02.19.15
Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Scared in Schenectady

Dear Bonnie,

Every year colleges churn out design graduates. On top of this, there is an ever growing assortment of private design schools offering short courses in how to become a graphic designer. I worry about my chances of ever finding a job in a market flooded with young and inexperienced people like myself. Even though I have invested in a graphic design degree and I'm trying my hardest to build a portfolio, I still feel like my odds aren't great.

What advice do you have for someone who is trying to set themselves apart from this mass of recently graduated designers? I desperately want more experience, but I just can't seem to find the opportunity to make any work. 
 
Scared in Schenectady


Dear S.,

Fret not!

Worrying about all the other designers out there is a waste of time. You have no real knowledge of what everyone else is doing and absolutely no control over what anyone else is doing. You can’t move forward when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. Set yourself apart by being true to yourself. Cheesy, but true.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you can start looking for opportunities, however in the end you may have to create them for yourself. I don’t know how old you are, but I (always) recommend reaching out to just the firms who are doing the work you like best. And you should tell them as much when you get in touch. (I'm assuming you can be semi-objective about your abilities here and, for example, know that if a firm you admire is doing crazy technical wonders and you're kind of a luddite, you may not be an ideal fit.) 

When you contact studios, ask if you can help out on a single project in order to prove yourself. While you're searching, make your own work! Invent your dream project, ideally for a real company so that your design can be more easily judged. Then, put it in your portfolio as a representation of the kind of work you can do if given the chance. Showing actual work (even if it’s only spec) is worlds better than simply telling potential employers what you would do if only you could 'find the opportunity'.

And, for the record, writing a smart, short, typo-free email, being on time for interviews, dressing like you actually care, knowing about the company you're talking to, and being nice will work really well for you too!


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