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How to Find a Job in the Graphic Design Industry Part 1

Here’s a list of tips to help your job search after graduation from a graphic design program.

How to Find a Job in the Graphic Design Industry in black copy on pink background with drop shadow. Part one in pink copy on black corner banner.
When I graduated from college no one gave me instructions on how to find a job. And I soon found out there wasn’t a step-by-step instruction list of how to find employment given to us on the way out. The best advice I received in my last semester was a portfolio review and some instructions on business etiquette. I’m going to outline a few tips on how to market yourself plus the assets you’ll need to apply for graphic design positions.

Finding a job in the graphic design field isn’t easy. Especially if you’re outside of the GTA, and I assure you, you’ll be hearing that a lot from people when you tell them you’re an unemployed graphic designer. You’ll be likely to hear people jibber-jabber about how little designers make – don’t listen to this. In another article I’ll tell you how to make money as a graphic designer and you can block out all the negativity. Don’t listen to anyone (within reason of course) when it comes to your career path – you’re in control. It all depends on you.

Market Yourself

When you first start looking for employment as a recent grad, you’ll probably have zero experience besides a few months of co-op. No worries – most companies are looking for a few things when it comes to a graphic designer newbie.

  • Employers are looking for energy and synergy. They’re looking for people they want to work with everyday. They want to know you’ll get along with other employees too. So, if your sense of style is loud and boisterous and the office environment is corporate, you probably won’t fit. My suggestion is don’t pretend to fit either, because you won’t enjoy your first day and every day after.
  • Show initiative. Show you’re going to grow and be a deft designer. Show initiative with an online portfolio, an electronic version (PDF) of your work to send via email (school projects are OK!), your social shares (that you custom designed) about the design industry. And don’t be shy to show a little personality on these channels too! Just keep it PG rated – don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your momma to read!
  • Look for guest blogger opportunities. This is a perfect opportunity to get your opinions and knowledge of the industry published. Craigslist has endless opportunity to guest blog and publish content. Guest blogging also gives you an opportunity learn how to write content for the web, showing how skillful you are.

Be Ambitious

Marketing yourself shows ambition. Once you finish school, you’ll certainly be without a job in the industry, unless you’re a prodigy designer that has firms chasing you around, but even if that does happen it’s likely ‘cause you were already marketing yourself. And you definitely don’t want to show up to an interview empty handed so you’ll need a few things:

A website. For about 100 bucks you can purchase a WordPress theme, domain and hosting and set up a portfolio site. If that cost exceeds your cheque book balance, look into getting a Tumblr account. If you choose this path, consider buying a domain and direct it to the Tumblr account. And if that’s too complicated, look at for a free site. And wowie, the page designs are pretty snazzy eh?

An electronic version of your portfolio. Lots of potential employers will be seeking different types of portfolio examples. I had mine split into web and print materials plus a combo deal. Lay the electronic version out like a magazine with your top ten portfolio examples and you must absolutely check spelling! Make sure you didn’t miss anything by having a friend review it, preferably a designer friend who can catch all the boo-boos.

A resume and cover letter. This is mandatory in most cases. I spent loads of time on an intricate layout for my resume back in the day, but over time stopped because I spent far too much time formatting. So I set-up shop in Google Drive which made it easy for me to work on documents on-the-fly and access them from anywhere. Plus you’ll always have a backup, easy access to duplicate resumes and letters for new job applications, and a reference point if you get a call back and don’t recall the position applied for.

Hot Tip – After sending your resume, return to Google Drive, copy and paste the job description at the top of the resume. This guarantees you’ll always have a reference point if you get a call back.

Hard-copy Portfolio. Get a hard-copy portfolio. When you’re a student you’ll be tempted to get the largest portfolio ever to showcase your awesome student work. Don’t. Not that your work isn’t awesome, it will be a huge pain in the butt to carry around. Plus it screams junior designer. Just find a reliable portfolio case that’s a bit larger than 8.5” x 11” and then you can stuff it into tote bag and won’t dread carrying it around, especially if you traveling a long distance for an interview.

Hot Tip – If you scored an interview using all the above, the hard-copy portfolio doesn’t really matter. The potential employer has already scoped your work, thinks you may be a fit for the job and has invited you to an interview to talk design and figure out if you’ll be a fit for the office. The interviewer may or may not ask to see your portfolio, and if it’s the latter, don’t be insulted. And never be embarrassed about your work. Never put it down during a portfolio review, ever!

Next week I’ll give you a few more tidbits on how and where to source graphic designer jobs. Until then tell us about how you found your graphic design job. What other factors are important when entering the design industry? Leave your comments below

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