Finding work can be daunting when you are first starting out. We have some tips & tricks to help from CV writing to Industry specific networking events, you can even check out the other courses to pool ideas.
“Starting anything requires energy” This image is taken from the blog The 50 (tweetable) things every creative should know.
Building your career takes time so start early in your course.
8 key steps to building your career in creative design
1. Get to know your market
Whether you want to work as a freelancer, a design consultancy, or in-house, start by building a list of companies you aspire to work with.
Find contacts by just putting ‘Graphic Design’ or ‘Graphic design Companies’ or ‘branding agencies” into a search engine or use directories like:
We highly rate this searchable map of agencies by the folks over at Young Creative Council. It’s even got places to stay when you go and visit an agency.
Get to know who is winning awards, and leading in their field. The study zone has copies of relevant trade magazines to help with this research. You will quickly learn about companies that are expanding or contracting along with industry trends and technology, from which you can develop some leads.
2. Use your Linkedin account
By reading the group posts on Linkedin and taking part in discussions you will learn a lot about what people are talking about in the industry. Not all of it will be relevant to you but all that you read will expand your knowledge of the industry. Often people advertise that they need people for job roles or freelance work within the groups. Some examples for graphic designers can be found below, but you will get ideas of the most relevant groups by looking at which ones established photographers are using.
When the time is right for you, look up the names of contacts within these companies on Linkedin and connect with them- it is really normal to connect with people you don’t know on Linkedin- just make sure your profile looks professional. The Careers and Industry Liaison team can help you with this.
3. Make contact
If you want to get work with a design agency, consider which companies your style of work will best fit. If they are advertising a job or placement ensure you apply with exactly the documents they ask for. Mirror the language in the job advert when you send a covering letter and CV.
Much of the time you will need to access the hidden job market by making speculative approaches to see if anything might be available. You can ring, write or email employers.
Designers all want to know that their work is appreciated so always start by telling them what you like about their work or company. You can always congratulate them on a particular product or campaign. Then ask if you can show them your portfolio. Tempt them with something memorable in advance to get them excited about seeing you as viewing work takes up their time. If you are looking for a placement mention this as a possible outcome of the meeting.
Portfolio meetings can open up new opportunities but if you are just sending a straight speculative CV and enquiry letter, apply the same principles - enthusiasm for their work and a clear message on what you can do is what is needed. Freelance designers and illustrators will gain much of their work in this manner.
Ensure you have a named person to contact (“Dear Sir/madam”) is not acceptable and a targeted CV and portfolio if you are taking this approach. Be upbeat in your correspondence but not too pushy.
Those of you with an interest in Illustration work will need a slightly different approach, check out this blog for advice.
4. Be nice to everyone and follow up on applications
You will inevitably make emails and applications that go unanswered but don't lose heart or feel wronged by employers who don't respond. These are speculative approaches after all. Think about how a busy person might receive your email paying particular attention to the title and the tone.
This approach taken from Ben Terrett’s blog is an example of how not to approach an employer.
We know it can be disheartening, but if you don't hear back from your applications, just make a note to contact that person again at some date in the future in a friendly manner once again. Maybe this time your email will arrive at just the right moment.
If you keep a list of all speculative applications and portfolio meetings you will be able to keep track of this. We know you would do it but just a reminder to always send a thank you to people who made the time to see you or responded to emails even if they can’t offer anything, as you never know when they might be able to help you in the future.
5. Talk to real people as well
Do not rely on emails alone. Most designers are sociable people. Try to attend events as you will get the chance to meet interesting people, and build your contacts as well as learning from the event itself. Established designers are often very interested in talking to students and graduates.
Meetup is a useful website that puts together groups of people with similar interests and it has many digital design groups:
6. Always look your best online
Employers will always like to check you out before they meet you in person. So be mindful of your social media portfolios, e.g. delete inappropriate material from your Facebook account for example. A blog is a good way of showing people what you are interested in. By posting regularly you are showing people that you are active, engaged and still building your knowledge of design. After all designers never stop expanding on their knowledge throughout their careers.
7. Keep an eye on opportunities outside of London
If you are able to, consider expanding your job search outside of London. Some high profile companies like Dyson (Dorset), IBM (Southampton) and DCA (Warwick) all provide excellent career opportunities for a wide range of designers.
If you wish to work further afield, great experience can be gained overseas. This “Design week” feature considers salaries and options of a range of designers overseas.
Adrem include advice on global working and Going Global gives advice on individual countries.
8. Keep going
If your applications are not working, seek feedback on your approach. We don't all get it right first time. The Careers and Industry Liaison team can help with this.