It has now been one year since I graduated university and started as a Junior Designer at The Honey Partnership, here are five things I have learned in that year that I wish I knew before graduating:
1. You should always be a student
Just because you are no longer a student at university/college doesn’t mean you should stop being a student of your industry and craft. Develop existing skills and program knowledge, learn new skills towards a specialty or do something to broaden your skill set. As a junior one of the best things you can do – and studios now mention this in job adverts – is to follow new trends and keep an eye on what is happening in the industry. This could be going to exhibitions and talks, joining online communities or following blogs and podcasts.
2. You can be more than a junior and more than a designer
Although you should expect to sit at your desk and grind through the work at times (that is what you’re paid to do, after all), however, there is nothing stopping you contributing in other ways. You can offer insight on trends and news, put ideas forward for more general creative work outside of design, support teams on blogs, social or whatever else is happening. You’re more than capable and sometimes expected to exist beyond your job title.
3. No-one expects you to be a finished article
Be fully aware that you are not an established designer and not the final product. Embrace your flaws, highlight them as areas to work on. Employers will appreciate you being able to recognise your weaknesses and be encouraged that you are willing to work on them. Personally, as someone interested in digital design, I wanted to increase my understanding of what is possible in web design, so I took a few coding courses – I am not able to code from scratch but I am able to design with development in mind as well as write spec sheets and edit existing code.
4. Value time
Time is incredibly valuable in the industry and you should use it in the best way possible. My best piece of advice for using time wisely is to actually use other people’s time wisely. A lot of the positions you will be applying for will have many other contenders. Likewise the companies you’re applying for will be very busy day to day. Use this knowledge to your advantage. When sending out portfolios think about what is the minimum and most streamlined way to effectively present yourself, focus on the best of you and put it across in the most accessible way. I would suggest three to five projects showing your best work in either a PDF (can download from email) or website portfolio (can bookmark). Don’t be scared to follow up on emails if you don’t hear back, the employer may genuinely have lost it in emails.
5. Rejection really isn’t that bad
Not to scare you, but there are thousands upon thousands of people graduating university and applying for the same jobs you are. With a limited number of jobs, there is no doubt that you will get rejected from some places, but this shouldn’t hold you back. Apply for internships and positions at studios that seem impossible, the worst that can happen is they say no and you may get some very valuable feedback and contacts from putting yourself out there. Find places you would love to work and engage with them in person and even on social media, learn what they want and apply that to yourself.