7 top tips for graduate designers applying for jobs

Graduates - we know what it's like. We've been there. University is over and its time to get a job. You just put a quick CV together and ask someone nicely right?

Wrong.  And it's not your fault.

As a web design agency we get a requests from graduates asking for consideration to be a new member of staff, but there's usually always a problem. We are more than sure graduates understand the principles of design better than most - courses are refined year after year to be better than ever, taking in new concepts as they arise etc. Also, fresh designers are not only more adept at using the latest software, making them faster than ever to producing content, but also the richness and variety of design has never been more so publicly available to reference. University courses, however, tend not to prepare graduates for the next step - getting a job. You probably haven't been told how to prepare for applying for a job, the process has changed since your mum and dad last applied for a job X years ago and applying for design jobs is much different. 

Have you ever been caught thinking you are in the trap below?

"You can't get a job without experience, you can't get experience without a job"

"You can't get a job without experience, you can't get experience without a job"



We hear you. Here are our 7 top tips for those leaving university looking for a job in web design, graphic design, or whatever else you want to specialise in for that matter. 



You CAN get experience - break the cycle!


There its again - the elusive ingredient - "Experience". You may not realise it, but companies hiring graduates don't just want to see the portfolio your university told you to write. You have to do something for yourself. Don't waste years at unit becoming just like everyone else and only producing a portfolio with just unit work.

Volunteering is not only beneficial to the charities, it helps you MASSIVELY. Volunteer for a local charity or event - If you really do have graphic design bones, they will need help promoting themselves and you can be the person to help. They might need a new logo, promotional posters, even a website design (or even implementation!). Get on it.

Also, ANY JOB will give you experience in some form that sets you apart from the competition - it doesn't just have to be design related. Hiring companies want to know you have drive and ambition, are good with customers, can work well in teams, work under pressure to meet deadlines, go beyond what is required to get the job done etc. Examples DO NOT have to be design related, so get going anywhere to start (a design based company would be a great start of course but transferable skills can be picked up in all sorts of ways). 

Get experience of the things hiring companies are after. If they are looking for customer service experience, then that summer job you had in a shop was a great way to demonstrate you did that. Remember that time you took the initiative to lead on the project that University set you? Very good leadership skills learned there as well. You see where it's going? Chances are you already DO have experience without realising it, and if you truly don't, it's easy enough to pick it up



Brand yourself


If you really are a wanting to work for a branding agency either as a web designer or graphic designer, you had better prove you can do the work by branding yourself. What does your CV say about you? The individual characters that make up your qualifications and experience tell a company what you have achieved strictly from an academic point of view, but tell me nothing about you as a person. Cranking out designs just isn't enough. Does your CV show anything about you that helps you stand out? 



Be Unique


Who are you? Remind me why we need to remember your name above the other plethora of design graduates coming our way? There's plenty of people wanting a job - why am I employing you, who has the same 1st degree in Graphic Design as the other 20 on the list? Perhaps you have done something unique, invented something, improved something or something equally amazing - whatever it is, make yourself stand out.

This INCLUDES what your CV, Cover Letter and application states. There's no point writing an email that states "Hello - I am A. N. Other person who just graduated with a 1st. Please consider my CV for anything posts you have open" when EVERYONE is doing that. There is ZERO creativity, uniqueness, or anything that makes a hiring person want to read on.

If you want to see some truly exceptional CV's, check out these: - We're not saying you need to create a piece of lego, but look at how creative they have been - now THEY stand out! Another example? Check out this ingenious move that led to Tuesday Poliak's first job - incredible stuff!

How not to present a CV for a design job

How not to present a CV for a design job

Excellent example of a creative CV

Excellent example of a creative CV



Work Hard


Sorry, but don't think for a moment that just because you have a 1st it means you should surely just be given a job - Now the work really starts, and working hard is a basic principle for life, not just getting your next job. Think of every part of your day to day life and, if you really are the creative genius you think you are, you will notice opportunities around every corner. If you are into packaging design, check an item from the cupboard and challenge yourself to make a better design and use it in your portfolio. If Identity creation is your game, think of your favourite pastime and create a new exciting brand that challenges the competition.

Once you have a job, work even harder. University is a walk in the park compared to the real pressures of a job in a design agency. Deadlines at all sorts of hours, changing scopes, challenging clients - you simply can't rest. Which also means get off social media - you're hired to be doing a job, not talking to your friends. That sort of thinking might have been good to get you through the humdrum of Uni life, but work doesn't stop so you can't (unfortunately!)



Craft an exceptional portfolio


On the topic of your portfolio, it needs to be amazing. I know that sounds like it's easier said than done, but it needs to stand out, just like your CV.  Have a think about whether you are presenting your work in the best possible way. Add extra work you have done, not just what the university told you do. Tailor the blurb about each piece to highlight to the company you are applying to WHY each piece on the portfolio should grab THEIR attention. Did it require leadership and they are looking for leadership qualities? Get it written down. Or was it a self-induced challenge to produce a result within a short timeframe, thereby resulting in meeting a challenging deadline, which happens to be on the job spec? Tie them together. Don't be afraid to design the portfolio as well - think of how people interact with it - it doesn't have to be a list on a page. Can it be made interactive? What will make people scroll /turn the page to the next pice of work?





So many times applicants try for jobs without actually paying attention to the job spec. ONE CV DOES NOT FIT ALL. What is required in the job? What is the employer looking for? Whatever that job specification says, pull out the bits that says "We're looking for X, Y and Z", then figure out what you have done that matches X, Y and Z and make damn sure it's in your one page (not two, not 3 - one) CV or cover letter (again, single page). 



Begin with the end in mind!


Have a really good think about what you want to achieve and with who - research your favourite companies and check out their styles, ethos and methods. Tailor your own brand and therefore application towards them, even if you are applying to someone else first. If you want to be a pixel art creative god - DO THAT. Craft your CV around it (tailoring content to the job spec of course).

Research your dream company and research what they expect from those that they recruit into your dream job. Aim to fill those qualities with each step of your progression through the job ladder until you get to apply for your dream job. You don't have to be great at all the attributes right away, but each step will add another "feather in your cap" that you can definitely show off when the time comes.

And remember, it's very important to remain humble - you will not land your dream right away. It takes time to learn all the attributes needed for you dream job so stay humble, be patient, and keep learning until the right time comes along.


Bonus tip - take this quote:

Opportunities multiply as they are seized

When you take the initiative to take an opportunity, not matter how small, the opportunities grow - including moving on to bigger and better jobs. Don't be shy - get out there. You'll be great :)