Your Graphic Design Experience!


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This is another 'I'm a Graduate Graphic Designer... Why can't I find a job?!' thread!


I'm a Graduate Graphic Designer... Why can't I find a job?!

Ok well there's a little bit more to that! I knew that finding a job after University wouldn't be the easiest of tasks, but then I had my design show and then I received my grades which gave me quite a confidence boost.

I finished my course about a month ago now; I got a First Degree Honors on the only Sustainable Graphics and Packaging course in the country which I thought was a little bit different and in a way 'future proofs' me a little. So academically I have done alright! Experience wise I have more than most people in my class; I have worked on 'live briefs' within University, getting work my lecturer didn't want or wanted some help on and even some from local businesses. I also worked as an in house designer for a well known car company last summer.

I had my design show a couple of weeks ago; my work got a lot of interest and three companies gave me their business cards and they were interested in seeing more. I wasn't putting my hopes on these three companies so I thought I need to get in contact with as many companies as possible.

I made a 'Portfolio Pack' as I thought a PDF attached to an email is boring and how many a day do companies receive?! I wanted to stand out as I would eventually like to get into advertising. So I designed a small, A5 brochure which included my CV, some work examples etc and had this professionally printed and included a small cover letter and a business card and sent these to 20 places within a 40 mile radius including the three companies I mentioned earlier.

Out of the 20 I received one negative reply via email.

Now I knew everyone wasn't going to reply but 1... honestly? After all that effort and after all of the positive comments I received from my design show it did make me wonder if it was worth all the time and money I put into it. Each of these portfolio packs were costing me about £7 each after all. I know design agencies are busy places, but in terms of just manors and because I put the effort in this just made me realise I may have to try a different tactic.

So I was just wondering where do you suggest I go from here? I have applied to the normal online job sites with no luck so far, but my main concern is I would have applied to almost everywhere soon and that will leave my options very limited. Do I just keep asking and following them up or is this just going to annoy them?

I know I could go freelance; myself and another friend are doing some free work just to keep us busy until we find a job, but I don't want to do this long term. I know I could also work for free just to get my foot in the door but this isn't an option; I have things to pay for and I feel with my experience and skills I should at least start to get paid after these 5 years of studying Graphic Design.

Sorry if this sounded like a rant! It's not supposed to be it's just my experience so far and how I guess I under estimated the whole process! Any advice at all would be hugely appreciated!
You need to think of a way of sending out your work that doesn't cost £7 each!

You've also only sent your work to 20 companies - as you've already experienced, at best you'd be lucky to get a 10% response.

If I were in your position, I'd visit these agencies in person or come up with another way of getting your work seen.

Regardless of how much time, cost and effort you've spent, your work either went straight in the recycling bin or it's sitting on someone's desk underneath a hundred other things.

I agree that new graduates should get paid for work experience but the reality is that your 5 years of education counts for nothing. Face facts - you'll have to work for nothing (or be very lucky) before you land your first job.

Sorry for sounding harsh, but every designer that is working in the industry will tell you a similar story of how tough it was for them to get their first break…as the months go on, it'll also make you realise how few people care that you graduated with a first class degree.
Thanks for your reply!

It's these harsh facts which make me wonder why I tried so hard at University? That time spent making everything look so amazing could have been time researching these companies in advanced I guess!

I didn't just find the address of the company and send it; I found out who the main boss person was and put sent it directly to them, but then like you said they probably received a lot of other mail too...

Do you think it's worth following up these by phone/email? I mean officially they weren't advertising for jobs, but the three who were interested in my stuff didn't even reply so with them at least I could badger them a bit? Or would that just be an awkward phone call of 'yes I received your portfolio, no I don't want to arrange an interview' which would be ironic as they were the ones who offered me such a thing! :S

What is slightly annoying is someone on my course made a Portfolio in 30 mins, had no experience of work and managed to get an Artworkers job at a large tool company in our town! Fair enough I didn't hear about the job and didn't reply but it made me think that could have been me!
Yes, it's definitely a good idea to follow it up with a call...keep in contact with companies and regularly get in touch with them - don't be a pest but show they how committed you are so that if any position does come up, then they'll get in contact with you first.

As for missing out on the job in your town, that's sod's law. However, make sure you follow all design vacancies on Twitter, and get the local papers as soon as they get printed and keep scouring the job boards.

You've obviously got enough commitment to get a first-class degree - it's just a case of treating your job search as a new design brief and start thinking laterally on how you can stand out in a very crowded marketplace (but don't go spending too much money :)
Ok, I think I will give them another week to give them some time before I follow it up! In my cover letter I basically said how I would love to come and chat so I will probably ask if they have been able to find a date when I could come in and talk to them or something.

Haha! It was bound to happen! I didn't want to become an Artworker, but as a first job it was great as it was basically photo editing which I am pretty good with.

Haha! I have 25 or so brochures left, I think I will get rid of those and then re-think my tactics! Perhaps an email may work if I send it correctly, perhaps with some questions so that they have to reply? I was going to send mail shots but once again big cost!

Also... When looking at jobs online I understand there is Junior, Middle Weight, Senior, Director etc, and some mention experience, but I have seen 'Senior Designer' jobs which don't mention experience. Do you think it is worth applying to those as well or would I be classed as a Junior no matter what?
You'd definitely be classed as a junior so you should only really be seeking out jobs that are listed a junior or recent graduate.

There's no definite rule but I would break down the definition as something like...
Junior Designer: 0-3 years experience
Middleweight Designer: 4-7 years
Senior Designer: 8 years+

However, this can vary from company to company.
You may have answered this already and I missed it, but did you make any special effort to follow up with the companies that gave you cards at your show? I don't mean sending a mail shot or a booklet, I mean calling the actual person who saw your work to and said "Hello Mr X, you gave me your card and were keen to see more. Can I come in and show you my stuff? Perhaps even complete a mock brief for you? I'd love a placement (paid or otherwise)..."

If not, why not? If so how were you received?

Remember, if you get a job as an artworker, your experience wont be relevant when applying for creative agency jobs so 3 years artworking won't elevate you to mid weight designer status.
Thank you for your reply! I didn't realise that artworker experience didn't count towards other creative agencies!

They all gave me their personal business cards with their personal names and numbers; they all live about an hour away from me otherwise I would have gone to deliver my portfolio packs in person. I started by emailing them thanking themfor their comments at the show and informing them that I would soon be sending them something in the post. I sent that email to [email protected]. I also addressed the portfolio pack their their person so in theory they should have received both. However I haven't received a reply from either.

I guess calling them is the next step; I kept this off since I thought an email can be responded to later whilst a phone call may be annoying/inconvenient but I guess if I keep on at them they may invite me in!

It just doesn't make sense that they ask to see more of my work and speak to me and yet don't reply to their requests!
It just doesn't make sense that they ask to see more of my work and speak to me and yet don't reply to their requests!

It may not make a lot of sense on the face of it but it's easy to make loose promises on the hoof when you're in the room.

On the issue of a creative approach to sending your CV, whenever I've received anything like this, my thoughts usually go something like: "That's nice. So, anyway...". That may sound harsh but the reality is that people (with very few exceptions) are only ever genuinely interested in what you have to offer when they're actively recruiting.
I agree with Dave....if any work samples from graduates are not thrown in the bin, they are put in the bottom of the drawer and forgotten about.

When the company starts recruiting (maybe six months after they've received your work samples), someone might remember your designs and then give you a call...

That's why it's even more important to make sure you're the first in the queue when new jobs are posted - this is probably your only chance of a company actually taking the time to look through your samples and CV.
Thanks for all of your replies so far!

Ok so I am now realising that getting a job may be even harder than I initially thought, but why is this industry so hard to get into?

I have friends who are training to be nurses and lawyers, and their Uni courses generally gets them in contact with a work place before they finish, so when they do finish they go straight to work at where ever they have had their placement.

Obviously it's slightly different in the Design field, but surely it can't just be the same excuse of the economy again? Is there more to it than that? Is it because too many people want to become designers or because unless you got into the profession 10 years ago you are deemed too 'inexperienced' right away?

Once again that sounds like a rant but it's not intended to be one!
I'm guessing that nurses and lawyers have professional bodies whose sole purpose is to place qualified people in jobs: design doesn't have anything like that, in large part because there are no professional minimum standards or other qualitative ways of measuring people's suitability for work.

Basically, you need to be good, you need to manoeuvre yourself into the right place at the right time and you need a bit of luck (or you need to say: "Frick it: I'm setting up on my own", but that presents a whole other set of challenges).
Yeah, I wouldn't set up on your own with no real world experience. Its a recipe for disaster!
Also check the forums here?
I've just finished a short stint of work that i found here on the forums. there's always a chance that something short could turn into something more long-term.

check the work section!
Good advice here....all agreed with.
I've been working for 19 years and thinking back, finding any design-related job was about lucky breaks, making good contacts, being persistent, but not a pain and just being the right kind of person with the right kind of temperament for a particular client/design consultancy.

I've worked in fields related to what I wanted to do, but not directly linked to my degree. I've moved sideways, worked in-house for a retailer, worked for design company, worked for a supplier/manufacturer and now for myself.

Graduates tend to always want to work in a design consultancy, but there are other options as mentioned above which get you on the ladder.

I too got a First, but it's not the kind of thing that you really talk about as my style/skills might be really useful to some and not for others.
As it stands they haven't replied to you so the worst they can really do is say no and theres no harm done. Its easy to ignore an email or mail but if you get through to them on the phone they have to hear you out and if you play it right you should get a positive response even if its just a polite rejection.
If i was you i would definatly follow your business card contacts up with a phone call and just not worry about being annoying and so on. You've just gotta go for it and try everything and show your keen.
Hope this helps
Thank you for all of your replies!

As it turns out I had an interview the other day and was offered a job today! I initially applied for the wrong job; a marketing job but the company wanted to expand their creative side so have asked if I would work for them!

I haven't accepted just yet as I have another interview but it seems to have paid off!

I sent my brochure to all of the Graphic Design Agencies in my town, and I was offered some Freelance work from one company, however since some of my friends and I have set up a small Freelance company we asked if we could instead do the work as a company. The director said the brochure was the thing which caught her eye and made her interested in us as people as well as our work! Our little design company is now a sub contractor for a fairly large branding agency in our town!

Any one reading this who is looking for job advice; don't be afraid to be as different as you can! This is a visual and creative industry after all so be just that!
Make sure you get registered as self employed and fill in all the relevent paperwork! HMRC are very keen these days!
Thank you! I will let my friends know that! I will be working full time but they are carrying on with the sub contract Freelance thing!
Even if you're working full time you'll still need to be reg'd as self employed if you intend doing any work freelance (although you get out of NI contributions as your full time employment pays them).