It’s a wonderful time to embark on a career in design, with more jobs on the market than ever before. Saying that, it can still be difficult to get that all-important foot in the door so if opportunity isn’t knocking—here are my top 10 tips that will guarantee you are leagues ahead of many others trying for your dream job.
1. Include personal projects in your portfolio. All the Creative Directors we’ve worked with have been massive fans of seeing personal projects within your portfolio. They review hundreds of portfolios and if they only include responses to student briefs, they start looking a bit same-y.
Self-initiated projects are a great way to show off your creative thought processes and what you are capable of. It’s also a great way to show that you’re passionate about the industry.
Projects could be anything from a personal identity, a competition entry, an exhibition, a magazine or a pop-up store. Contacting a senior creative or a company that inspires you, and asking them for a brief, is an amazing way to challenge yourself creatively. If they like your response they may even offer you a job.
Collaborating with friends on a passion project is also a great way to generate more personal work. My all-time favourite student collaboration has to to the Pop-Up Agency, a student team that evolved into an amazing agency.
2. Attend The Dots Portfolio Masterclass. Sometimes it’s hard to take an impartial view on what should and shouldn’t be in your portfolio, which is one of the reasons we host Portfolio Masterclasses; so you can get first hand feedback from industry leaders. Impress the mentors enough and you might even bag your next dream placement.
3. Make the most out of your Grad Shows. Graduation shows are an incredible opportunity to come face-to-face with leading employers. It’s all too tempting to hang with your mates and celebrate the end of the course, but try to come out of your comfort zone and network with people milling around. They could turn out to be your future boss.
4. Immerse yourself in design events. The V&A’s Deputy Head of Design, Jane Scherbaum’s top tip for breaking into the industry is to “attend lots of events. London is a fantastic place where there are all sorts of talks and events that you can go to, and if you attend those and talk to people there – you’re going to get an awful lot of insight. On the whole, the design industry – we’re a friendly bunch – we will share contacts and leads, and you can really tap into those, so make sure you make the most of it.”
Great networking events for designers include:
6. Create a profile on The Dots. Sorry shameless plug, but this really is the best way to get your portfolio of work online and in front of employers. Top tips for getting the most out of your profile includes:
I’m so honoured that we now have over 2,500+ companies that use The Dots to find talent, so that dream job is much easier to land!
7. Smile, you’re designed to 🙂 Something I hear time and time again from companies (that always breaks my heart) is that they see lots of great designers, but not that many great people. In the end, companies are looking for designers that will work well in their organisation, so if you’re not humble, friendly, passionate and personable, they’ll simply hire someone else. Oh and always wear a smile.
8. Get creative. Two candidates I know landed jobs at a leading agency, by holding the domain names of the top Creative Directors to ransom, in return for a meeting with them. They then showed up at a number of agencies, with a camera and wearing balaclavas to present their portfolio. And while I’m not advocating trying the same stunt (it’s been done already!), it does prove that coming up with a unique & innovative way to get in front of a company can work.
7. Become a story teller. Naresh Ramchandani (Partner at Pentagram) strongly advocates the idea of telling a story when taking potential employers through your portfolio, telling us that you should “really take the trouble to explain your work as you are showing it, rather than assume the work explains itself. I think the narrative, the heart and the intention that you’ve got behind the campaign or the piece of work is as much what you’re buying when you hire someone as the piece of work itself. The personality has got to come out, as well as how accomplished you are”.
A top tip is to draft a script explaining each project ahead of time, then read this just before heading into an interview. It will take the pressure off, big time.
9. Muffins work a treat! An employer may see as many as eight people in a day while interviewing, so all too often one candidate can become indistinguishable from the next. Leaving behind a calling card is a great way to refresh an interviewer’s mind when they come to reviewing candidates; be it a business card, a piece of your work…. or take your cue from wonderful Jeremy Wortsman from illustration agency The Jacky Winter Group, who has gone as far as to say that he would hire anyone who brings him muffins. Magic!
10. Follow Your Heart. As corny as this heading is, it’s one of the best pieces of advice we can share. Harry Pearce (Partner at Pentagram) sums this notion up perfectly, “get close to things that you care about, don’t just take a job for the sake of it, just wait… that’s the main thing I would say”. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Massive thanks to Pip Jamieson for sharing her insights into job hunting. Keep an eye out for more words of wisdom from Pip on the blog, and in the meantime take her advice by making yourself a profile on The Dots.
Photo Credit: Jack Woodhouse
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