Covid-19 / Design Community / Graduates / Graphic Design

Graduates – where to go for career support

Since graduation day, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a huge surge of posts and advice on social media for new graduates from people in the design industry – much more so than previous years. Perhaps the whole Covid thing has a lot to do with it – after all, those in education have really had it hard over the past 18 months.

Graduates, in particular, have had such a lot to deal with, not just having their place of education shut down for months on end, but having to adjust to home learning, and facing exams and assessments with little or no peer support. It’s had a huge impact on mental health, and so those now transitioning from education to finding their place on the career ladder are surely finding it so much more stressful than previous graduates.

You might remember that I recently wrote about how we, as designers, can help and support young people who are just starting their design careers. Now, I’d like to spin that around, and see what information is out there for newly-graduated people who are looking at career options.

My first observation is that LinkedIn seems to have a lot of posts by designers urging new graduates to remain positive, and not give up when looking for placements or work. They recognise that things are tough for everyone at the moment, and are more than willing to offer words of encouragement to those just starting out. And beyond that, I’ve seen a lot of useful advice and links to articles and companies to get young people started in their careers.

I think that LinkedIn is probably a really good place for new graduates to look at, since most design agencies have a presence and are willing to hear from graduates seeking advice and work. If you can establish a strong profile on LinkedIn and use it to connect with the kinds of businesses and agencies you want to work with, placing examples of your best work on there, it can be a great starting place and will get you recognised.

Notable advice from around the web

I had a look around the web, and a few things stood out that I thought were worth a mention (how I wish the internet were around when I was graduating first time around).

This article on Creative Boom gives some sound advice – and I totally agree with the sentiment that you should always personalise your correspondence. We’ve become used to ‘blanket emails’, in which we basically copy-and-paste our requests to several businesses in the hope that we get some kind of response. But this isn’t the best way to do it – yes, you might think it saves a lot of time and effort when you’re faced with writing to 20, 50, 100 people, but if you can focus your efforts by targeting only those agencies or businesses that you are truly keen to work with, learn all you can about them, and then write a personalised email, then you’ll find that you’ll get a much more positive response, because your message will stand out as being clearly written solely for that person, rather than the copy-and-paste message that they undoubtedly get loads of.

Something else that stood out for me in this article is the point of creating and showing only the kind of designs that apply to the kind of agency you want to work for. The example they give is; “If your style looks like Adidas, it’s unlikely to get you a job at Harrods”. That’s a point well made – when you are approaching agencies with a view to working with them, take a good look at the kind of thing they work on, and think about how it fits in with the kind of design you want to do. For example, if you are really passionate about designing packaging for corporates, you don’t want to be sending pieces to agencies that focus on branding or web design. They simply won’t be interested.

I recently read this article that made a good point about being resilient, which I think is something that few of us are prepared for when we first graduate. The fact is, many of us when we leave the safety of education and move into the workplace, are unprepared for it. It can be a bit of a shock to the system when you’re used to working on projects for your own enjoyment, and find that you have to comply with other people’s ideas of what design should be. You’ll likely have no experience of working with clients or employers, who will often dictate what you will work on and the styles and methods they expect you to use.

There will be agencies who you apply to who simply will not be on board with your particular styles and ideas – and that’s fine. Learn to accept their views and move on. The right job is out there, somewhere, and it might mean that you have to take less than desirable jobs in order to get the experience needed to get where you want to be.

Seeking support

From my own experience, one piece of advice I’d give is not to be alone. These days, there is such a lot of help, advice, and support out there – take it. Taking that next step can be exhilarating, exciting, and also anxiety-inducing, scary, and sometimes soul-destroying. We’ve all been there – and we’ve all come through it (mostly) unscathed.

Seek out other graduates on social media, who you can talk to about your successes and failures – keep in touch with those who were on your course, and seek out those who were not. Make connections with people who have been through it and have made successful careers, and ask them how they did it. When things are good, share your stories. When things are bad, reach out to someone who can give you a fresh perspective and urge you on.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve changed things in my career. You might begin a placement that simply isn’t right for you. Or maybe you’ll change your views on the kind of designer you want to be. Just know that that’s always ok. There is always space to change direction. We are creatives, and it’s important that we evolve, even if that means changing what we do and trying things that are totally out of our comfort zone.

The career you think you want right now might be completely different from where you find yourself in ten years’ time. Don’t be afraid of that.

Covid-19 / Design Strategy / Remote Working

Why I won’t be going back to the way things were before Covid-19

The past weeks have been challenging for all of us. Not only have I had to work from home instead of travelling to my studio every day, but I’ve had to adapt to meet the needs of my clients, too, many of whom have either reduced hours, reduced workforce, or, like me, are working from a different location to usual.

Add to the mix sharing my new office-space with my family – which means answering questions from my currently home-schooled kids (I’m at home, so of course I’m available 24/7, right?) and fitting in with my family’s routines, which don’t always align with mine, and you’ve got something between chaos and, erm, utter chaos!

But even though it has taken me a while to settle into things, I’ve discovered that there are actually some positives to all this, and, dare I say it, a subtle realisation that the way I worked before wasn’t always the best and most efficient way of working.

My biggest revelation – and I’m certain that many of you will agree – has been Zoom. Ok, so we’ve used Zoom before, but the normal thing to do was to arrange to meet prospective clients in person, even if that meant travelling an hour or more each way for a meeting which may or may not result in a few days’ work.

I’ve realised that in reality, many of those meetings are better to arrange through Zoom. It works more than a phone call, because you are able to see the person (always helps), but you are also able to view each other’s screens, show each other images and examples if graphics, and send over files etc while you’re talking. All of this means that I’m saving loads of time, I don’t have to waste hours driving, and I don’t need to spend too much time looking up and sending over information when I get back to the studio.

Zoom has become the new norm for most of us, even the News on TV. I think it would be a shame to revert back to how things were, as we’re in a fortunate time where technology and virtual meetings are so simplified. And aside from the huge time-saving advantages, think of the environmental impact it could have with so much less time spend on the roads.

But apart from that, working away from the studio has made me realise that I don’t need to be tied in to working in the same place. I don’t know if it’s just coincidental, or down to the type of projects that I’m working on at the moment, but I’ve found that working from home (aside from the obvious distractions), can be just as achievable as working from the studio.

As long as I’ve got the right set-up on my laptop, and a decent internet connection, it’s viable that I could work remotely. I’m not saying that I’m going to become a digital nomad and work from coffee shops and libraries all the time, but it’s certainly feasible that I could spend the odd day working from home.

Working this way has actually shown me that a change of scenery can be beneficial from a creative perspective. So perhaps in the future, when all this is over, that’s another thing I can incorporate into my normal routine. If I could manage to spend even a couple of days a month working away from the studio, whether that’s from home or somewhere else, it might just be the tonic I need to revitalise my brain, help to spark some fresh ideas, and just give me a break from the ‘norm’.

So, yes – the way things are right now might have forced us all to rethink the way we work. But, like me, perhaps that’s given us an opportunity. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a rut, simply because that’s the way we’ve always done things. But it doesn’t have to go back to that, and I think that we’d be foolish not to take on board some of these new habits when the world, eventually, returns to normal.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Has the current situation made you reconsider the way you work?