Are you a college design student or recent graduate? Are you wondering how to get your foot in the door and lock in that dream creative career in graphic design or marketing? While there are many ways to scale the ladder of success, we here at HatchMark Studio have lots of tips to help young professionals looking to break into the agency field.
Here are our top 5 tips for finding success as a creative, design, or marketing professional fresh out of school:
1. Start Networking ASAP
When it comes to breaking into the creative fields, get started long before your graduation date for the best results. After all, if people don’t know who you are, they can’t hire you!
While many people may rely on their resume speaking for itself when it’s time to apply for a job, savvy grads have already planted the seeds of employment by strategically networking with the professionals they admire and want to work for. Luckily, there are lots of ways to do this.
Submit Your Work to Awards Shows
Whether you’re still in school or already graduated, it’s worth the investment to submit your work to your local chapter of the American Advertising Federation’s Addy Awards.
Winning is always nice, but the main goal is to get your name and work in front of firms and brands who may remember your name when your resume next comes across their desk. Here at HatchMark Studio, we literally keep a list of students who stand out from these awards shows each year, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones.
Find a Local Networking Group
It can be pretty lonely transitioning from the world of academia to the job market, but you don’t have to go it alone! Networking groups like Pensacola Young Professionals (or a local chapter wherever you are) are an awesome resource for, well, young professionals.
These organizations provide networking opportunities like socials and workshops, providing you with valuable introductions and helpful skills that you may not have gotten in an academic setting.
So often career building is about who you know more than what you know. Networking opportunities like these can open doors to employers and colleagues you might never have been exposed to otherwise.
Seek Out Creative Groups in Your Area
Besides purely networking-based groups, you can often find niche artistic groups that are excellent opportunities to expand your circle. In Pensacola, we have groups for filmmakers, designers, and muralists just to name a few, and Facebook is a great place to find the most active communities.
Whether you’re a pro or a novice, you can learn a lot from these voluntary artistic groups, and you never know when your muralist pals pass your name on for an excellent design opportunity.
2. Get on the Radar
One of the simpler ways to get noticed by an employer is something we all take for granted – engage with them on social media!
Now, if you’re hoping to work for a massive corporation, this tip may not work as well since there’s a good chance the person monitoring their social media isn’t too connected to the hiring decisions, but for mid-size and smaller firms and in-house design opportunities, it can’t hurt to be a consistent fan of the business you are hoping to work for.
This means leaving insightful comments, asking smart questions, and even sliding (respectfully) into their direct messages. You don’t want to be a pest, but you want to stay top of mind.
3. Start with the Soft Ask
What do you do if your dream job isn’t hiring? You can still make a positive impression by reaching out and making a ‘soft ask.’
Some examples of this include:
- Asking a designer you respect out to coffee to pick their brain about how to find a job. They may know about upcoming job openings, can connect you directly to the decision-makers, and can forward you opportunities as they come across their desk.
- Ask for a portfolio review and feedback, showing you value their input. Don’t forget the valuable second part to this: actually implement the feedback they gave you and send a follow-up email with your updated portfolio so they can see you took their input seriously.
- Cold email them, sharing your webpage, social media and portfolio to have on file. If you don’t hear back, no worries! You can follow up every so often (every 2-4 months), and your email might show up at just the right time.
- Asking them to be a part of a school project or capstone interview. Of course, this can only be done when you’re still in school, but folks generally like talking about themselves, so this flattering opportunity will stick with them.
4. Stay Current Online
If you’re a young creative, you probably already know how important it is to use social media as a tool to expand your reach and get more eyeballs on what you value most. This is especially true when it comes to job-hunting.
View your social media pages through the eyes of a potential employer. Make it easy for them to find the good (your portfolio, samples of your work, and your unique perspective) and tuck away the bad (those college party pics).
For the best results, you should have your own webpage which serves as your portfolio. While resources like Dribbble, Behance and Adobe Portfolio will work in a pinch, having a fully fleshed out website gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills in web design and layout.
While some creatives find fulfillment from merging their personal pages with their public creative identity, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated Instagram just for your work. Include your graduation date in your bio along with a simplified description of who you are and what you do (or want to do).
Finally, if you are on LinkedIn, be sure to actually be on it. That no-profile-pic, blank bio page just won’t cut it. Have the page up to date including any volunteer work you may do and consider following and interacting with others in your industry.
5. Get Some Experience
When it comes to job hunting, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. While you’re working toward the dream job or dream employer, don’t miss the opportunity to get some job experience under your belt (and pay off those student loans).
If you’re still in school, internships can be a key step to build real-world experience and allow for on-the-job teaching and growth. Outside of class, part-time jobs and freelance work in your field can also be useful, showing not only your skills but your work ethic to potential future employers.
Even if you’re not getting paid for it, doing side projects is a valuable way to demonstrate that you’re ready and willing to produce outside of the expectations of school. Head to briefbox.me for inspiration on projects you can start in your free time and try to cater your projects toward the industry you want to work in.
Recognize that you’ll often be working toward your dream job for a while. Treat other jobs like valuable stepping stones and use each opportunity as a learning experience to gain skills and develop relationships that can ultimately lead to where you want to go.