What to Do After Design School

What to do after design school

1. Make a Hitlist

Make a list of your ideal workplaces and rank them. Naturally, it’s preferable to apply for jobs that are actively listed, but don’t be afraid to send your portfolio to organizations that aren’t currently hiring—you never know what they have in the works. Erika, my senior designer, designed a wonderfully lovely package and mailed it to me, which was one of the finest applications I’ve ever received. We weren’t looking to hire at the moment, but I couldn’t say no to her incredible offer. Thinking outside of the box will take you places.

after design school

2. Take a Trip

No, I’m not talking about that kind of trip; but, who am I to judge? I mean, you should take at least three months off to try new things and go on trips that don’t require you to work till 3 a.m. Because (a) agencies hire in January/February, and (b) you deserve a vacation and will most likely need some time to recoup a few thousand hours of sleep after the #majorproject, don’t even think about looking for positions until January/February.

3. Write a Love Letter

Write yourself a winning cover letter once your portfolio is ready to go and you’ve determined which doors you want to knock on. It’s critical to tailor your cover letter to the agency or company to which you’re applying. Explain why you want to work there, what projects from their portfolio appeal to you the most, and why you think you’d be the best fit for them. Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. Get a reliable buddy to proofread your writing for spelling and grammar errors—nothing ruins a first impression like poor spelling. Demonstrate your concern for your potential employer!

4. Skill Up

Take a class, get out there, and learn something new. It doesn’t have to be related to design in any way. Consider taking a pottery lesson. Or you could learn to sew. Study a language, start a blog, build a kite—do anything new that will open up a new creative outlet for you. Exploring a new skill set can either expand your mind to something you didn’t realize you were capable of, or at the very least remind you how much you despise painting, which is also beneficial. Cooking up a storm in the kitchen or perfecting the art of picnic packing are two of my side skills.

5. Hustle

Jobs rarely just fall into your lap, at least not in my experience. Because you’re unlikely to get the first job you apply for, the hustle can be legitimate. It’s vital to struggle early on in order to land the dream since it strengthens your character, resilience, and gratitude when you ultimately strike gold. Get into rooms where other designers hang out if you haven’t before. Attend gallery openings, industry events, and meet-and-greets—anything that will inspire you and bring you together with others in the business. At some of these events, you’ll spot familiar faces, and it’s worth saying hi and getting to know them.

6. Ennie Minnie M…

Determine exactly what type of career you desire. It’s critical to narrow down what you want to gain out of a job and the type of workplace you want to work in. Are you better suited for a corporate advertising agency or a hillbilly operating out of his garage? There is no right or incorrect answer; you simply need to figure out whatever is best for you. You will be able to thrive in this manner. My strong recommendation is to not apply for every Junior Designer position available. Because you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, be selective and only apply for positions that you truly desire.

after design school

7. Don’t Panic

Simply relax. You are not required to find work right away. If it takes a while, you are not a failure. You are ordinary, but you still have something to contribute. You also don’t have to take the first job that comes along. Saying yes if it’s not right and the mood isn’t right can lead to disappointment later if you don’t receive what you want out of the event. Maybe it’s not the job for you if you’re offered a job in a corporate office with no creative life and fluorescent panel lighting overhead on a baked beans wage. Or perhaps it is—you simply need to know what you expect from the job you accept.

8. Clean, Cull and Fix

Once you’ve decided on the type of company you want to work with, go over your portfolio and modify it to that style and aesthetic. Remember, you’ll get hired for the projects you show off, so be picky! Remove any tasks that you have severe reservations about or that you believe you’ve outgrown. If there are any that can be changed, go over Pinterest and see what you can add to the project to make it more “real life” like. Is it possible to add extra collateral? Add a homepage, perhaps? Adjust any components of the project that were a university requirement to something you enjoy and are pleased to stand behind.

9. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from people who have gone before you. Make contact with previous university lecturers, talk to classmates, phone your friend’s father’s next-door neighbor’s brother who owns a design studio—think outside the box. Request comments on your portfolio from a professional. You won’t be the only one who feels like you have two left feet and can’t sell yourself to a Junior Designer at this point in the game. If you simply ask your instructors, they will have excellent advice and probably even contacts. It’s always worth a shot!

10. Be Flexible

Have you suddenly realized that you despise design? Relax! Once you start looking, other opportunities will present themselves. Perhaps you’re a natural communicator or have a way with words—the creative profession is large and multi-faceted. Changing directions is still progress, and there’s nothing wrong with falling out, believe me.


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