After having a career for 20 years, working full-time in Design agencies an, as-well-as working as a soul Designer with-in various companies.
What tips would I give my younger self?
Choose your computer wisely. I fell into Graphic Design after being employed as an HTML developer and then moved over to Graphic Design. This meant I have always used a PC, as building websites is much more PC based. This has ever stopped my career short when it comes to being creative. But I would say; it still has been an exciting journey as I have had the chance to get involved in Website Front End Development and Designing for Marketers.
The whole design industry is obsessed with the Mac Computer and doesn’t seem to want to move away from using them if you’re going to work with the Big Players in design, stay with the Macintosh. If you think you want a career which is a little less creative and more to do with business and websites then go with the PC.
You may think you don’t need excellent writing skills as a Graphic Designer, but your wrong, your writing skills are paramount on getting on and doing well in the Graphic Design business. Even if you don’t get involved in writing the copy in your current position, take it from me, there will be times in your career when having excellent English skills will help you.
Networking and keeping a positive ‘I can do’ attitude. The days when you have a job for life are long gone (unfortunately). Keeping a positive attitude and keeping in contact with your business heads is so much easier these days than when I first started. So take advantage of it, get on LinkedIn and network, get testimonials and market yourself. You are the only one that can ‘big yourself up’ so do it; no one else will, you never know where it could lead you.
You are paying the bills versus getting experience. This is such a difficult subject, you’ve got your first Graphic Design job, but they are giving you small menial tasks, which means you cannot get the experience to move up and start earning a decent wage. Don’t believe people who dangle carrots in front of you; it never happens. If you need experience get that experience get a part-time job outside of Graphic Design to pay the bills and do freelance jobs. I know this is difficult but be persistent.
Keep everything inboxes. When you are looking for Graphic Designer positions, think in boxes, your potential employer will be doing this and ‘so should you‘.
When you send your Portfolio/CV to various positions, look at what they are after and when putting together your portfolio/CV, tweak it. Point out only the areas they ask for; they are looking for an exact match.
Don’t add extra waffle saying how much you know and how many skills you have; they are not interested in this. If it’s a position that’s about creating packaging, don’t fill your Portfolio/CV information with how you are technical and can program, they don’t want to see or know this.
You may want to think about having more than one Portfolio/CV as Potential employees have a vast amount of choice when taking on a Graphic Designer, as it’s a common career choice. Hence, you need to shout out you are a perfect fit/match for this position.
Keep going on courses. I cannot believe how quickly you can become unemployable because you haven’t kept up-to-date with what’s going on in the industry. There have been a few times where I’ve not held ‘on it’ with courses and have regretted it. Graphic Design isn’t for the faint-hearted if you want a secure 9-5 job then don’t get into Graphic Design you need vigour and drive to keep up with your competitors and new markets.
Learn business skills. Unless you won the lottery, you would be working to pay the bills for a long time. You may think ‘I love Graphic Design. I will do this for the rest of my life’. The thing is, your in-front of a computer all the time which may start effecting your health or you may want a change, as sick of the sedentary lifestyle, then what? I would start thinking about expanding your skillset now, whether this is Project Management, Marketing or Programming. I wouldn’t look at Graphic Design as something you will do for the rest of your life. What will you aim for? Start thinking about it now.