Mo 'Money: How do Graduates of Web Design Really Get Paid?
Hey smarty pants, you've just graduated college and you're ready to enter the real world and start learning some even 'realer' cash. How will you find a job? Some methods are better than others, especially when in the design industry. Conducting proper research is essential when it comes to job hunting for designers, as is the knowledge of how to create a good resume and portfolio. Here are some handy hints to help you secure a job quickly and hopefully with as little stress as possible.
You're lacking in experience, but do not let this hold you back. These days, all your skills are transferable: you just need to be able to communicate this effectively. What skills did you learn at that café that can be transported over to your new design career? If you've had any leadership or team-driven positions, it can look great on your resume, even if you were just a team leader at your local Miter 10.
If you still have gaping holes in your resume, go into more detail about the particular courses you took at school. Be sure to highlight your academic successes, projects you completed, rewards you won, and any travel you've done. Potential employers want to engage with your human side, so showcase your personality, not just your work experience and education.
You Are the Brand
In order to land your creative design dream-job, you've got to have a solid portfolio that demonstrates the high quality of design creativity you possess. Your resume and portfolio are essentially advertisements for your brand, which is YOU.
You can not just send out mass emails with the same resume to every potential employer. You should tailor your resume and portfolio to each prospective employer, studying their design work and tailoring your content to reflect what it is they may be looking for. You're clever, you're talented and you need to prove it.
It's the Little Things that Count
Reading full job descriptions and following the instructions exactly is imperative when applying for your first web design job. Employers do this to weed out the people who do not follow instructions properly. Do not wait for them to ask for a link to your portfolio, supply it immediately. If you do not follow these precise instructions, you're running the risk of being auto-deleted. Keep in mind that there may be hundreds of other designers vying for the same job, designers who may be more qualified than you. Give yourself at least a chance to be considered by not makings silly, avoidable, and embarrassing mistakes.
Web design job descriptions can be very vague and some terms can be misinterpreted for a completely different position. Front-end development, HTML, and CSS are all very different things and you may not know them all inside-out. Understanding what skills are appropriate for the job you're applying for is very important. Time is money and you do not want to waste it. That said, even if you do not have all of the proper qualification, there's no harm in taking a leak and applying for a position that is beyond your skill set. If your personality is spot-on and you've got the right attitude, a company just may take you on board with the intent of training you up properly and reaping the rewards with years of commitment.
Trade Me Jobs vs. Everything Else
The only place to start looking for a job is Trade Me Jobs, right? While it's convenient to have Trade Me at your fingertips on your mobile or laptop, make sure you're thinking out of the box. Yes, most businesses advertise on Trade Me first, but while there are oodles of jobs available, there are also hundreds of applicants pursuing the same position. Be sure to check out SEEK and be so bold as to check out the websites of the design firms and companies that you admire. Sometimes they may post listings on their sites. Check frequently. Even if you do not hear a response back right away, some agencies will keep your information on file and contact you later on when they're looking for someone. It's an excellent idea to make yourself known to the agencies in your city, even if they do not seem to be actively looking for a designer.
It's a Popularity Contest
Using social media platforms as a medium to connect with others is a great way to create and develop professional relationships. Many designers hear about jobs through friends before a position has even been advertised publicly. Keep your mind and options open by seeing potential in everyone that you meet online and offline. New Zealand is small and you never know who you might meet and what opportunities they can provide for you. Start building up your personal network and do not be afraid to ask if your fellow designers know of any jobs available. Your best chance of landing a design position may be through the personal connections you make.
Use Your Brains
Finding the right job after graduating may take several weeks to several months and that's why you've got to keep track of the agencies you've already contacted and who you should follow up with. Create a simple Google Doc with a chart of the company name and a brief description, the name of your primary contact for the job and the date that you applied. This will help you see your job hunting progress all in one place, instead of your e-mail inbox.
If you're not hearing back from any of the companies you've applied to, it may be time to try a different approach with your resume and portfolio and see if you get any better results. If you have not heard back from a company within a week, sending a polite follow-up note to remind them about your application is good way to proceed. But, do not be too aggressive as they might just be overwhelmed with too many applications.
If you have not heard back in a month's time, do not barrage them with e-mails. Instead, put that lead on hold for now and pursue some others. Certain companies are too busy to let you know whether or not you've made it to the next round in the application process. Do not take it personally and do not get discouraged. You need to be pro-active. You make your own opportunities!
Let's Break It Down:
When it comes to your resume and portfolio, create something that will get a Creative Director to really notice you. It's all about impact. You're a brand and you need to be remembered. Create a portfolio that defines what you stand for. Create a talking point about you. Do not let the fact that you stay less than a year at any given job be the only talking point. If you've moved around too much, be ready to answer some tough questions about reliability and commitment.
So, you're a brand and not the Ultimate God of Design. Let your work speak for you. Do not tell your potential employers how amazing you are. Remember, you just graduated, so while you're fresh, you've also inexperienced and you do not want to come off looking arrogant and deluded. The design firm that hires you is doing it because you're cheap, you work hard, and you're showcasing your potential.
With so many books the same, your portfolio needs to be different. A lot of design schools churn out factory farm students with the same work. It takes Creative Directors less than 15 seconds to determine whether a portfolio warrants further inspection. Great agencies look for a certain amount of professionalism and depth. If you really want to stand out, your portfolio needs to be stunning.
Be ready to work hard. Studying graphic design is a luxury and while you've been doing work and learning over the last few years, there has not been much pressure. You're entering the real world now and you need to work harder, faster, and all-hours. You need an excellent sense of time management and you need to have a good sense of process. How do you approach your work? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you know when an idea is good?
At the heart of it all, people are the most important assets in any design firm. You need to be able to engage future employees with your kindness, your attention and your eagerness to learn. Do not go into an interview cocky and arrogant: you need them more than they need you. Employers are scrutinizing your portfolio, resume AND your personality. Are you easy to get along with? Can you work efficiently with others and independently? You do not need to be the best of friends with your work collections, but you need to be able to maintain an open and healthy dialogue. Good web designers are thoughtful, considerate, and not overly wrapped up in their own egos. Our designers at Activate Design embody all of this and more.