Looking for your first graphic design job? A friend recently asked me if I had any pointers for a student applying for their first design job. In part, I told him this:
First, the obvious: I can’t tell you what “employers” look for these days because there is not such thing as a group of “employers” that all think the same way. I haven’t hired anyone in a long time but I suspect things have not changed much.
If I was hiring a graphic designer in 2018 I’d look for evidence of reasoned thinking, attention to detail, respect for other people, good judgement, and an understanding of basic social graces (notice I haven’t mentioned design yet).
That said, your portfolio is EVERYTHING.
Design is opinion, and to show up on the radar you have to find employers your opinion resonates with. The beauty and curse of graphic design is that your entire set of design skills–your eye for style, your ability to express ideas and stories, your technical skills–are all right there, in full view, with every project you create. Most potential employers will know whether you’re a real prospect for their organization in the few minutes it takes to flip through your portfolio.
If your work doesn’t seem to be attracting any offers, you either have to change you opinion (design), improve on it, or dig deeper to find those who share your thinking. Going forward, remember this: there’s a big difference between self-expression and the marketing and branding of organizations. If you portfolio is filled with art, you need to find ways of injecting examples that demonstrate how your thinking plays out when applied to real-world projects.
Still can’t find a taker? Then develop your skills for doing a particular job–learn the tools of the trade, and work toward developing a portfolio that will attract an employer’s attention. To that end, I recommend this book: “Becoming a Graphic and Digital Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design” by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne.
It points to the vast number of jobs that require design skills. Through it, someone just starting out might better home in on the branch of the tree they’d like to land on. (This book or something like it should be required reading for high school students not college graduates–but, unfortunately, it often takes a while to discover just how much we don’t know.) ( https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Graphic-Digital-Designer-Careers/dp/1118771982 )
Ready to send out your resume?
One more must-do: Before you apply for any job, take an accounting of your online self. Search your name in conjunction with your school, your home town, past organizations you’ve worked for, and the places you post stuff–Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Then do a search for your email address(es).
You must assume your potential employer will find the same trail of information that you do–or more. If you don’t like what you see, search some of the online advice for cleaning up your online persona. I’m not saying you should draw attention to every aspect of your online past. I’m just suggesting you be prepared to explain how your past fits into your direction forward. No matter how unfair we believe it to be, one’s personal artistic expressions and his or her professional expressions are sometimes jumbled in minds of observers.
Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash.