As a design graduate myself a couple of years back, I know the terror of transitioning from study to a career. When reflecting on my darkest days, spending endless nights hunched over seek.com.au, under nourished and un-showered, my wish is to help other poor (in both senses of the word) design students who don’t quite know their path yet; rest assured you’re not alone. Here are a couple of tips from my experiences that will hopefully help you take the next step from design student to design professional.
You may be thinking, “…what have I even learned in this degree, I feel like I know nothing.” Firstly, pretty much every design graduate feels like this and secondly, it’s not true. Finishing your studies and heading into ‘proper adulthood’ is a daunting prospect but it’s essential that you think realistically. You’ve learned thousands of things during your studies, not just academic knowledge but life skills too that will help you make the transition from study to career. Furthermore, a job isn’t a life sentence. If you begin your career in a job that you’re not happy with, simply move on; the perfect job could be just around the corner. There’s nothing wrong with exploring the realm of design jobs to find your niche.
While many design courses offer you a broad set of skills and knowledge, the downside of this is they tend to just touch on many different areas. During my course I was very interested in web design, however I was only able to study one or two web design subjects. To build on my studies, I started researching and doing online tutorials in my spare time and I also took up a bit of local freelance web design work. While freelancing can be pretty heinous at times, the experience you gain by working with real clients and managing your own projects is invaluable when it comes to finding a job. You can also build up an impressive portfolio to show to prospective employers that isn’t just uni assignments.
Just keep swimming
So you’ve got your killer portfolio, professional cover letter and spanking new outfit, now it’s time for the waiting game. When I finished uni, I spent a good three or four months in a constant pattern of applying for a job, getting an interview, bombing the interview, sulking in a book shop. In the end I got the shits, started a mindless retail job and then ran away to the UK for three months. Now I’m not saying that’s the most sensible option, but having a 12 month ‘gap year’ from designing was pretty great for me. In the retail job I met my long-term partner, improved my ‘problem solving’ and ‘people skills’ by dealing with the angriest, most unreasonable species on Earth, and spending time abroad gained me a huge amount of life experience and put many things into perspective. When I returned home, I applied for one job, got that job and I’ve now been here at MyWork for 2.5 years.
If you’re not quite ready to jump into the full-time life or, let’s face it, you can’t actually snag a job, interning is a great alternative. Gaining experience and knowledge in a real workplace will definitely set you apart from the thousands of other design graduates out there. MyWork are currently looking for interns in all different fields – web/graphic design, web development, SEO, content writing – the list goes on. If you’re keen on developing your skills in an awesome work environment, get in contact!