22 May 2012

Hey! teacher, Give that grad a job...

Writing this post has been a bit of a blast from the past! 

For a couple of months last year I was unemployed, having just finished my 3 month internship at the Scottish Youth Theatre, and graduating just before that. I found it really hard to even find any design jobs, that didn't state you needed at least 5 years experience and have mad skillz of every type of website coding - not what I was looking for at all!

Anyways, during one of my many job searches on the computer, I stumbled across a blog about graduate employment written on the 49th Floor, and it really struck a chord with me, so I emailed them just to tell them that, and ended up being invited to write a guest blog for the site! I decided to write about my experience of being a graduate, how University's really need to step it up a notch in terms of preparing graduates for the big bad world, and some tips on what finally helped me get a job.

Cast your minds back, to October 2011...(do do do do do chimey noise)

Envy, Design graduate illustration

"Hi, my names Melissa Reilly. I’ve just graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University with a 1st Class Honors Degree in Applied Graphics Technology. So the next step is to get a job, which should be the easy bit, right?
So far this doesn’t seem to be the case. Despite working hard all year on group projects, industrial briefs, dissertations, it seems our lecturers forgot to tell us that all of that work, although it is very important to do well in, is not the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to impressing potential employers. I am currently applying for numerous jobs, pretty much anything with ‘graphic, design, or creative’ in the title, and so far haven’t had much luck in even securing an interview (some don’t even bother to reply) This is apparently due to the fact that I don’t have enough experience within design agencies/commercial environments – and it’s true, I’ve never worked or set foot within a design agency during my 4 years at University, something which I’m kicking myself over now!
I have however tried to redeem myself for this by starting my own graphic and website design business during my 3rd year at University, called ‘247 Design’. Juggling client projects with coursework was difficult at the time, but it has been invaluable to me in building my portfolio, meeting contacts and in challenging myself to learn new software and technologies (teaching myself how to make a JavaScript gallery certainly took a few strong coffees!) 

Although I do love working for myself, the prospect of constantly working from my room with only my laptop and Photoshop to keep me company doesn’t fill me with the greatest amount of excitement. I want to be a part of the Design Industry, meet people, go exciting places and maybe attend the odd office party. So therefore my quest to find a job shall continue, while still working on projects for ‘247 Design’, and you never know, in the future it may be the 247 Design office party people are getting ready for (I wish!)
From my experiences of 4 years at University, starting my own business and beginning the hunt for a job I’ve come up with a few hints/tips or whatever you might call them that have been useful to me!
  • During the long summer break from University, try and fill it with something useful such as getting an internship or placement within a Design Agency. This will greatly add to your experience, and may even lead to a job when you graduate!
  • From my experience, most of my clients come to me from ‘word of mouth’ recommendations. So you have to do as much as you can to make sure people talk about you, in a good way of course. Get your own website to show off your portfolio and make it easy for people to contact you. Definitely have a Facebook group that you can update easily and regularly with new projects, work and more informal updates.
  • Don’t forget the traditional business card! Lots of people like to have a tangible way to contact you. As you never know who you’re going to meet, always keep some on you, as it will be very frustrating to miss out on a potential client if you’ve forgot your card!
  • Join Design Networks – such as Deviant art to meet like minded people and share your work.
  • Enter Design competitions, two of my favourite websites for finding them are talenthouse.com and student-designers.com. They are a great way to build your portfolio and winning isn’t too bad either! Displaying your entries to competitions on your Facebook group is also a great way to show off your skills and extra work!
  • Read emails from lecturers – sometimes they contain little gems of information! One I recently read (that most of the people in my class didn’t bother to) led to me winning a Black Bottle Whisky T-Shirt Design competition, getting a nice little cheque, exposure on the University homepage and a story in my local newspaper! – all extremely useful in building your reputation as a designer.
  • Check out gumtree.com for people looking for design work. This may be in the form of voluntary work, so don’t be too proud to do this as you never know what opportunities or contacts it may lead you too! From working voluntarily on a Charity website I was able to meet many contacts, and if you do a good job the clients are likely to recommend you in the future"

Since writing that blog post, I have started working as a Marketing and Media Graduate, through the Graduate Jobs Programme, with Routes to Work South. I've also picked up a couple more tips:

  • Set up a Linkedin profile, and actually populate it will information from your CV, there's no point setting one up if it doesn't tell a potential employer (who will probably try to look you up online) anything. Use the 'Behance' app to link in your creative work, and the 'blogger' app to link in your blog posts.
  • Watch as many 'Webinars' as possible, they are a great source of information, and 99% of the time are free! One of my favourites from the past few months is this one by Mari Smith and Guy Kawaski -  http://www.marismith.com/7smtrends/
  • Start a blog, It's a great way to get noticed and gets the old cogs turning! Use whatever works for you. Create more of a visual moodboard on tumblr, or write actual blog posts using blogger.
  • If you get the chance, attend as many networking events as possible. There are some great industry specific ones happening all the time. Check out  New Media Breakfast ,  Communications Breakfast ,  Be Good Be Social - be warned, a lot of them involve getting up realllyyyy early. (but you usually get bacon rolls, so I'm not complaining) 
  • Apply for your ILA - its £200 towards a course, which can help you brush up your skills or learn something a little bit new. I just completed a 'Get into Marketing' course with the Pitman Training Centre in Glasgow.  BE QUICK THOUGH, as of the 1st of July if you have a degree you aren't eligible to apply!  do it, do it now

Hope something in there was of use to any recent graduates, or anyone graduating this year! Good luck! :) 

Oh, Here's a a link to the original blog post on 49th Floor - http://www.49thfloor.co.uk/component/k2/item/51-young-design-talent.html

Thanks for reading!

Melissa x

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