10 tips for getting a job in design

Published by Julie McGrath

August 15, 2017

Believe it or not I started off my career as a young Graphic Designer before entering into advertising and Finally IT Recruitment. I spent 3 years at University studying Design for Visual Communication and specialising in Graphic Design in my final year.

Graphic Design, Marketing and Advertising are all things I am still extremely passionate about and I love talking to other designers on a daily basis. While I will always be a designer underneath the  ‘Recruitment Exterior’ It is now my priority and core focus to support other designers find a new job that will challenge their skill set and bring out the best designer they can be.

I am going to share with you 10 top tips on how to change or start a career in Graphic Design and how to turn your dreams into reality.

1. Join design focused groups

Interacting with like-minded individuals and networking in the right groups are extremely important. Participating and interacting with designers and design organisations will provide a deeper understanding of the field, who’s in our industry and give you the chance to speak with influential and inspiring people. These can take many different forms such as FaceToFace Networking, Exhibitions, Podcasts, Social media chat groups etc.

2. Volunteer

If you are studying or wanting to start off your career as a designer you will need to be able to showcase your skills. A varied portfolio of work is always requested (there is no getting away from this) and it should be something you are proud to display. If you are just starting off your career you may have limited exposure to briefs or commercial work. So volunteering is a great way to start building your portfolio and a great way to support your local community.

3. Your CV

Make sure your CV is up to date and includes all relevant information including links to your design portfolio. If you haven’t had the chance to create an online presence and you want to apply for a job right now, create a PDF of some of your best work and submit it along with your CV. There are many businesses and people that can help you with this. Make sure your CV is clear, concise and free from any spelling mistakes.

4. Create an online portfolio

This may seem obvious however having an online presence is imperative. There are many sites that you can upload your work to such as Behance. If you don’t have your own website & portfolio set up, check out some free websites such as Moonfruit, Weebly and WordPress these are all customisable and simple to set up.

5. Work experience/apprenticeship

Finding work experience with a good Design Agency or in-house studio can offer invaluable experience. We know this first hand as we have just placed a recent Graduate Rhys through this method. Rhys completed work experience with one of our Design Agency clients. A month after completing his work experience he was employed by another one of our clients as their in-house designer. Work Experience will help you understand how design organisation/departments are run, and give you a better understanding about client briefs and how to prioritise work to timescales.

6. Nurture a network of designers

While other designers may be seen as your competition there is enough of the pie for everyone if you are good enough. Don’t be afraid to nurture relationships with other designers as it really pays off. (You are your only competition) This can be used for referrals, networking and building your brand. You generally find if you are good at your craft & you work hard at it you will have many supporters and people willing to help and recommend you.

There’s a great group of designers in the This Design Life facebook group here.

7. Talk to your heros & herions

While we all like getting notes from admirers or constructive feedback on our work, sending a message to those in our industry who inspire you can lead to many opportunities. Just look what happened when I complimented Chris from Calloway Green on the amazing SEO Academy content he and his business partner had put together. We found a common interest in design and all things Gary Vee! Let your design heroes know you respect their work and maybe one day when they are hiring you could be just what they are looking for. Of course this won’t always happen but it only takes that one big break.

8. Enter competitions

Having some design awards and accolades under your belt can definitely help build your credibility and reputation. It is also a great way to get under the noses of other creative directors, editors and industry professionals.

9. Start your own projects

“You’re a Creative,” so make sure and put it to good use. If you find that you aren’t getting the break you need then create projects that will open some doors and potential network opportunities. Split your day when you are searching for a new job. You can use traditional ways of searching for a job such as partnering with a Specialist IT Recruitment Agency and also searching on job boards, all this can be done while also creating your own projects.

Your projects could include ebooks, icons, CMS themes and anything else you can distribute for content or exposure. This can take time but creating your own opportunities will gain you extra credibility with your peers and potential hiring managers.

10. Don’t give up

You need to have the stamina and determination to keep going. You may have many doors slammed before you finally get your big break. Don’t give up, stay positive and keep moving forward. If you are getting negative responses form agencies and businesses ask for feedback on areas of improvements. Work on those and keep adapting until you finally get to where you need to be.

Julie McGrath
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1 Comment

  1. Fingerprint

    Thanks for the great tips! I do have a question however that I think you could probably answer.
    I was wondering, Do web development freelancers host
    the website and database locally while they’re making the website?
    Or is it better to host it live? Any insight
    would be greatly appreciated!


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