Very few students will have graduated this year unaffected by the coronavirus. Sadly, finding meaningful employment as a graduate in the creative industry is now harder than ever, but not impossible.
I joined Blue Bee, a Salisbury based digital design agency two months ago as a junior graphic designer, making the transition between university and the graduate workforce against all odds; without a creative show, and without a graduation ceremony. I was welcomed by socially distanced open arms as my toes took a dip in the deep end. I now feel somewhat equipped to pass on my experience in a bid to provide inspiration to those still job hunting, and to students who will in September 2021, find themselves at the edge of university ready for their turn to take the daunting leap into the graduate workforce.
How to find your graduate job
Without creative shows, networking events, and many design agencies still working in their pajamas, it’s not so easy to stay visible as a young designer. For now, your main weapon is social media – use it to your advantage. Oh, and your portfolio.
Virtually show up. It’s surprising how many young designers sporting the “open-to-work” filter on LinkedIn haven’t linked(in) their folders. Make yourself visible. I found LinkedIn to be the best way to connect with the industry during the first Lockdown. With empathy at an all-time high, it’s unlikely you’ll be ignored. I’ve witnessed so many industry professionals offering support via the platform by way of portfolio reviews and feedback; use the generosity available to tweak your work and increase your presence in the design community.
Keep busy. Luckily as a creative, you’re not limited to 9-5. You have the luxury of self-initiated projects, charity projects, collaborations, and the ability to sharpen your Adobe suite skills from the comfort of home. When not applying for jobs, try to make this your priority. Employers want to see you care about your chosen career, in doing this you will have more to talk about at interviews whilst also keeping a crisp, up to date portfolio.
Contact agencies. Don’t be afraid to email, connect on LinkedIn and Instagram, or phone agencies you admire, and see yourself working at. Given the current employment landscape, many agencies (for now) are holding off on interns. Approach agencies with conversation and curiosity, not just speculation over a position of employment alone. Try and build relationships with people, you’re more likely to find opportunities arise doing this over cold-calling. Agencies may not be able to offer you a position there and then, but they may remember you and call you in for an interview in the future. Ask them to set you a brief and provide you with feedback. This little trick is perfect for staying in their inbox.
Congrats, the hard work might just have paid off! The interview is easy when you’ve prepared. You’ve heard it all before. Nothing new here. Research the agency, know your portfolio, show your best work, be on time, dress smartly, ask questions, and above all show you have a passion for design. Research ‘common interview questions for junior designers’. You’ll often be asked questions that show your interest in the industry. What is your favourite brand and why? We all have one. But if you can’t answer this on the spot you’ll leave the interviewer questioning your interest in the industry.
You got the job!
And you’re back to the bottom of another ladder. It’s not time to cancel your Adobe subscription and put your feet up just yet. Really this is just the beginning of the road for you. I spend my downtime dreaming up new projects, mentoring students, and working on collaborations with other designers. In doing so I stay current with the industry and challenge myself as a designer.
Be a sponge. Soak up all the knowledge you can from those you work with, respect their experience. Offer them a brew every now and then too, and don’t be shy in bringing biscuits in either! Office morale is always welcome.
I found job hunting hard. Most do. One piece of wisdom bestowed upon me has stuck in my mind. “Stay positive, you never know what’s around the corner.” Despite being fairly obvious, it wasn’t for me at the time. Prepare yourself, your time will come, and you’ll never look back.