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Help with CV and Career please! Before I give up on design


Active Member
It's sad that you find yourself in this situation. The only bright side is that the situation is not you or personal reflection of your ability, it is a symptom of both the current economy, the education system and the crap career guidance and integration with businesses in the colleges and uni's.
I've been banging on about this subject and graduates for the thick end of 20 years, and I'm sick of seeing graduate fodder keep getting churned out across the country with little job prospect. That is a whole thread in itself and I'm sure we've done this area before ( was it Tim and 6th form?)

You've been giving a bum steer - you and thousand like yourself, and each end of year show produces another wave to join last years wave and the year before that wave's too.

So if you've accepted the wake up call, what do you do?

Well you can bleat and blame the system, your mum or the prevailing western cumulus clouds, but that ain't going to make anything happen. Take any negative and turn it into a positive. Make something happen. Nobody will hand you anything, you have to grab it. You don't have to be great in this business, you just have to resourceful and hungry.

Ok, so you haven't got a job yet. Big deal, neither have 3.2 million people. Some don't have any skill set, some have families, some have lost their homes through reposession. There is always someone worse of that you. So what do you have? This is where you come in - I'm not doing all your work for you.

Write a list of all the things you have, health, wealth, friends, posessions, skills, ability everything that is tangible or intangible. Create this monster list of things, put them into as many catagories as you wish. I suggest Post it notes and stick them on a wall. When you look at that wall, you may be surprised to see how much you value, worth and talent you have. You created all these things from nothing. That is the power of You. The first stage is recognising You again. Once you have done that,then the next bit is easy...'What are you going to do about it?' - Make something happen. The answer will be somewhere on the wall. It always is.
Thank you Berry for a straight, detailed and helpful reply. I honestly mean that.

It is good to have a constructive reply from someone with experience.

It is not the first time I have heard a creative say that they didn't think that the creative education system was up to scratch. James Sommerville from Attik did a Masters course in conjunction with my old University (Huddersfield) as he felt that graduates were coming out poorly prepared.

I am in the process of starting my own company. I have bought the domain name, am looking in to registering the business, am in contact with The Prince's Trust, and designing the look of the website. I am also teaching myself Dreamweaver and re-learning Illustrator.

But... I just wonder if that is the right way to go. Although I did not enjoy my short Uni placement I learnt a lot and feel that maybe my progress would be faster at a company? Also the main worry is getting any work/business if I start my own company. I am not in a great financial state and was let down on a good non-design job which would have got my head above water in a monetary sense and where I'd like to be when starting a business.

A lot of the pressure I do put on myself and the external pressures I think are there (what my family and friends think) are just perceived to be to an extent.

But thanks again, I will try your techniques as they sound good.


Senior Member
I finished my masters 9 months ago, and I work a shit job to cover the bills, and do as much design work as I can, I have never worked in a studio and despite that I think I'm doing alright for myself. The time frame is partially my decision, as after 6 years of uni and shit, I was happy to make Design a hobby for a while.

I've won stuff, I've developed, got a few nice clients that keep my hands dirty, I think in an ideal world, I would be happier if I had the studio experience to back up my (talent? abilities? no i've got it) skills, but as yet the opportunity hasn't arisen. It can be really annoying and at times a little upsetting as you/I feel a bit wasted, but I know that the right thing will come along, I/you just have to hope its worth the wait.

I think my biggest failing might be my work, because I can honestly say I have the gift of the gab and can talk my way into most things, just at the moment I haven't got into the situation where I can use my linguistic skills to back up my design skills.

My old lecturer joked once that he would love to hire me, to make the tea and talk at people, because my ideas were worth their weight in gold! I said that was fine, but I would have to be the best paid tea boy in the world!
Ha, it almost feels like we're having similar thoughts and experiences from reading your post.

I very nearly did a Masters but just couldn't face the prospect of being further in debt as bad as that may sound.

I know what you mean about being able to communicate well verbally, I feel the same. I need to increase the quality of what I am sending out and like my g/f keeps telling me to chase applications up more.

Oh and from my very brief (5 weeks total) studio experience I found both places to be cliquey and not over friendly. This was a big surprise to me and like I said before put me off to an extent when applying to work for companies.


Senior Member
We most probably are in a similar position. I was lucky though I DJed through all of my BA and some of my MA so I can proudly say, 6 years of uni, £4000 total debt!

I think most small working environments can be cliquey, especially if there is an established team involved, it is like that in pub, clubs, offices and I'm sure it would be the same on planes, trains and automobiles (I watched it last night).

I think plugging away at it regardless is the best thing you can do. To be honest the biggest compliment I was paid post uni was from Kris Roe (singer from a punk band called the Ataris), insisting I sent him a full colour version of the poster I designed for his gig for his wall at home! Stuff like that reminds you, you are doing alright.

The only thing I would ask is, what have you done recently? I think Mr Berry and a few other might echo that sentiment, if you haven't been doing anything for 2 years, then you might be out of touch etc. that is meant in the nicest way possible. I am right in presuming that alot of potenial employers are more concerned with your recent work? Anyone?


I couldn't agree more with Berry's post about not being prepared... while I lived in New Zealand I taught a class at the Auckland Design School on Print Design and layup for print for a couple of years. The thing that worried me the most was that no design school / graduates knew how to layup / design for print and no course that they went on taught them how to do so... I felt so enraged by this that I actually suggested that I teach them how to the Auckland Design School, fortunately they saw the sense in it and offered me tenure... but there are still so many young and newly graduated designers who don't know how to do this, one sad case in point was an interviewee I had for a now defunct junior design position that I had going at the company I work for, I asked if he know how to layup for print, he said yes so I asked him to tell me what "crop marks were" he said that it was what happened in corn fields... I explained that it was to him, and he said that he'd never heard of them, he'd worked in the industry for a year as well and had a degree from a london design college... scared the hell out of me, it really did... :eek:


Senior Member
Similar position here, degree, strong portfolio (if I can say that without sounding like a cock, certainly stronger than others in my class) cant find work for love nor money.

Im working on my own products at the moment, a huge mixture of different design sectors and hopefully i'll end up where I need to be, I must have applied for 300+ jobs and mailed over 100 cv's - probably only heard back from 5 of them. I wont give up just need to re-address my methods.


Active Member
The key to survival is adaptation.
If the road ahead is blocked. You can either sit in the queue and twiddle your fingers burning petrol. Or you get off the road, find another way to get to your destination maybe another mode of transport.
But the answer is in the thinking and solving of the problem.


Active Member
Berry said:
The key to survival is adaptation.
If the road ahead is blocked. You can either sit in the queue and twiddle your fingers burning petrol. Or you get off the road, find another way to get to your destination maybe another mode of transport.
But the answer is in the thinking and solving of the problem.
Probably the wisest thing you have said so far Berry :)
Hi Tony,

I'm sorry to hear that you are in such despair. Perhaps you should try a different approach if your current one isn't working (kind of what Berry said but anyways :)). Personally I'd look into decreasing the size of your portfolio and just show maybe 8-10 of your strongest projects. Right now you have a lot of work on there, and some of it is good and some of it is not so good. And I think the best stuff is being dragged down by the rest.

Maybe set up a website as well that prospective employers could look through prior to looking at your PDF? If you don't know how, you could get someone to help you (there are lots of good developers on this board who could help you out with the coding part).

Try to learn some new skills. Maybe a bit of Web stuff, CSS/XHTML coding, Flash? That can really enhance your profile, and it seems a lot of places nowadays want people who can do print, logo design, web and do backwards somersaults while singing the national anthem. So maybe try to broaden your skillset a bit. There's always something new to learn.

And be proactive. Send as many applications as you can and then some more. Follow up on those CV's. Send a thank you letter after an interview, contact some Recruitment Agencies as well perhaps, all those things make a difference. Whatever you can. Just don't give up!

Cheers for the positive posts guys.

Soren - The link I haven't touched in a year and a half and was just uni stuff, it was kind of to show as an example. I don't send that link out and the pdf is condensed in comparison. Lol, I know what you mean about employers high demands for skills, I was sent a job advert for a Graduate and the list of programs they required apllicants to be able to use was crazy! I was picking up Flash at a placement but I do not have it at home so it is hard to learn. But yes I am trying to be proactive, website on the way hopefully. Cheers mate.


Senior Member
I've been in a similar position myself and, would like to think, that I know what you've been going through. I had a difficult time my first year out from uni for many reasons, but amongst them was job hunting and trying to break into the "industry".
The most difficult thing I found to deal with was how your morale and self-confidence take a beating. some students I went to uni with considered themselves to be God's gift to design upon leaving, without realising the brutal realities that faced us all.
My advice would only echo what Berry has already said, but I'll plough on regardless because somethings should be repeated.

My first step was to evaluate myself, what I had done, what I wanted to do, and most importantly what would make me happy.
Everyone on this board will testify that to be a designer of any kind is HARD WORK.
In my opinion it is one of those jobs that has to be loved before you can succeed at it, because you cannot force creativity (well, effective creativity anyway.)
So one of the first things to ask yourself is: Do you actually want to pursue this as a career? You have to commit to it and give yourself over to it almost completely if you are to succeed in any way. (I'm not trying to warm you off of it, but in my opinion is an important query to make of yourself.)
I decided that this was the career for me, that a creative job would make me happy. My only goal in life is to make myself and the people around me happy. A simple approach to life maybe, but I figure it is one of the few things in life you truly have control over.

(I'm very aware that this is beginning to sound like the foreword to a self help book!)

Once this decision is made things might look a little clearer. From then on it's all about self improvement and graft. Learn new skills, create new projects for yourself.
Rely on others for criticism not validation. Because self-confidence (not arrogance) is a very useful tool to have.

Hope this didn't come across as too preachy, and I hope it might help in some small way.

I'll echo the whole "print production" sentiments that have been expressed so far as well. I am lucky enough to be employed by a few print companies, and I had no idea about pre-press artworking when I got the job.
The only advantage of getting a studio job is the opportunity to learn things that will never crop up in college or uni.
Shame you jacked in your last job - even it wasn't what you expected.

Its always easier to get a job when you've got a job.

I had a couple of bizarre in-house design jobs before i got back into 'agency world' - electrical wholesalors, brick manufacturers, timber merchants. All of them the bain of my life - but moaning got me nowhere. And it was far better than being on the dole.

As for taking 3 months off after uni? That was a big mistake. But we only learn from our mistakes.

Either - work your arse off in some shitty in house design job until something bigger and better comes along (if you don't theres a load of peoiple that will) or choose another path.

Either way - good luck.


Senior Member
rossnorthernunion said:
As for taking 3 months off after uni? That was a big mistake. But we only learn from our mistakes.
I don't think it is that uncommon, summer for traveling etc? And why is it so bad?
mrp2049 said:
I don't think it is that uncommon, summer for traveling etc? And why is it so bad?
I don't think it's that bad either. I quit my job in Tech Support some years ago and took off travelling for a year in Asia but managed to land a Junior Web Design job when I came back with no prior agency experience, no degree and a very modest portfolio. I'm not trying to sound like I'm totally great or like I want a medal or something, but just that I don't think it will have a massive influence on his chances of breaking in to the Industry. :)

@Tony: It's a shame that you quit the last job though no matter how crap it was. As Ross also mentioned it would have been a good time to spend looking for another job. Oh and sorry for the portfolio comments, I thought it was your current one :). Best of luck with everything!
Krey - No, that is not preachy at all. Once again I have had very similar thoughts and feelings. Thank you for your input, I will take heed.

Ross - Thanks for the good luck.

Soren - Don't worry about the comments, I most certainly do not think that is an outstanding portfolio. I appreciate an honest opinion and is what is needed. It did not hurt my feelings.

I would still like more input, as this has helped a lot so far.

But with regards to me taking the summer off after uni that is done and cannot be changed and I admitted is wasn't the best decision so I do not need any more comments on that.

Also the job that I did have and quit was truly unbearable to the point where it wasn't good for my health and tbh could have come to blows. I think the guy got more from me than I did from him or the job. I edited his website, changed the phone manner, even taught him how to use eBay, just lots of things and I know that can sound cocky. But the bottom line is that is also done, unchangable and in the past so no more input is needed on that thank you.


Active Member
Hi Tony,

I've only got a minute to make a quick post but will return later to post something a bit more comprehensive :) as you've said in your post above what's done is done, no point in re-thinking those decisions, and from what you've said I personally would have probably done the same!

Just a couple of quick links from previous DF thread that I thought might help, the first should hopefully act as inspiration - this is how one designer made his CV/Portfolio/Application stand out from the hundreds of others creative directors will receive:

& this second link, just to show you, you're not alone in this position:

Keep fighting and never give up, chase every lead up and you'll make a break soon.
Will post a bit more later!