Intern to Print Buyer: How do I get a job as a print buyer without previous experience?
Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers

I’m a senior student in Graphic Communications and will be graduating in December 2002. I’m interested in becoming a print buyer. I have completed three internships since I’ve been in school: one in production, another in training and development, and my last as an assistant CSR, but remain interested in print buying.

Since I’m graduating in December, I plan to begin looking for employment in mid-August. However, almost every print buying job I see requires experience ranging from a year to five years. I am not sure about how I can acquire an entry-level position as a print buyer and, therefore, am extremely grateful for any help you can offer.


I can appreciate your dilemma, T.B. I just talked with another student today who is also interested in becoming a print buyer and, like you, has interned several times. As you can see, she's in the same boat.

Keep in mind that the job market is probably at its worst right now for print buyers (and most other jobs, too). It's very likely that the job market will improve by the time you are ready for full employment.

Unfortunately, one of the hardships for novice buyers is that organizations are able to snatch up seasoned buyers they otherwise couldn’t afford. This is due to recent layoffs, which compel these seasoned people to accept a lower-than-normal salary.

In the meantime, here are a few things that you can do:

  1. Continue working as an intern, but if you are intent on becoming a print buyer, try only to select internships that can directly advance you in your chosen field. For instance, in your situation, I would suggest that you try to get another production/print buyer position -- as opposed to returning to a CSR internship.

  2. When applying for a print buyer position, your resume may not be as strong as other candidates because of lack of experience. However, a carefully crafted cover letter could help you get that proverbial foot in the door. Be sure to emphasize in the cover letter your understanding of the "pains" that buying companies face, such as pressures to reduce costs and the shrinking turnaround times of print jobs. If you have any experience as an intern that speaks to those problems, list them succinctly.

    Also, show what you know about print buying -- if you are a member of Print Buyers and frequently study the content -- this goes a long way in demonstrating both your desire for print production and willingness to educate yourself. If you've attended print production clubs or print conferences, be sure to list this as well.

  3. Offer the company a "trial run" of your services; in other words, let them know that you will work for free for a week or even two to demonstrate your abilities to learn the job quickly. Or offer a more extended time -- one month to three months for a reduced fee (maybe at an internship rate), but be sure to have a firm agreement that you will receive an adequate salary increase once that time is up. I know several people that have had great success with this technique.

  4. Finally, do make use of PBO's job bank for free listings of jobs wanted or internships wanted. Here’s the link for more details:

Good luck in your search!
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