This article was contributed by Matt Arnerich.
Talented graduates are always looking for the best way to make a start in the graduate jobs world. Compared to other sectors, the design world can feel particularly vicious. Even once you’ve aced your degree, that first job can feel some distance away.
So how do you make sure you’re attractive to employers? Below are six steps to make sure you land your dream role.
1. What do you want?
As much as it may seem attractive to apply to every single opportunity available, it’s definitely worth spending some time thinking about what you want to do. Consider where you had the most success during your course and think about the kind of work you’d like to be doing every day.
If you’re clearly focused on what you want it will come across in your CV and portfolio, and you’ll be able to select samples of your experience and work for both, that will put you in the strongest position to land the job.
2. Consider work experience
Rob Bye, co-founder of product design company Moramma, says that if you don’t know the direction to go in, a short-term internship may help you make your mind up. “Internships allow you to jump between different jobs, in different fields” says Rob “gaining experience in different types of design while being able to work out what you want to do long term”.
If you have a better idea of what your long term career goals are, search for your ideal future job role and see what kind of experience it requires. This can be a great guide to see what sort of junior role you should be applying for.
3. Focus on your portfolio
So, you know what you want to apply for, your next step is to build your personal brand. Your portfolio should showcase your top work and it’s important to be ruthless with what you include.
Juliette Cezar, writer for AIGA, suggests a basic rule for how your work should look. She explains that you need to “make it easy for a potential employer to get a sense of your work in 10 seconds, and proof of what you can do in five minutes”.
As for what to include, it’s important to have as diverse a portfolio as possible. University project and speculative work is important, but you should find a way to include some professional work too. Approach a charity that’s important to you and ask if they have any design projects they need to complete. You can also check out sites like Blur Group and Freelancers, which give you the chance to basically pitch for freelance work.
4. Don’t forget the order
Once you’ve boosted your portfolio to include a wider range of work, Rob Bye suggests you should start cutting. “Your top five projects are enough for an employer to get an idea of what you are like and what you can do” he says, and once you’ve made your decision, rate them and order them “two, five, three, four, one” in order of quality. This way you start out strong and finish even stronger, leaving a lasting impression on whoever sees your portfolio.
Creative Directors want to see proof that you think visually, and so you should be looking to get your design skills across in everything you present, including your CV.
5. Effective Networking
Yes, in the modern world LinkedIn is a hugely important tool. But as a designer, you need to present yourself in the best possible, creative light. If people can find old or outdated content online, it not only makes you appear unprofessional, but it might be the only thing they see.
Jonathan Denby and Aaron Bali of multi-service agency Digital Annexe note the importance of key words and buzzwords, as they’re essential to target LinkedIn’s basic algorithms. “Drop them as much as possible into your bio, headline and previous experience areas” they say, and you’ll show up far more often when people search.
A key part of networking is about getting advice from industry experts as well as getting in touch with potential employers. Use your connections to ensure you can get as many people as possible critiquing your portfolio. Get in touch with your university professors and see if they’ll do the same.
6. Expectations and Resilience
One of the key things to have when applying for graduate jobs in design is perspective. Yes, it can be a difficult sector to establish yourself in, but you have to see your graduate job as a progression of your education.
Sometimes in house design teams, or smaller studios, will give you the chance to learn a great deal, while getting to work across a diverse range of projects and tasks, often with far greater scope then the roles you’d be given within a larger company.
One of the most important things you’ll learn during the process is resilience. The likelihood is you’ll face rejection at some point, but remember to use this to your advantage. Every time you get turned down is an opportunity for you to find out where you went wrong.
Always get in contact with the company, find out why you weren’t considered, and use this invaluable advice to improve whatever it is that wasn’t good enough.
Most importantly, stay positive and good luck!
Matt Arnerich works as a content writer at graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. For the latest design opportunities, check out our graduate jobs London page. If you’re looking to hire a graduate, take a look our innovative Video CVs.