participants in the creative economy.
- Network. Meet the people in your profession casually or with informational interviews.
- Research. Know the companies you want to work for, their projects, and their mission.
- Know Yourself. Be able to explain what makes you unique. Use your creativity to paint a picture of who you are and what makes you special. Speak in both words and images.
- Know Your Work. Become comfortable talking about what makes your work special. Be able to refer to a website or blog or a really creative Twitter feed. Show off visually.
- Target. Focus all your application materials on the position or company at hand. Make sure you make it easy to find out how qualified you are for the position, both on your résumé and in your cover letter, and do not send completely generic forms of either! Focus your work samples to match yourself visually to your target.
Text: Amy Aronoff, Adrienne Gyongy
Photo: Diana Pau