So, you’re approaching graduation and facing up to the prospect of life in the big, bad real world. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be excited to kick-start your career in an industry you’re passionate about, but also slightly terrified at your prospects of finding the right job – or any job at all.
Well, fear not, as our handy guide gives you a few practical tips to steer you from graduation through to landing your first design job!
Think about your dream design job
“What’s your dream job?” is a pretty standard interview question. But it’s also a question you need to ask yourself: after all, how can you start to plan your career path if you don’t know your destination? The reality is that many graduate designers – and even some of those with a few years of experience under their belt – simply don’t know what discipline they want to work in, or in what sort of environment they’ll be most likely to shine.
It’s all too easy to assume that the “right” choice is to take a design job – any design job – at the most prestigious company possible. But will that role enable you to produce work that you’re proud of? Would you be better suited to life at a small agency, rather than a large design consultancy? Answer those questions and you’ll be on your way to landing a graduate role that suits you.
Spruce up your CV
For designers, the days of impressing would-be employers with a printed CV made using Microsoft Word are well behind us. From fully fledged infographics to interactive games and even a résumé printed on a cereal box, designers are becoming increasingly outlandish with their CV creativity in a bid to stand out from the crowd. You should view your CV as an opportunity to flex your creative muscles. After all, it’s easier to demonstrate your design talents visually than to describe them in bullet points or a paragraph of text.
Use Behance and LinkedIn properly
Once you’ve decided on the sort of job you want and created a winning CV, it’s time to start marketing yourself – and that means taking to social media. LinkedIn is a great platform for contacting recruiters and prospective employers, as well as keeping an eye on job opportunities. Creative networks such as Behance, Brushd and Dribbble give you a fantastic shop window to show off your best work and highlight your versatility. Another pointer on social media: employers want to see that you’ve got a genuine passion for design, which means they’ll be looking for evidence of this from your online presence. Make sure your love of design shines through on Facebook and Twitter, too.
What to include in your design portfolio
More than anything else, it’s your portfolio that will get you a job. Compiling the perfect portfolio isn’t easy: the challenge is to strike a balance between detail and brevity; eye-catching creative designs and real-world applications. It may sound like an obvious point, but the most important thing to remember with your portfolio is to include only your very best work. Employers see a lot of portfolios, so they won’t appreciate having to trawl through dozens of projects at a time. Instead, limit your portfolio to five pieces, and ensure that your standout examples appear in first and last position (after all, you need to start and finish on a high).
You should also take the opportunity to give some insight on design trends and the sector you want to work within. Demonstrate your expertise and offer an opinion – it’ll show that you really care about design.
What not to include in your design portfolio
What you leave out of your portfolio is almost as important as what you include. Throughout the process of compiling your portfolio, ask yourself: is this necessary? Will it help my chances of getting a job? If the answer is no, leave it out – employers don’t want to read wasted words. In a similar vein, don’t include anything too repetitive. If you’ve worked on two or three similar projects, try to pick the best one for your portfolio and omit the others – showcasing a variety of examples will help you stand out. Likewise, try to include more recent work. If a significant number of projects in your portfolio are from more than two years ago, it’ll stick out like a sore thumb and probably won’t do you any favours.
While we’re not about to pretend that job-hunting will necessarily be an enjoyable experience, you should view it as a chance to demonstrate your design skills and experience in a fun and creative way. And with the digital and creative sectors continuing to expand, there’s never been a better chance to make it as a designer!