How to get your first graphic design job
So you’ve just graduated from college, university, or design school and although you are lacking the experience. You have a killer portfolio and feel fired with enthusiasm, you’re equipped with the skills and ability to make a name for yourself at the right company but you just have no experience in landing that all important first graphic design job.
Fear not, here’s our guide to getting your foot in the career door.
Get ‘out there’
Gone are the days when can rely on the local newspaper ads for the best jobs, today it’s all about networking and making connections. Whether you are looking to advertise yourself as a freelancer or land a graphic design position with a company, you need to start making connections and become a part of the right online communities.
Even before you have graduated and are ready to gain employment, you should start to make your skills and services available by creating profiles and adding you portfolio and resume to industry sites such as DIgg, freelance site such as Elance, and specialist IT job boards.
Posting your portfolio and employment status to social network sites is another positive first step and a way of getting ‘out there.’
Don’t wait for vacancies
Rather than simply waiting for jobs to come available do some research and create a list of prospective employers, including dream companies you would love to work for and local studios and businesses who you feel could benefit from your talents.
Once you have a list of employers you wish to work for go about writing an email explaining who you are and what you have to offer, as well as why you feel you’d be a perfect fit for their company and how you’d like to be considered for any relevant vacancies they have now or in the future. Make sure to tailor each email to each specific company and attach a copy of your resume and portfolio.
Rather than simply send out your email cold, give them a call first. Briefly explain your situation and ask who you should send the email too, this way you have already introduced yourself and made a positive first impression, and have a conversation to reference when sending your email.
Don’t stop working while you are looking for that first job. Spend plenty of time actively seeking work but also consider offering your design talents for free to friends, family, and local charities. Not only does this give you some valuable experience in working for a client and meeting deadlines, but it also gives you another way of getting out there and networking and may well lead to paid work. Potential employers will also see it as a big positive.
It’s also important to stay abreast of what is happening in the industry and continue to add to your talents by learning new skills and software. There are many sites and online publications that can keep you up to date with the latest goings on as well as news on all the latest innovations, you can also search YouTube for video tutorials on design skills you still need to work on.
Nailing the interview
Once you have a company interested in you it’s time to get ready for that all important interview.
Do plenty of research
As soon as you know you have an interview get googling. Try to find out all the key information on your potential new employers, how they are seen in the industry, how they operate, and where they want to go. The best way to do this is by finding press articles on the company and searching their own website for a mission statement and public relations page.
Make a good first impression
It’s a cliché but a good one, we only get to make a first impression once. Dressing for a graphic design interview can sometimes be a bit confusing, many studios and graphic design companies can be very laid back and seem somewhat informal which can make you feel formal wear might feel a bit silly, or stop you from showing your winning personality. Despite this, as a general rule of thumb you should still dress formally, or at least smart-casual; it’s important to feel comfortable and show you can fit in well, but it’s also important to show that you are taking the job very seriously and you want to make a good first impression.
It’s also very important to be punctual! Turning up late, or even ‘just in time,’ will leave a bad first impression no matter what your excuse. Make sure you plan your journey to the interview and leave plenty of time. If you are in any doubt find a nearby coffee shop so you can plan to arrive early and relax for 40 minutes before hand.
Don’t undersell yourself or be too modest
One key to giving a good interview is finding the right balance between confidence and modesty. While many will fear coming across as too confident and even arrogant, you should be careful not to be too modest and play down your actual talents and achievements.
Everyone gets nervous before an interview and it will take some courage, but don’t miss the opportunity to show your best work and your talents in a positive light, making sure to emphasize the skills you have which make you the ideal person for the job.
Bring a copy of your business card, resume, and portfolio
You may well have already sent your resume and portfolio to the company before you got the offer of an interview, but make sure to also bring a copy with you. The interviewer will want to go over such information with you and having a copy on hand shows them you are someone who is organized and in control. With that said, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with your resume and portfolio, and be prepared to talk through both in detail.
Presenting your business card to the interviewer is also a nice touch and another way to come across as professional, organized, and memorable. But remember, you are applying for a job as a graphic designer, so your business card should well designed and designed by you! Get it right and it’s another positive talking point.