Many recent design graduates struggle to find work after they complete college. The job market still isn’t as robust as it should be, and employers are often hesitant to hire entry-level candidates. Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting the design job you’ve always dreamed of. Here are six tips to help you become a fiercer and more successful jobseeker:
1. Use your résumé to show off your creative prowess
The typical, humdrum résumé created using a Microsoft Word template won’t suffice if you want to be taken seriously in the design world. Well-designed résumés created on programs like Illustrator that include tasteful graphics and stimulating text designs are what catch the eyes of potential employers. So, if you want to stand out, you’ll need to go the extra mile and design a résumé that communicates both your personality and your creativity. For inspiration, check out these creative résumés posted by professional users and designers.
2. Make sure your portfolio is impeccable
As a designer, top employers will expect you to bring a portfolio of your best designs and projects to the interview. Don’t think you can get away without showing them some of your work, and don’t put together a portfolio haphazardly. Thoughtfully pick out which of your designs are truly the best and include them in the portfolio you take to interviews. It’s also a good idea to create a personal website that showcases your designs and to link to your website on your résumé and LinkedIn profile. You should take every opportunity available to you to prove to employers that you’re a skilled designer.
3. Explore freelance opportunities
Many recent design grads limit their job search and only apply to full-time, salaried positions. Unfortunately, this can be a big mistake, especially when they’re just starting out their careers. There are many more opportunities for freelancers than there are for entry-level designers seeking full-time work. Companies that don’t hire on-staff designers often have projects they outsource to freelancers. Look for these projects. Working on them will give you the real-world experience you need to pad your résumé, allow you to network with other professionals, and ultimately help you land the full-time gig you desire.
4. Ask your former professors for help
One of the advantages of being a design student is that almost all of your professors probably had years of experience in the professional world, unlike English and philosophy professors who may have spent the bulk of their careers in academia. This means that it’s likely that your professors have professional connections who may be able to help you find a job. So, don’t be afraid to ask your former instructors if they know about any job leads. And make sure you ask them to serve as references for you, especially if you know they valued your work.
5. Avoid aiming too high.
Applying to jobs that require 5 to 10 years of professional experience may not be the best idea, especially if your real world experience is limited. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to apply to jobs that only require a couple of years of experience, however. If you make it into the interview hot seat for a job that only requires a year or two of relevant work experience, you could easily argue that your academic experience makes up for your lack of professional experience. Just think realistically as you apply to jobs and assume that employers who want a substantial amount of experience or skills you simply don’t have won’t be interested in you at this point in your career.
6. Stay motivated
There’s a lot of need for designers in the professional world, but the job market is still tough. It may take you a few months to land the kind of job you desire. Try not to get discouraged during your job hunt. Every recent graduate is in the same boat as you. The right opportunity will come along if you keep trying. If you give up, however, success as a designer will be completely out of your reach. Make sure you take care of yourself as you look for jobs and continue to do the things you enjoy in your spare time. Maintaining a zeal for life will help you stay motivated and focused and will allow you to truly shine in interviews with potential employers.
Remember that you have a lot to offer as a design graduate, consider the tips above, and have faith that the right job will eventually come to you!
Rachel Sanders is a freelance writer and designer who creates content for webdesignschoolsguide.com as well as other education and design-related websites. When Rachel isn’t writing informative articles and designing websites, she likes to read, research education trends, and discuss all things design. Please leave comments and questions for Rachel below. She adores your feedback!