Top Tips To Get A Great Grad Job

With summer here, many design graduates will be frantically finishing portfolios, wrapping up degree shows – and perhaps even more importantly searching online for graduation outfit inspo. However, it is also a crucial time where grads will want to kickstart their creative career and start applying for jobs. As GRIN’s most recent grad, I thought this would be the perfect time to provide some useful tips and tricks to help you land your ideal grad job…

1. Evaluating your Aspirations

Searching for jobs can be scary, especially due to the sheer number of  job roles and different locations available. Therefore, before even starting the process of applying to jobs, it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions in order to help you narrow down your job search.

If you are like me and struggle to choose what to have for tomorrow night’s dinner, let alone decide on a 5 year career plan – don’t stress. It can be helpful to first start thinking of your career goals and how your first job can then help set you on the right track to achieving it. For example, what would your dream job be? Where in the world do you want to work? What kind of company would you like to work for and what kind of designer do you ultimately want to be?

By asking yourself these questions you can start to narrow down your job search based on the type of location, job role or even the kind of company you want to be applying to.

2. Do your Research

Once you have found some roles to apply for, it’s time to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and do some digging. Try to find out more about what the role requires, the kind of work the company produces, the type of clients they work for and most importantly – about the team and studio/company culture. This will help you to gain a greater understanding of the job being advertised which will help with your application.

3. Perfecting your Portfolio

I could write a whole blog on putting together the perfect portfolio (so watch this space) but for now I’m just going to talk about the essentials. Portfolios can take any form from pdf presentations, websites, videos or even traditional sketchbook. No matter how you choose to present your work, it is important to reflect your skills and style as a designer through purposeful, well crafted composition and layout. 

Aim to have around 3 – 4 projects that can showcase a range of design skills and if possible, evidence how you can design for different target audiences. It is also essential to keep in mind the kind of job role you are applying to and to attempt to showcase these skills in particular. For example if you are applying for the role of a web designer, web/digital projects should be the main focus of the portfolio.

For more advice on creating your portfolio visit Creative Lives In Progress for the opportunity to book a free online portfolio review.

4. The Importance of Passion Projects

Tutors will often mention the importance of including a passion project in your portfolio, but what are they? A passion project is pretty self-explanatory, it’s a project you have undertaken – often something aside from your studies on a subject – that you are really enthusiastic about. It gives employers an insight into your hobbies, interests and more importantly shows you have the drive to carry out projects outside of your educational programme.

5. Crafting a Creative CV

So first of all, what is a creative CV and how does it differ from a normal one? Like a regular CV, a creative CV aims to convey your experience and skills to prospective employers. However, creative CVs also aim to showcase your creative skills and are often specifically designed to visually demonstrate some of these skills in order to stand out to the employers. 

Like portfolios, creative CVs can take many forms – from written documents with additional design elements such as graphics, infographics and illustrations, to websites or videos. Whatever form you decide to embrace, the best way to tackle designing a creative CV is to think about yourself almost as a brand, and to apply a consistent visual identity across both your CV and portfolio to help grab your employer’s attention. 

Although creative CVs may look different to traditional CVs, don’t try to prioritise the style over substance. Make sure all the information – written or visual – is relevant and concisely conveys your skills and experience.

For more advice and tips on how to craft a successful creative CV, check out this creative CV guide published by University of the Arts London (UAL), University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and University College Falmouth (UCF).

6. Assessing your Applications

Once you have carefully crafted your application it is essential that you double check (or if you are as paranoid as me, maybe even triple check) that all your information is correct before hitting that all-important submit button. 

Proof-reading your application will help you flag any mistakes. Make sure to review spelling, grammar, and most importantly check that the right attachments have been uploaded to your submission.

7. Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

It goes without saying that the job hunt can often be long and tedious, especially when waiting to hear back from potential employers. The important thing is to remain patient and to keep applying to jobs as the right thing will always come along in the end!

8. Chasing up Opportunities

Now this totally contradicts my last point, but if you have waited for a while and not heard anything from your application there is no harm in getting in contact with the agency/company to follow up on your application. This not only helps you to find out the current status of your application, but also reinforces your enthusiasm for the potential job which will hopefully put you at the forefront of the employer’s mind.

9. Don’t Take Things Personally

Getting rejected from job applications can often be demoralising, but the important thing is to keep persevering. Asking for feedback on why you were not successful this time around can also help you to identify potential areas of weakness – which you can then aim to improve upon for your next application.

10. Shoot your Shot

Although the traditional way to apply for a job is to respond to a job advertisement, the design industry has also seen an increase in individuals independently approaching prospective employers. Using your initiative to contact potential companies or agencies you would love to work for can be good way to reach out and start to build relationships with people within the industry. Even if approaching them for work doesn’t directly land you a job it’s a win-win as it puts you on their radar if any jobs come up in the near future!

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list of tips and tricks it should be enough to kick-start the job hunt – so good luck and go get that grad job!