How to Land a Design Job

November 6, 2014

Looking for your first job is always daunting. Getting into a non-traditional career like design can seem even more overwhelming, the qualifications more fuzzy. But don’t worry: a design job may be the road less travelled, but it’s not uncharted territory. Here’s a basic roadmap to follow to get yourself pointed in the right direction.

  • Make a killer portfolio. You want to show off your best work, and you want it to be work you can say something about. Consider including a set that showcases your thought process, from concept to sketch to rough draft to final product. People tend to focus on first and last impressions, so think about how you’ll order your work. Make sure you wow them when they open it and again when they close it.

  • Alright, your portfolio is ready, now how do you get people to look at it? Consider tools like Dribbble, Cargo Collective, and DeviantArt to get your work out there. If you’re sending in an application for a job, be creative. Make a memorable resume and show off a bit so they want to open your portfolio to see more. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown art project, but do consider your resume from a design perspective. Research the agency you’re applying to and tailor your portfolio to include relevant work.

  • Meet people. The easiest way to get a job is through a connection. Think of family or friends or family friends in the field and check out your alumni network. Use LinkedIn to brag about your skills and to build your network. If you find an agency you want to work at, do a little online research, find a way to meet the creative director or art director in person. At the very least, designers currently in the field will love to share information and advice over coffee.

  • Welcome to the gig economy. A full time design job is the goal, but gigs are a useful way to get there. They show that you can work with a client, not just on student projects. They help you build your portfolio and your network. And hopefully they pay some bills - be thoughtful about when you’ll work for free, if ever. Don’t just give your work away!

  • Preparing doesn’t stop when you get an interview. Practice going through your portfolio with a friend, and include some new material they won’t have seen before. The day of the interview, wear something appropriate, but ultimately what you feel comfortable in. Authenticity shows, and this is a creative job, after all! If you have any genuine questions about the company or the position, ask them – but don’t make up a question just because they ask if you have any questions. Again, authenticity shows.

Ultimately, there is an element of luck involved in landing any job. So keep rolling the dice, and if you follow the advice above, you’ll put yourself in a good position to find a design job that’s the right fit for you.

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