5 Tips for Design Grads

As promised in my last post, I’ve come up with 5 bits of advice for soon-to-be design program graduates. This is coming from two angles; first, what I’ve learned from my numerous job hunts over the years. Second, what I look for when I’m hiring designers (which I’m doing right now).

1. Get involved — whether it’s professional organizations like the AIGA, or a breezy bevy like KC coffee morning, there’s no better way to meet like-minded creatives than getting out there. Shy? Don’t sweat it. I’ve been mistaken for a mute, but I’ve found that people who turn out for events aren’t there to play the wall, they want to meet other friendly creative folks, size up the competition, scout for talent, and drink beer. Or, depending on the time of day, talk about drinking beer.

2. Get online — These days, it takes more effort to not have your work online. Pursuing web design? Create a kick-ass site that highlights your best work, reflects your personality, and demonstrates that you’re trying to keep up with the fast-paced world of web. All you need is a free or cheap web host, and you’re on your road to becoming employed and/or internet famous.

Print designer? Work with a web-savvy friend to webify your portfolio. If you’re lacking dot-comrades, create a portfolio on Creative Hotlist or AIGA.org. Upload your work to sites like Flickr… anything that makes it easy for those hiring to see your work and share it with others.

3. Choose the company — Aim high and be picky; while it’s tempting to take any ol’ job that comes along, you’ll learn it’s really important to find the right fit, professionally, culturally, and personally. You’ll be spending a lot of time with these people, and (hopefully) learning a lot in the process.

4. Give ’em something to remember you by — Create a leave behind; whether it’s a cool postcard or a mini portfolio, giving your interviewer something to keep will help you stand out from the pack and if it’s good, it will be passed around the office. And don’t forget the thank you note a day or two after the interview. E-mails are always a good choice, but a simple (well designed) hand-written notes is better.

5. Be yourself — This is really important. When I call someone in for an interview, their cover letter and/or resume has caught my eye, I’ve seen their work (see tip #2), looked at their code… the #1 trait I’m evaluating at this point is personality. Hiring someone who doesn’t click can be toxic in a small group. On the flip side, someone who brings a positive attitude and fresh ideas can make work more fun for all involved.

So that’s my advice. Have questions or more advice to share? Discuss!

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