It’s reaching that time of the year when university students are finalizing their end of year projects and preparing to go out into the big wide world! This is probably one of the most daunting things you will encounter, the transition from education to the industry is a big life change and the market is extremely competitive… so where do you begin?
- Tailor your portfolio
First impressions are everything. Your CV is a portfolio piece in itself and your portfolio is an insight into your ability, understanding, and application of design fundamentals.
Remember, you may have 100 pieces of work, but it is not necessary to show all of them. For each application, pick 4-5 of your best pieces that align with the company you’re applying for so that they can see how you will fit into their team. You could still add in one piece of work which shows you have a varied skill set. If you are really interested in a company, yet don’t have work that they’re looking for – I would recommend doing a few personal projects that reflect more of their work. This shows initiative, a willingness to learn and a keen interest in the company.
Graduates fall into the trap of mass-sending CVs and portfolios. You may think the more you send out, the better the chances you will hear back from someone, but that’s not the case. Tailor yourself and take your time. Even if you simply refer to a piece of work that you’ve seen the company create, it shows you’ve taken the time to analyze the agencies’ work.
Before sending anything out, make sure you put it through a spell checker like Grammarly. There are always obvious mistakes which you may not see after working on it for so long. In this line of work, attention to detail is everything!
Stay away from clichés such as percentage bar or circle graphics on your CV. It’s too hard to quantify and doesn’t accurately tell the agency how talented you are.
- Learn new skills
You may think you want to be a specialist, however 9/10 times when working in an agency, you will most likely dabble in other areas. Whilst you’re still at university or during your free time whilst you’re job hunting, utilize your time and learn some new skills, a new software, a design approach or even a language.
Learning new techniques will better promote you as a designer and creative thinker, it will always come in handy! This will benefit you as it will show you are happy to keep evolving with current trends in the industry rather than remaining stagnant.
We know loads of graphic designers that have gone on to become motion designers, and turned motion designers to VR! Everything is so fast-paced, you’ll probably end up learning new skills anyway so why not get a head start.
- Collaboration is key
Whether you’re at university or an agency, working with new people will allow you to progress your skillset 100 times faster than working alone. Whether it be working with people from different design specialisms, printers, project managers or copywriters.
It is always about connections, whether you’re trying to get that cheap print job or you need someone to help you with a project. Learning from different people will also allow you to create a network of like-minded individuals that may help you in the future.
- Ask a million questions
Find out as much as you can about the agency you’re interested in, get a feel for the environment and culture. See if this is the place you can visualize yourself working in. Even when you’ve got the job, asking questions is still important. If you’re stuck or need a hand don’t be afraid to ask. You’re in a creative environment, utilize the vast knowledge and people around you!
- Never give up!
You will reach out to multiple agencies and not hear anything back, that’s just the fast-paced nature of our industry. Even if you are accepted in an internship, it doesn’t mean you will be successful. Don’t get disheartened and lose confidence in yourself.
Try to reach out to managers, tutors or friends to ask how you could improve and try not to take criticism personally. Honesty is the best policy, it allows you to come to terms with bad habits and make positive changes.
If being a designer is your dream, don’t settle for a 9 – 5 job that doesn’t fulfill your creative desires! Work hard in your spare time, practice and don’t give up! Every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow, whether it be good or bad.
Get as much experience as possible, alongside a professional well-groomed portfolio. Speaking from personal experience, there is much less emphasis placed on grades in today’s creative job market, experience counts for much more.
People hire people, if you and your portfolio are up to standards or beyond, then you’ll have the best chance at being hired. Show an eagerness to work within the field of design. Call agencies, meet teams, book a critique to review your work and hopefully gain that all-important internship or even a part/ full-time job. Good luck!
Written by Teresa Nguyen