From job hunting to working as a digital illustrator

Tell us a little about you…

My name is Svilen Petrov, a 38-year-old illustrator and character designer from Bulgaria. I mention my age because my professional start as an illustrator was late. I emphasize this because I want to motivate people who start their professional development at a later age. Here is my story From job hunting to working as a digital illustrator in a big company. You can check out what I do on Behance, Dribbble, and Instagram.

How was your University time?

I went to university in 2000, when I was 18 years old. The Internet was barely entering and the professions related to digital illustration was not that common. While I was studying, I had to work for a living and pay my semester fees. I had to work as a night watchman at school, a waiter, a bartender, a tennis court maintenance. It was always a job very far from painting. This continued long after my graduation and I hardly painted.

Why did you seek out a career in this field?

After completing my military service in 2007 (at that time it was obligatory), I decided to start doing what I love and was on job hunting that involves painting. I was 25 years old without any money but with a desire to do what I want!

The reality was different – no one would hire a person without experience, and you know – without a job, there is no way to live and survive but still, I was motivated and self advice to keep job hunting moving. Again I was forced to look for a job that was far from painting and I applied for a grape picker abroad in Spain. I was not accepted and I was so disappointed, I thought that nothing is going to work out for me. No job, no money, and I was no longer thinking about painting. By all indications, this was the bottom for me. But later I realized I was wrong! And what happened was the best thing in my life! But you will find out about this in the next question.

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?

A few days after I was denied a job as a grape picker in Spain, I saw an ad in a newspaper looking for a graphic designer. Yes, a job that is not as an illustrator, but I had similar skills that I could apply. I already had minimal skills with graphics software and I thought this was a chance I should not miss! I went to the interview, which included a task for a real client. I was worried and thought I hadn’t done anything, but to my great joy, they called me a few days later and told me the good news – I had been hired! An so at the age of 25, I was a graphic designer in a garage studio.

The experience I got there was key to my development. I worked there for about a year and a half. Then I started as a 3D texture artist and after that as a web and UI designer. With each next job, I gained more and more knowledge and the companies that hired me became bigger and bigger. At the age of 32, I worked as a UI designer in a big corporation, I got a good salary and savings but I didn’t have the most important thing for me, what makes me happy – From job hunting to working as a digital illustrator in a big company. With the money saved, I left a stable and promising job to look for a job related to painting.

Many of you will think – “It’s crazy at the age of 32 to look for a job where you don’t have a single day of experience, to start from scratch and in addition to expect to make money out of it … give up dude!”. Only a few people would understand me, but I will tell you only one thing – “It’s all worth it!” I have been a freelance illustrator for over six years and what I have achieved makes me happy.

How did you prepare for an interview?

All of the interviews I have been at were practical tasks. If you appear at such, my advice is to be yourself. With every next interview you go to, you will become more and more confident.

Things are changing very fast in the industry; how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc.

Every day I do 30 minutes of research in Dribble and Behance to keep up with what’s going on.

What can you recommend on CV?

Mention the things you do outside of work, your interests. Write that you want to learn things that will improve your professional skills. Don’t be afraid to list them in the CV.

Advice for someone looking for job?

Just don’t give up!

Why do you think you were selected among other candidates?

Because I was myself and I’ve never been afraid to show my ideas.

Also read My Story From Studying Motion Graphics to Becoming an Illustrator and Graphic Designer

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