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How to get your first job in design
13/02/2018

Recently, Orchard took a trip to the University of Salford, joining a panel of industry experts giving advice to current design students on how to break into the industry.

We were reflecting on the advice shared, and knowing how hard and daunting it can be to leave university and get your first job, we thought it would be a good idea to write a blog especially for you soon to be graduates on how to get a job in the creative industry.

Application Process

If you don’t find the process of applying for jobs hard work - you’re probably not doing it right. I can’t stress how important ‘quality over quantity’ is when you are job hunting. It might seem productive to send off 10 job applications a day, or it at least gets your parents off your back, but you are actually being counter productive.

Focus on one application at a time. Find out as much as you can about the job role; the company; and their work, then tailor your application accordingly. It is likely that throughout your degree, you will have explored and worked across different platforms. You want to show this versatility, but also remember if you are applying for a job in print, for example, you should emphasise your print work as that's the most relevant. 

When it comes to writing your CV, it’s hard to know what to include and what to leave out when you are applying for your first job. Remember, you are applying for a role in design, which means the recruiter is looking to see what you’ve done as a designer. Your part-time job as a sales assistant is’t particularly relevant, however, if there is something that you are particularly proud of or you think will enhance your application by all means include it - but ensure your design experience takes up the majority of the space. 

For more information on writing a CV for creative jobs, check out our blog ‘Style over Substance: CV guide’, and for advice on how to display your portfolio, take a look at ‘Digital vs Print: Portfolio’.

Networking 

Some people have a natural gift for networking, they know exactly what to say, who to talk to and make it look like a piece of cake. If that’s you, keep on going, networking is the best way to move forward. 
However, if that sounds polar opposite to you - do not worry. Networking is the best way to get work, collaborate with people and get involved with the industry, but there are ways to do that without boldly strolling up to someone and asking them for work. 

Networking is all about relationships. It’s meeting new people, but whilst they may be strangers, you already know one thing you have in common: work. Approach someone, say hello, ask about their work, give them a complement - that’s it. The rest will follow, in turn they’ll ask you questions and voila, you are networking. You’ve made a connection, and you might just spring to mind next time they need someone who does what you do.

Networking as a student is easier than you think, and incredibly important. At this stage in your career, anything anyone with experience can teach you is invaluable. If you see someone in the industry, ask them for advice. Tell them where you want to be, and ask them how they got to where they are. People are always willing to help you, whether that’s giving you tips or giving you work. Networking is a daunting prospect especially if you are a reserved person, but you will become so much better for it… and it really does get easier!

Research 

Everything that has been said so far has already covered this topic, but it’s so important it deserves it’s own sub-heading. Research, research, research! 

Whether it is applying for a job, going to an interview, meeting people at a networking event, or gaining industry knowledge for your own benefit, research is key. You are in a very competitive industry, if you swan up to an interview with no background knowledge it will show and you will be ruled out of the running. When you are up against thousands of design graduates, you need to take every advantage you can get. Aim to be the person who knows the most in the room.

Going back to networking, if you go to an event, you need to know who it is you want to speak to. Likewise, you need to know what you want to talk to them about. It takes 5 minutes, look them up beforehand. It’ll make a much stronger impression if you have knowledge of their previous work, and shows that you really are invested in your subject.

Enjoy it

If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t be doing it as a career. Remember that the reason that you have trained as a designer, and want to work as a designer, is because you enjoy it. It’s way more fun than doing a real, boring job - you are lucky, you get to do your hobby AND get paid for it.

Have fun with it, create what you want to create. Experiment, collaborate with friends, build your brand. Just enjoy being a designer!

Getting your first job is a struggle for most people, but always remind yourself of your love for design. Create for fun, not because you have to. If you don’t get a design job straight away don’t call it quits, keep going. Keep networking, creating and publishing work. If you really care about it, it will show, and you’ll get there eventually. 

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more content, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch for advice!

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