Designers
After Graduation

I recently went to the Issue25 debate in Manchester, an event held by the final year students from two very innovative and interesting courses BA Design Futures, and BA Design Management for the Creative Industries at the University of Salford. The idea was to bring the employers and the prospective employees together to discuss the ins and outs of getting that all-important first job. I found it to be a very good discussion, taught me a few things and reminded me of a few things I had to work out for myself. That’s inspired me to write this post to give this years graduates the advice I wish I’d gleaned when I graduated.

In the 12 months since I graduated I’ve learnt a few things about getting noticed by the right people. Some may seem fairly obvious but are often overlooked, others aren’t talked about in universities prior to graduation but probably should be.

Applying for Jobs

These are the main points that I took away from the debate. Following these will help you a great deal.

CV

  • Make it relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • Make sure the previous experience you talk about, and your qualifications are relevant.
  • No Creative Director is bothered about your GCSE grades or the part-time job you did in Tesco (unless you happened to be doing some designing for their POS of course).

Portfolio

  • 3 awesome pieces are better than 20 ‘OK’ pieces.
  • Make sure it’s kept up to date.
  • If you want to include work you did for an agency make sure you’re allowed to use the work in your folio (you may have to attribute the work to them).

Application

When you’re hunting for a job it’s very tempting to apply for as many as possible. If this is you, stop wasting everyone’s time. If you’re under-experienced, you won’t get past the first stage. Over 80% of all CVs get binned, mostly on this basis alone.

Networking

No-one ever mentioned this to me while I was at university but in the creative industry it’s one of the most important things you can do. Graduates have to go out and find the employers and one of the best places to do this at is networking events. Many are free apart from the beer at the bar so they’re easily affordable, however, like the job applications you have to find the groups relevant to you.

I know some people aren’t comfortable making conversation with strangers, my advice is to get comfortable. It takes practice so you may want to go with friends the first couple of times. If you do, make sure you split away from each other for a while and strike your own conversations, or at least approach in twos or threes. No-one likes to be mobbed! Whatever you do, never ever stand in the corner in your own little group all night.

Online

You do have your portfolio online don’t you? If not, slap yourself then get it up there. Even if you’re not a web person this is a must, there’s so many free or cheap portfolio sites out there it’s silly not to use one. Cargo Collective and Krop are just two great examples.

Once you’ve got one, keep it up-to-date. It’s no good having that crappy poster you did in your first year up there when you have some quality work sitting in your offline portfolio. Get it on and tell people about it. Put the website address on your business cards and mailers, tell people about it in your emails. When you do update it that could be a great excuse to fire off a few emails to your network telling them about this awesome brief you just worked on and how you answered it.

And Finally…

I decided very early on, even before I finished my degree, that I wasn’t going to take the “traditional” route of a series of work placements or “internships” and a possible job. You need to do what works for you, you may not find out what that is straight away but don’t feel you have to do what everyone else does.