Starting Up as a Post-Grad Designer.

It should come at no surprise to any reading that I've recently graduated from a school in Florida and moved up to Colorado. I have a solid portfolio, creativity out the wazoo, and a stellar personality but it seems like so many design companies are looking for experience over skill.

I've been actively applying for jobs since I moved up here four or five months ago, with luck finding only one internship that didn't even last it's two-month course before letting me go on the note that they needed someone with more experience, someone who didn't need to learn. It seems to me like a lot of companies are trying to avoid teaching, and even the jobs that I seem a perfect fit for gets me not even a response.

I've been keeping up with updating my work and online presence, keeping socially active, including myself with local groups to network with no avail.

So, my question to start this post off is for any of you out there that have pushed through and come out with a great job after graduating college. What steps did you take that pushed your presence and made design companies want to hire you?

Comments

I'm having the same problem. It seems like even some internships that become available are still looking for more experience then a recently graduated student with a well rounded digital design skill set.

I feel this is where most 4 year institutions fail. At least CU Denver College of Arts and Media does. They prepare us for "the real world" with student projects that don't help with building a professional portfolio. Then resources for job hunting are near ZERO. Its pretty hard hard on the spirit to say the least..

the search continues.

Good luck with your job search. :)

I feel your pain and I was in your same situation all but about a years ago when i graduated school in 2010. I graduated in the summer, and after 15 different interviews and 5 months of living with my parents I finally found a job. I know you've heard this a million times but here's a million and one, it's VERY tough out there right now. I know you're wondering why no one will hire you even though you've got talent and this is something I asked myself too but after being in the field for over a year now at a design firm I've learned why people weren't hiring me.

The simple truth is, you haven't learned anything in school that translates into the working world of Design. Regardless of where you went to school, how much you paid, or how much your professors liked your designs, the fact of the matter is school DOES NOT prepare you for this line of work. Unfortunately in today's job climate, you're competing for the same job with designers with as good as a portfolio as yours but who also have 2, 5, or even sometimes up to 7 years of experience on top of that. In like fashion, employers want someone with experience because there are things you can only learn working in the field and not in the classroom. Also, Design firms and agencies are managing accounts worth thousands if not millions of dollars and they want people who they know for a fact can handle the pressures and responsibilities through proven experience in the field.

I know that doesn't fix your problem, but maybe an understanding of why it's taking you so long to find a job will at least keep you from scratching your head day in and day out. You're doing everything right with staying involved, being active with groups, and updating your work. But you do in fact need MORE EXPERIENCE. Keep getting internships if you have to and do some freelance work on the side. Above all, dig your heels in deep and keep applying for jobs. Your persistence with pay off.

- Kevin

P.S.~ If you'd like a few tricks that could help you in your search, be sure to email me.

Make a website. It displays a multitude of skills to have a legit website to display your work and a branded presence across social media. There's a ton of work in this town. Good luck!

Aaron
http://www.aaronpettijohn.com

I agree with Aaron – first and foremost, get yourself a website. I noticed you're on both Behance and Cargo Collective, and if I'm not mistaken, both platforms have options to use a custom domain name. When I first graduated, my website helped get me in the door many times, and that's all you can really ask for.

Show an interest in learning new skills. Whether unfortunate or not, the design industry is leaning more and more towards all-in-one sorts of designers. Either master your skills in one specific area (illustration, type, etc) or show that you are more than willing to learn new skills. My first job at a studio was technically supposed to be all web design, when I had almost no experience with web. My website and ambition/willingness to learn got me in the door and while I learned to code, I beefed up the studio's capabilities with my preferred skills like illustration and logo design.

Don't be too quick to shun cheap/unpaid opportunities. Yes, 9 times out of 10, there are people who just want to take advantage of your skills, but if a project sounds interesting, don't be afraid to take it despite a lack of payment. When that fun project comes along, it might not help pay the bills in the short run, but it builds your portfolio and is always a good learning experience in dealing with clients.

Don't be afraid to email designers you look up to. I have yet to have a bad experience emailing a respected designer with a question or comment. Either they respond and are very friendly, or they just ignore you, in which case you are no worse off. You'll even find that some designers will need help with busy work from time to time, which could lead to some fun opportunities.

Finally, network like crazy. Attend local Denver events (awards shows, Kegs w/ Legs, art shows, etc) and promote yourself all across social networks like Twitter, Dribbble, Behance and even Instagram. Start a blog and teach yourself how to do some keywording to promote your portfolio further. And don't always just aim for design-related events – enter local art shows, or use local printers to print your projects. Always be on the lookout for ways to meet new people in the creative industry, no matter what field they're in.

Hope that helps and best of luck!

Brennan

I definitely know what you are going through, and I'm sure that the job search is just about as much of a full-time job as any full-time job out there. I've been in Colorado for just a month and actually have managed to grab a part-time job designing at a small website development firm. Upon getting this gig, I really had to reflect upon my efforts in getting a job in the first place compared to where I have now been working happily for almost a month, and the funny thing was, was that I found this job posting on craigslist! That's right, totally shady, stooping to the level of potentially getting myself into a regrettable position, craigslist. Turns out the owner of this company was looking for someone to take some work off of his hands, while his business continues to grow.

And it was in that, that I began to ponder. I had been applying left and right for internships and jobs within major advertising firms and established companies, with no success. Because, as a college grad, you expect most certainly to easily become part of that world right? Well, it is in starting off small that became to the greatest advantage to me. Turned out the owner liked my work, even being a college grad, and continues to appreciate the work I turn out for him weekly.

So it's with all of this rabble, that I say, it is no shame in starting off small after college, in fact, it is probably the only way that you will ever be able to build to that glorious ad or design firm.

I wish you the best of luck!

--Phil

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