It’s been just over four weeks since my last
confession post. Graduation feels like a distant memory and it’s been a whirlwind month. There were points where everything felt uncertain and I worried over the risk I had taken in moving to a new country, going back to study and my ambition to join a notoriously challenging industry. However, after a two stage interview and a trial week I’ve just been offered a job as a Junior Finished Artist at Clemenger BBDO and so here I am again sharing a few of my thoughts, feelings and experiences over the last month.
After the high of completing a course or study wears off, the realisation that you are jobless hits home. If you’re anything like me, and struggle to have no purpose, you’ll start browsing job sites a few days after you graduate. This momentum can be everything. Just after graduation, you’re at your most motivated, filled with tangible passion for the industry. There is the likelihood that the future holds several weeks of rebuttals and hearing nothing from countless job applications, and rejection can chip away at that motivation. It feels hard, but keep pushing to maintain a routine; get up early and keep making steps towards your goal. Those steps don’t have to take the form of hundreds of job applications. Set yourself mini-projects, keep using the tools; so when the job call or email suddenly appears, you won’t feel like a rabbit in the headlights when you next reach for your Mac. I spent my first week tidying up my website, tweaking rushed images that had been uploaded after the course and fine-tuning the Contact and About pages. Next came social media, updating my LinkedIn profile and uploading a version of my folio to Behance and The Loop. It’s surprisingly even how a single project view or like of recently created work can boost wilting spirits.
If you can, freelance. Even if your end goal is full-time employment in a studio or another permanent position, freelancing will give you the chance to keep using the Adobe programs, serve as experience to discuss in interview other than student work and line your pockets in the interim. The advice I was given was to make sure your friends and family know about your skills – your immediate social circles are the best network in the beginning. Keep an eye on social media; join design groups on Facebook (TheDesignKids – Brisbane is a great one) and keep in touch with classmates. Although self-promotion may feel unnatural, jobs won’t come to you – prospective employers or collaborators will only know about your work if they can find it; other people will be doing exactly the same. I was lucky enough for a classmate to tag me in a post she came across on TDK. It led to my first gig with a small branding agency, working on print work. After a quick, informal interview, I had a few days work a week, with a large amount of creative freedom.
Networking is a word that makes everyone wince. It feels contrived, unnatural and narcisstic, but is a necessity in the creative industry. However, it is exactly what you make of it. Nothing dictates that you have to attend events with the sole purpose of finding a job; go with the intention to meet like-minded people. Go to get to know the other personalities in different areas of design, what makes them tick and what you have in common. Go with the intention of making empathetic connections rather than professional ones; the latter can often follow by sheer coincidence. People are happy to offer words of wisdom for graduates starting out in the industry; introduce yourself and ask about their background. Learning from other people’s histories and journeys can lead to advice on how they got their first break. If you have lecturers or teachers, make sure you tell them about your ambitions, they are fantastic sources of wisdom and willing to share their networks and opportunities. Then continue to share the favour – if you see a job opportunity that you think would fit a classmate or someone looking for their next spot, share it. Just being present at events, or having lunch with a new connection means that if an opportunity appears, you may be their first thought. I went to a TDK event and bumped into one of the Shillington part-time teachers. The interaction led to finding a cool shared-workspace to set up shop on the days I worked remotely and helping out at a student event which led to meeting a new design friend.
I was also fortunate enough for my teachers to put me in contact with a recent Shillington graduate who was freelancing at Clemenger. She went out of her way to share her advice, recommend books, and took me for lunch to critique some idea generation. When a position came up in her office, she readily put my CV and website forward, leading to an interview and subsequently being offered the position. The job was actually for a mid-weight level role, which leads me to my final point.
If When (as it is really just a case of when) an opportunity does appear and you think you don’t have enough experience, go for it anyway. Determination and a thirst to learn can often get you in the door, as long as you’re willing to put in the work once you get there. I read a brilliant quote today by Hugh Laurie, “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now.” Most organisations are looking for a personality that will fit with their culture as much as someone who can do the job. Most skills can be taught and quickly learned, but ethos, attitude and sense of humour are ingrained. This works both ways; if you see a job or go to an interview and you don’t feel you fit, listen to your gut instinct. Equally if you are unsuccessful in an application; if the company didn’t think you were the right fit, it also means they potentially weren’t the right fit for you either. But above all, don’t give up. It takes dedication to chase a passion; it’s hard work and sometimes will feel futile. But dedication got you this far, and you will succeed.