Advice for those looking for work

Thought it might be good to have an on going discussion with words of advice for those looking for work or coming up to graduation.

I graduated this summer in the UK from the BA Design For Industry course at Northumbria University and lucky to have been in the position to choose between a few jobs. I can however see the problems others are having at getting work as it can be tough. That said there are still lots of jobs out there even if they are shorter term contracts or freelanced based. My feeling is the recession shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not being able to find work, it should be an incentive to be more proactive.

The problem is that at the end of year design shows and exhibitions lots of graduates were expecting to be offered work through being approached. After talking to lots of fellow graduates one of my biggest shocks was the lack of placements and internships undertaken during their study and the lack of basic design skills. I’m no expert but I’ve come to some conclusions abouthow to look for work after graduation basically based on how I’ve done things and whats worked for me,

will be good to hear others ideas.

My advice for people in a position of ‘no work’ is to do the following:-

  1. If you have no internship experience - get some, 6months at the minimum as real world experience is crucial, why in a time of crisis would a company even think of employing somebody who hadn’t even set foot in a commercial design environment before. If the internship is unpaid, don’t moan about having no money, work the weekend in a bar and nights in a resturant to pay your accommodation.

  2. Approach and Network - Get a website, print off portfolios, go to the companies, talk to people, build up a Linkedin network. Sending emails off left right and center will not get you anywhere as its soul-less and impersonal, make a phone call or knock on the door.

  3. Work on your portfolio - If you can’t find work then spend the time doing some of your own, build up a portfolio that your proud of as you have the time. You also need to keep your skills fresh and cutting edge. I spent my spare university time (between going out doing coursework) teaching myself computer programs, reading design books and working on a range of design skills. So download tutorials and teach yourself, if I can do it you can.

  4. Be ready to move - If like me you live int he middle of nowhere then how can you expect to work for the top companies, you have to be ready to move. Up sticks and move to where you want to work, its easier to find a job if you can start the next day.

  5. Luck has nothing to do with it - Everyone can get their dream job and it has nothing to do with luck, you make your own luck. Think of the recession as a bonus as it will be filtering out the people who can’t cut it. You have an advantage as although for a company you have less experience, if you’ve followed the above steps you won;t need as much training and you will cost a hell of a lot less than your competition. Remember design businesses are not charities.

  6. More study - is 3 years enough? if you don’t feel ready the you probably are not, do a masters, do a photography course or choose a new career path.

  7. Get involved - spend at least an hour everyday trawling through the blogs, web adverts, websites, magazines etc to find a job opportunity. look out for companies who have won new contracts or who are getting new work, new consultancies, local businesses who look like they could do with a design overhaul. Jobs won’t come to you and the posts on big sites like coroflot and designweek will have hundreds of applicants so you’ve automatically made it harder to get your foot in the door. Being lazy will not land you a position.

:sunglasses: try other disciplines - Doing an ID course doesn’t make you an industrial designer, it gives you the tools and basic skills to be a designer. look at branding, strategy, packaging, service, interaction, business development, project management, apparel, footwear etc. Design is about process and thinking, to be a footware deigner you need to know more than just how to draw a shoe; learn about manufacturing techniques, processes, trends, styles, brands, technology. Your portfolio should reflect your versatility as a designer.

  1. Finally - Don’t moan, I have friend working, in-house, consultancy, freelance, internship paid and unpaid, and these are are top companies not you local timber yard, all have only just graduated, so the myth of no jobs is not true, and the friend who do not yet have a job are frequenting interviews every week.

So there’s my £1 of advice. There are jobs out there. People are wanting to employ the best young talent. If you’ve just graduated you have until next summer to do something about it, as before you know it there will be hundreds of thousands of fresh graduates looking for the new jobs.

Its a long answer but hopefully this will be of some help to someone out there who is struggling.


Here’s my advice if you’re unemployed:

  1. Put your portfolio up either here, or on Tons of people love giving their opinions. Ask them to be harsh. Take this advice with a grain of salt. Redo it. Then post it up again. Then, when you think it is decent, take it back to your school, and have some professors offer advice. THEN, when you see jobs posted, don’t ask for an interview. Ask for a portfolio REVIEW. Say you’re confused, you can’t find work, and you don’t know why. This will most likely have people looking at your stuff even more critically. They’re looking for reasons that your portfolio sucks, which is great, because it’ll make it that much better.

  2. Also, by contacting professionals, you begin to make more contacts in the design world. If they know you are looking for work, they might remember you.

  3. GET AN INTERNSHIP. I don’t care what the pay is. Having real world experience is vital. Work retail, whatever. Doesn’t matter. You need experience.

  4. Go to conferences. Yes, they are expensive. Get in by any means you can. Even if it isn’t totally moral. I’m not against copying/photoshopping ID badges and sneaking in. Whatever.

  5. LEARN HOW TO SPELL. Seriously, whenever people cannot spell, nobody takes them seriously. If you think your portfolio is great, but you aren’t getting any interest, spend a few weeks learning how to spell.

  6. Get a haircut, you damn hippie.

You both offer sound advice.

You could elaborate on how one would get an internship, as if they are falling out of trees or something maybe? Cholden if you paint a more vivid picture of seducing an possible lead then asking for a portfolio review or something. And how you may go about securing your self an inter roll?

Are you sure about that? :wink:

  • Also, use proper grammar and capitalization. Know the difference between “to” “two” and “too”.

I’ve seen emails and posts that look like mental patients typed them. This isn’t a phone text. Pay attention to detail. You will be doing a lot of it if you land a design job.

Good post. Great advice Cholden!

“mental patients” ! haha, got a good laugh from that, but you are spot on.

see previous post here - to cover letter or not to cover letter - #5 by rkuchinsky

about cover letter/application writing advice. It’s honestly horrific some of the stuff I get.


Awesome post! Good read…

Know the difference between “to” “two” and “too”.

and “then” and “than”… :unamused:

were and where
it’s and its

couldn’t resist.

“A lot” is two words not one.

also hate when people refer to university as “uni” (dunno if it’s maybe a UK thing?), or portfolio as 'folio.


There should be no slang in any professional correspondence. Period.

Word. U gotz that aiiight!


Interesting post Chris. I too live in the middle of knowhere in the UK and the nearest City is about 3 hours away. I agree at the importance of experience and have been searching locally for some time. Moving away is starting to sound like the best option but there are a few problems with that. I would quite happily work for free if having that experience improves my job chances hugely, although some people argue that working unpaid is completely unfair on graduates.

In the UK the most likely place to find a design position is London, or a few of the other bigger cities, all which are about 6 hours from me. My point is that an internship would probably be full time hours I assume for say a period of 3-6 months. If you are lucky enough to have friends or family in those places that are willing to let you stay for free then that’s great. But getting home from work and having to work evenings and weekends in order to pay your rent is ridiculous in my opinion. It would be more than 60 hours per week and only enough money to pay rent and buy food. Maybe that is the only option, I do not know.

In some way’s I think the education system is to blame. Part of the course should be professional experience so that it prepares the students and makes them 10 times more employable after graduation. Maybe it has more of an impact on students outside of the bigger cities, who aren’t able to easily prepare internships due to limited companies in the areas.