Graphic design: Starting your first job can be a nerve-wracking experience. You want to do well, but you also want to make sure you’re being thorough and ready for the new demands that come with the job.
Being hired for your first professional design position is an exciting milestone, but it is also a very analytical process. You need to be prepared from the moment you get that call up until the day your new boss hands you that first paycheck. If you’re starting from scratch with no portfolio, these tips will help you ace your first interview and land an entry-level gig in no time!
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The 7 Best Tips for Starting Your Graphic Design Career
Every designer dreams of working at an agency. For some, that means going to art school. For others, it means taking on freelance gigs while they hone their craft and build up a portfolio that will land them a full-time gig. Whichever route you take, starting your career as a designer isn’t easy. Even working within the same industry can be challenging with so many job openings available – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! Here are some tips for anyone who wants to start their career in design:
Don’t skimp on your portfolio
When starting your career as a designer, it’s easy to get carried away with all the other responsibilities in your life. After all, graphic design is a fun, creative job. But, if you don’t have a strong portfolio to show prospective employers, you might not even have a chance at getting an interview. A portfolio is a collection of your work. It should be a reflection of your design skills and how you’d be able to help a company achieve its design goals. Ideally, you should be able to showcase your design skills, your ability to collaborate with others, and your ability to manage a project from start to finish. That way, when hiring managers are looking to fill a position, they can see what skills you have that will help them succeed in the role.
Network like crazy
You’ve likely heard that networking is essential to finding a job, but you may not realize just how important it is to your career as a designer. You might be tempted to focus all your efforts on finding job openings and making connections with people who can hire you. However, networking is about building relationships that will last for years. That means making connections with people who can help you navigate your career. That could mean someone you meet at a design meetup, a professor who gives you advice on your project, or someone who knows a hiring manager at a company you want to work for.
Show, don’t tell
You can’t expect to receive glowing feedback on your portfolio without showing your work to someone else. Luckily, there are tons of places to do this. Whether it’s a local meetup or an online community, getting feedback on your work is invaluable. You can also ask those who know you well to give you a “second opinion” on your portfolio. Those who know you well are often able to give you honest, helpful feedback that helps you make improvements to your work. You can also ask those who know you less well for their feedback as well.
Be a self-learner
You’ve likely heard that designers need to be self-starters, but being a self-learner means more than simply knowing when to stop working and start relaxing. Becoming a self-learner means understanding where your own strengths are, and applying those strengths to the roles you apply for. That means you might find you’re a good fit for junior roles, but aren’t ready for senior positions yet.
Read, read, read!
As cliché as it sounds, reading is key. There’s no better way to develop your skills, get exposure to new topics, and learn more about design than reading. Whether it’s a blog post, an industry magazine, or a book on a topic you’re interested in, reading can help you see new perspectives. Reading can also help you learn how to better navigate your career. You can read about different companies, how they operate, and what they do. Reading can also help you understand the design industry and how you fit into it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
If you’ve gotten to this point in your career, you’re already making positive steps. That means you’re open to feedback and willing to make improvements. That’s a great trait to have. Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, it’s not common. If you want to get feedback on your portfolio and your next project, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
We’ve talked about the benefits of starting your career as a designer, but what about the risks? If you’re ready to get started, keep reading for some final tips. You might find that moving to a new city is stressful, but you’ll have a better chance of finding a job with your portfolio in hand. There are tons of design jobs available, but you need to put yourself in the best position to land them. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to a great career in graphic design!