Being a graduate designer is a difficult task, no matter what field you specialise in. Whilst it is vital to have built up a strong portfolio of work during your design studies, the simple fact is that this alone will not get you a job.
The design world is incredibly sought after world to be part of and as such, there is an enormous amount of competition for every vacancy (we should know – we get A LOT of job applications regardless of whether we are advertising or not!). Because we get to see so many different candidates, we’ve built up a pretty good idea of what we think works and what you should avoid. So, we thought we should share some of these in case it helps anybody from squandering their hard earned degree material on an ill-thought out job application.
The covering letter is your first contact with your potential new employer which and it is often where many new designers fall down. For us, a polite, informative, short and well written covering letter will get far more attention than someone saying ‘HIRE ME I’M BRILLIANT!’, or ‘ROLL UP! ROLL UP!.. CREATIVE GENIUS UP FOR GRABS!’. The truth is, the working world has a lot to do with how you present yourself and how you get on with other people. So, we need to know if you are articulate, intelligent and have more than just an amazing portfolio. All of this allows us to make that crucial and all important judgement – whether our team and our client’s will be able to work with you on a daily basis.
As a designer your CV should be a work of art, but it is often far from the case. Despite the fact that people are trying to approach us as professional designers, you would be staggered to see how many hideous CV’s we are sent. Granted, not everybody is going to specialise in stunning graphic design. But even for you web and product designers out there, you will still be expected to have a fundamental understanding of what looks good and reads well. Therefore, you will be expected to demonstrate this understanding and skill in every part of your job application. Take the time to make it exceptional – it is worth it.
Content for your CV should be concise, well written and only include relevant information. For us, the most important information is work experience is technical skills (with some indication of proficiency), relevant qualifications and industry work experience. Other details like a brief profile, references and education history are important to include but they play second fiddle to the other key points we are looking for so don’t focus on them.
You must take time to put together a professional looking design portfolio in both digital and hard formats. We prefer to receive all job applications via email because it saves on energy, resources and it’s easier to file. As a result, it essential that you have a PDF (not Word or any other ridiculous format) version of your portfolio in a manageable file size (you should be able to keep this under 1MB) and only include examples of your best possible work. We only ask for 3 pieces of work from any job applicants because this is usually all it takes for us to spot someones ability ;-)
If you are a web designer or have some web design ability, then an online portfolio is a brilliant idea as it allows a design agency to get a far clearer idea about your skills and abilities. You can use portfolio websites like behance.net or carbonmade if you have very limited technical ability, as they are very easy to set up and offer professional looking results. Whatever route you choose, make sure you only put on work that is RELEVANT and HIGH QUALITY – Don’t throw your kitchen sink at it, because one bad project will only sow a seed of doubt about your creative ability – something you need to avoid like the plague!
We would always prefer to see live projects because they are completely different to ones produced in an educational environment. Nothing quite prepares you for the leap from doing a project for a university or college project, to one where a client is paying you to produce something they want. That said, most graduate designers won’t have any real jobs behind them, so either include coursework that has a place in the real world, or even consider setting yourself a fresh brief for a conceptual live project (a new branding project, a new brochure design, a new flash website design…). Always be honest about the origins of a project though! If you say that you’ve designed a new website for a local company and it isn’t true – you WILL get found out and it’s bye bye credibility (and job!).
And Finally – Persistence
As we said at the beginning, the design world is incredibly competitive and it will often come down to those individuals who have the drive and tenacity to keep applying and contacting companies when others have given up. You must keep focused on where you want to be and how you want to get there and in the end, with a lot of hard work and a little bit of good fortune, it is possible to achieve our ambitions in the design field of your choice.
POST YOUR QUESTIONS
We hope you find this little guide useful. Remember – these are only our thoughts based on our own experiences and preferences and they may not suit every individual or organisation.
Please post a comment below if you have anything to add or want to let us know your experiences – we’ll try and answer any questions as soon as we can. And lastly, please subscribe to our RSS feed where you will be immediately notified of any future vacancies with the team here at BML Creative. Alternatively, keep checking our design vacancies board and you never know, some of you might even be helping us to write our next career guide ;-)