Finding your first design jobFinally, after years of studying, projects and tests, you’ve graduated! So what do you do next? How do you find a job? Finding work as a designer for the first time can be very overwhelming. It’s not only the pressure of finding a job opportunity and showing you are qualified, it’s also about showing potential employers you are creative, innovative, original and that basically your designs rock!

So here are some tips that might help you find your first design job and hopefully get hired.

Create a Portfolio

I know you just graduated and you probably haven’t done many “real” projects. However, no one is going to hire you if they can’t see any samples of your work. My suggestion is to create a portfolio using some of your best work from school, any internship projects you collaborated on or any work that might have won an award.

If you still don’t feel like you have enough to create a decent portfolio, then design new stuff! You can design a logo for an imaginary company. You can do pro bono work for family or friends. By the way, this always gets you great referrals.  You can also rebrand an existing company and explain how you think you can make it better and why. However, if you do use a real company, remember to include a note on your portfolio about how the company did not ask or hire you to do it, and how it is not for commercial purposes.

Design Your Resume

If you are asking for a designer position, your resume should reflect that. Don’t use a template or type up a basic “blah” resume like everybody else. Design it! Let it represent who you are creatively. Be original with layout, paper and color. However, don’t overdo it! You still want it to be legible, easy to understand, and condensed to one page.

Focus On Your Strengths and Interests

Focus both your portfolio and resume on what you do best and what you most like to do. Are you best at designing logos? Or maybe you know all the ins and outs of designing print jobs. Perhaps, you just want to focus on websites. Or your passion may lie with editorial design. Make your portfolio, resume and pitch reflect that so that you get the right job for you. It would be a shame to get an editorial design job when you really want to specialize in logo design instead. Now, if you want to work in several areas, then go for it!

Don’t forget about other strengths that companies may value. Do you speak another language? Are you a people person? Are you tech savvy? How many software design and non-design programs do you master? Are you a problem solver? Can you work under high pressure deadlines? Think about things that will make you a stronger candidate for the position because you can offer more than just amazing design work.

Attend Meet-ups or WorkshopsGet Up From Your Computer

You can submit online applications all day long, but try other things too. Find out if your school offers work placement programs. Ask teachers if they know of possible job opportunities, as many of them might know people in local businesses and they can refer you. Attend local meet-ups or workshops where you can meet other designers or potential employers.

This won’t always work, but  try going to some design agencies and make an appearance. Tell the receptionist you wanted to drop off your resume in person or ask if you can quickly introduce yourself to the person in charge of hiring. In some cases you may get lucky and talk to someone. Make a great first impression by showing you’ve done your research on the company and show enthusiasm. I actually did this with companies that were not actively hiring, and two of them decided to keep my resume on file because we made a good connection. One of them called me back within a week when they had an overload of work and offered me a temporary position that could lead to a permanent one.

Be Prepared

I know this may sound silly, but be sure to have a computer or laptop that you can work from. Your computer should have the design software you need, and don’t forget to back up your work! These sound like obvious things, but I’ve known designers who think excuses will make your potential employer overlook your lack of work samples or basic design tools. They won’t.

In most cases, you will work from a computer in the design agency, but sometimes there may be things you might need to work on at home. Perhaps you want to freelance to beef up your portfolio or simply learn new techniques. For all this, you need a computer and design software. Get an external hard drive or buy a online backup service as well because computers burn out, die out and fail. Your work is valuable, so protect it.

Prepared also means to (cliche alert) “dress for success.” Be presentable. That doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie, especially with creative positions. However, don’t show up for an interview or a work day in casual and sloppy outfits.

Be Social

Get on Facebook, TwitterDribbble, online design communities or forums, and network! Talking to other designers may broaden your search for jobs opportunities as well as the ability to showcase your talent to seasoned professionals that can critique your work and help you grow.

Beware of what you post online! More and more employers are now looking at your social media pages to judge if you are the right person to hire. Avoid inappropriate pictures, offensive status updates, Facebook or Twitter wars with “friends” or anything that will make you look bad to potential employers.

Don’t Give Up!

We live in tough times. Jobs aren’t easy to find or get, especially if you are straight out of college. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find a job immediately. Don’t give up and most importantly don’t stop designing, learning and growing your skills. It will happen!


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