The journey from graduating to finding a job seems somehow scary and hard, based on the number of graduates struggling to find a job. Having recently graduated from university, I too found myself in the position of trying to get into the industry. In this article, I wanted to talk about my experience and the journey of how I managed to find a job within a surprisingly short period, hopefully providing you with some advice and hope for the future!
University was a ball of a time, studying Graphic Design meant working on loads of fun & creative projects. And no exams meant no overwhelming stress of having to memorise a whole book the night before an exam, add that to the independence and a great group of friends, it doesn’t sound too shabby. But as they always say, time flies by when you’re having fun, and in this case, it wasn’t any different.
Graduation day came round like Usain Bolt. A proud day for my family and I, a day of change, of realisation - from now on, I’m a student no longer...I’m off to explore the real world. Was I ready for it? Hell no! I enjoyed my recent years so I didn’t really fancy the change, but I suppose all good things come to an end, a rather unsatisfying comment but a true one. I looked at it; differently, there was no point in bringing myself down so; instead, my mentality was if one good thing comes to an end then its time for another good idea to start. And in my head, the next right thing was my first job in the industry.
I didn’t know what was out there, so I started off looking at jobs posted online to get the idea. There was plenty of adverts and loads to choose from until I started reading into the descriptions: “looking for a graphic designer with experience”, “1+ years experience required” on 8/10 of the adverts. With no real experience, this drastically decreased my chances of getting a job, but never say never. I thought ‘give it a go anyway’, the worst that could happen is that I wouldn’t get the job, so I wasn’t really loosing out on much. With this in mind, I decided to move onto creating my CV and a strong portfolio. I knew in a competitive industry like this, I needed something I can convince employers with.
Luckily for me, I already had a well-designed CV from a previous project at uni, so all I had to do was brush it up and update it. However, this took much longer than I expected, only because I wanted to make sure everything on that CV was perfect. I re-wrote most of it and kept giving it to people to read, hoping for some feedback. Any comments I received, I took into consideration, no matter how silly they were, and with that feedback, I made changes to my CV.
CV or Portfolio?
In the creative industry, a CV alone isn’t really worth a lot. As a designer, I create designs that have meaning and look great, how can you show that type of creativeness on paper in words? You can’t...so I needed a portfolio. In fact, I needed two of them, a physical one and a digital one. I already had a solid portfolio that I created at university, so I was halfway there.
On the other hand, my digital portfolio was non-existent. Instagram and Behance seemed like the best two platforms to build my digital portfolio, Instagram for cool quick snapshots of my work and Behance for a more in-depth and full presentation of the project and its brief. The process of building the portfolio wasn’t complicated, but gathering all the visuals and collating the project in a presentable layout was very time-consuming. It wasn’t just a case of throwing everything on the website for people to see what I’ve done, I wanted each project to tell a story of its brand, what it is and what its meant to do. In the end, it really paid off! I had a portfolio which I was happy and confident with, I actually couldn’t stop looking at it, I kept viewing it at least 5 times a day cause that’s how much I liked it. What made me enjoy it, even more, was the fact that other people liked it too. One of the projects I uploaded on Behance gained over 500 views within a couple of hours and plenty of positive feedback, it gave me a massive confidence boost and a kick of motivation to go out there and get designing.
With all this ready, it was time to apply for jobs and get some interviews. I didn’t really know how the job hunt would go, so at first, to get the taste, I narrowed the list of tasks down to what I really liked to do and applied for jobs that involved them. After about two weeks, I must’ve only got about 3 out of 10 replies, all unsuccessful, so I tried again but to different companies and studios. On the second round, one of the studios invited me in for an interview, but I had a feeling this wasn’t the right job and deep down hoped some other places would respond too. Nevertheless, I still decided to go for the interview, as I wanted to experience what it’s like, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.
The interview went pretty smoothly, weirdly I enjoyed it. It mainly consisted of talking about the job, myself, my skills, my portfolio, the projects I did at uni and why I did them the way I did.
Sometimes it just isn't meant to be...
After about two weeks, it turned out my feeling was right. The job wasn’t the job for me because it was for someone else, a more suited candidate, as mentioned in the email. I was still happy that I had a go at a proper interview and knew what to prepare for now. I was also delighted that they got back to me, so I didn’t have to waste any more time waiting around. So, with no time to spare, I went for round three, then four, then five...but still nothing.
I was slowly giving up and started to believe the stereotypical stories of not finding a job after uni until I came across a job advert for a graphic designer at think3. That advert reignited the fire inside, for some reason, it really stuck out to me, grabbed my attention and intrigued me. The more I read it, the more I liked it, and by the time I finished taking the job application in, I didn’t just want to apply for it, I wanted to work there already. I went straight onto the studios’ website and got to know a little more, what kind of studio they are and what projects they do. It didn’t disappoint, if anything the complete opposite, the studio had such a relaxed vibe about them, they were down to earth, they had a good sense of humour and produced some stunning work. At this point, I realised I need to do anything to get this job.
With all this eager energy in me, I went ahead and applied for it. I wanted to get the job so bad that I did anything I could to get myself noticed, and so I sent my CV via email as well to make sure they got it. I even printed a physical copy of my CV and wanted to post it out, but before I could do that the studio has already called me and offered me an interview! Can you imagine how buzzing I was? After all this time applying and not even getting responses I found the perfect job, and I pretty much got an instant reply! Excited for the interview, I double-checked my portfolios and prepared for the interview.
My nerves before the interview were utterly different than to the ones before my previous interview. It wasn't that this one seemed scarier, but definitely more important, there was much more to lose. I didn’t want to blow this opportunity, so I left my house half an hour earlier than I usually would, to make sure I was not late. I’m not much of a suit and tie person, and after all, I wanted to sell my true self, so I dressed in a smart but casual manner, no joggers or trainers, but a nice clean black top and some jeans.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Sam, an employee of think3 who took me over to the interview room. Soon the interviewers arrived, Grant and Lee. The whole interview seemed to fly by. At first, I felt quite tense, and a little stressed, but this all changed about 5 minutes into the interview. All the nervous feelings went away because there was nothing to be tense about, Grant and Lee were really lovely and welcoming and talking to them felt so natural and comfortable.
You can probably guess the rest of the story, leaving with a particular set of emotions I was happy with the interview, I felt I did the best I could. I returned home and to my surprise, I received a phone call the same day from think3! They made their mind up and wanted to bring me into the team starting in November if possible. For me, there was nothing to dwell upon while receiving the job offer, I just needed to focus on pronouncing the words correctly through all the excitement. It was a success I finally thought, this is the start of my career, the beginning of a new chapter.
So there you go guys, that’s my story of how I managed to find a job after university. If you want any advice from me then it would be definitely don’t stop trying! There is something out there for everyone, and it’s up to you to pursue it. Keep on trying and applying, you have nothing to lose, and any experience is a lesson. Nail your CV, and nail your portfolio, they really do say a lot about you. Tailor them to the studio and its feel, you want to show the employer you are a perfect fit for them, but also don’t be afraid to design them with your own character. If you’re witty, make it light-hearted and fun, if you’re confident make it striking, after all as a designer you wanna sell your creative mind, not just your skills so show them what that creative mind can do.