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Top Tips for Graphic Design Graduates

Published on Thursday, 10th October 2019, contributed by Design Activity

Every year we get lots of approaches from design graduates asking for placements and job opportunities. Our Design Director Mark has noticed a common theme in the graduates not really understanding/knowing the best way to go about their approach. So, he has put together his hints and tips that he guarantees will help graduates improve, and land that all important first job!

1.  Know what you want

So many placements are unsure what they want to do. Those with a passion for what they do always stand out against those who do not. Have a vision for what you want and where you want to be.

2. Get your approach right - compliments will get you everywhere

Your approach should be flawless. Research who you’re contacting, get the name right. Every agency has a website and normally the senior staff have their names up in lights. There are no excuses for not doing this homework, yet I see it all the time. Mention something about the company and what you like about their work. You can bet your life they love hearing how great their work is.

3. Be loud and proud of your work

I’m interested in your portfolio first and foremost. One of my portfolio pet peeves is small pictures. It’s much better to have a lovely design spread on one-page full bleed so I can appreciate your typography skills than 6 small pictures all on one slide where I can’t see the detail. Even if it makes your folio a bit longer, the devil is in the detail.

4. Listen

You’ve just graduated from a design course and you’ve taken your L plates off for the first time. Yep, you’re qualified to drive but now I’m going to try and teach you how to be a formula one driver.

Listening is the one key skill you’re going to need in your arsenal. It’s going to be information overload, so hearing key points of what’s asked of you are important. If you are unsure ask for something to be explained again. The worst thing you can do is go back to your desk unsure exactly what it is your doing and why. I would much rather tell you twice how to do something than you have do something twice.

5. Adapt fast

In the work place, jobs and paying clients are at stake, the time scales and pressure to deliver are much harsher than at Uni/College.
This is something all graduates struggle to adjust to. It’s not expected of you to be super-fast at first but something you should consider is the pressure of the others around you. The pressures are real. The faster you adapt, the better you’ll do.

6. One idea is not good enough

So many folios I see have the brief, followed by a solution. Where are all the other ideas? The truth is in most cases there weren’t any. Most graduates who do placements display a mental block at coming up with solutions that answer the brief in a variety of ways. The design industry expects you to develop a range of well thought through innovative ideas to a brief, not just the first thing you think of.

7. Play the system – win the game

You don’t need to be the most talented designer, just know how to play the game. Learn about the company you’re on placement with and who to impress. Be seen by the right people. No agency will just employ you for outright talent alone. Here’s something that’s banded around the internet a lot, it’s called ‘10 things that require zero talent’.

1. Being on time

2. Work ethic

3. Effort

4. Body language

5. Energy

6. Attitude

7. Passion

8. Being coachable

9. Doing extra

10. Being prepared

These 10 things are basically describing the ideal employee. Everyone thinks they can do all these things but I seldom see it. My top tip for getting a job is be these things first and you’ll win the game (get employed) so long as you do possess some design talent that can be coached.

8. Plan your placements – build the momentum

Not all placements will lead to a job. Don’t be disappointed, you might be brilliant it’s just there’s not a space for you right now. You must always plan your next placement in advance. It’s much better to turn down your next placement because you’ve had a job offer than to stop. Try and build some momentum to give you the best chance of getting a job offer. In my experience you are much more likely to get a first job offer during or after a placement rather than cold out of the blue. Keep your chin up and keep going.

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