Your first job is the natural extension of your education and experience so far. It’s also the foundation for the rest of your career. So how do you win your dream graphic design job and set the tone for your professional life?
Join Industry Organizations, Volunteer or Intern
As a student it’s much cheaper to join industry groups like AIGA, and this kind of membership gets you access to people and events that can help your career. Even as a volunteer at an industry event you can take advantage of some exciting opportunities for growth and get noticed by people in your field. Take this kind of experience to the next level as you feel out your options by taking on an internship with an in-house design department or a great design studio. It looks perfect on your resume, and gives you a variety of expertise.
Create an online presence
Design is a cutting edge field and you must have the right online presence to get a great job in the industry. Prospective employers need to find you online easily, with either an online portfolio service like Behance or your own bespoke website. Be smart about your social media presence, showing your designs on Instagram and joining professional groups on LinkedIn. Your entire online presence is a kind of portfolio, showing how you work, what you have done, and how much design is part of your everyday life.
We also provide social media workshops once a month to help introduce best practices online and how to make the most out of your accounts.
— Naomi Rodriguez (@NaomiDoesStuff) April 14, 2015
Do your own projects and compete
You are a creative—show that to prospective employers. If you’re not doing great projects at a job yet, do them on your own. Lots of great projects can get you started, keep you busy, show what you can do, and allow you to enter competitions: ebooks, WordPress themes, postcards, or great pack icons for free distribution can all make great projects. And if you can enter competitions your projects get seen—and you might even win some accolades and build a reputation.
If you have any “dream firms” in mind, don’t wait for them to list a job. Connect with people there at professional events or through your school so you can start the conversation. Research the firm so you know what their culture is like. Your demonstrated knowledge about the firm’s goals and clients goes a long way, and you want to show that you’re a great creative and professional fit.
Use your portfolio to tell a compelling story
Make sure you maintain an online portfolio that shows the basics of your skills within seconds and the broad sense of everything you can do in minutes. You are doing more with your portfolio than showing off your beautiful work; you are also communicating, telling the story of how you got to this point in your life and career. Don’t be too obsessed with templates, either; use a variety of your projects to showcase everything you’re capable of. And finally, edit carefully. One piece of bad work can bring down your entire portfolio.
Remember, stay positive about getting your dream graphic design job. The industry is extremely competitive, but you have a lot to offer. Don’t worry about getting rejected, because it happens to the most talented designers. Instead, focus on improving your portfolio and meeting new people in the industry. Even a rejection on one day can bring you to your dream job or project down the line.