It’s never too early to start thinking about what you’re going to do when you finish university or college. There’s no set way of getting your eager little graduate foot in the door of your dream design agency, and often you won’t get there straight away – which is fine, it’s all experience! But here’s a few of the things you should start thinking about to make sure you’ve got a head start and some tricks up your sleeve.
To snag a full time role you’ll almost definitely need to have a couple of placements on your CV. Keep an eye out for guest lectures in your university, check agency websites and social media channels, and if you can go to D&AD New Blood – it’s a great place to meet industry people! Find out as much as you can about the places you’d like to work and who the best contacts are.
First things first, you have to get your CV and portfolio sorted. As a graduate, your CV should reflect what you’ve learned about type and layout. Also think about designing a simple identity for yourself – you’re a brand too remember. For the portfolio, pick your four best projects - ask your tutor for their advice on this. If you want to do a placement in, say, a brand identity/packaging agency, try to put least one or two identity and packaging projects in there. If you have interesting side projects, stick them in too – you want to show stuff that you’re able to talk passionately about!
Go to events and mingle. Eg: Glug, Nicer Tuesdays, D&AD Festival - everything and anything design related. Get yourself out there! It’s much easier to have an interesting conversation in a relaxed environment with a beer in hand. You never know where conversations might lead so get stuck in and don’t be shy. All the people there will be somehow connected to the creative industry so this is your patch, you’re in your comfort zone with people on your wavelength – so have confidence in yourself and strike up a conversation.
For example YCN do student awards and the Creative Conscience Awards are great if you’ve got a design idea that’s socially valuable. It gets your work out there, gives you more contacts in the industry, it’ll beef up your portfolio and it will give you a confidence boost too. Look out for agencies that run student awards and if typography is your thing register to be a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD). It’s a great way to connect, network and get support and inspiration when you need it.
This is often overlooked but is by far the most important part of finding work as a graduate. Do something visually interesting or clever that’ll pique their curiosity. Don’t just send an email with your PDF and CV attached - agencies get loads of direct applications, some of the big ones get hundreds per day – make them pay attention to yours.
If you’re a designer in the digital age you really should have an interest in social media. It’s another channel to share your work, a way to connect with people you might not otherwise, and also a way to learn. Aside from anything else, it’s a great space to feed your imagination and inspire you. When it comes to things like Behance or The Dots, by all means go for it and get your work out there, alternatively you could have your own website – it’s cleaner and much more personal. If you're a digital or motion designer then a website is a must!
Paid or unpaid?
Placements and internships should be paid, even if it is only minimum wage. You’re doing a job just like everyone else, so agencies shouldn’t be asking you to work for free. If it’s a small agency who doesn’t have lots of cash then they might offer travel expenses and lunch. The main thing to think about is whether the experience will be worth it. You deserve to be paid for the work you do.