How do you get hired as a recent grad??

All,

After reading about the “how to define a GOOD portfolio”, I’m suddenly at a loss. The job board in school all want “must have at least 2-3 years experience” there’s nothing as an entry level. There’s an intership program but they’re not paying and let’s just face it, we need to get paid after four years of all that art/graphics training.

I know it’s the whole package (i.e. good portfolio work, interview, etc.), me and my cohorts all have that, but searching for work at our level is dismal.

What’s the next step when trying to get into an agency as a recent grad with only a couple of professional work, when they all want 2-3 years of professional experience?

Like anything there is a system for these things. First figure out what city you want to work in and start compiling a list of all known firms, agencies, etc that hire designers. You might think you know them all but chances are you only know a small fraction.

Start networking and working the phones to find out whos doing what. Ask what type of work they are doing and if they only do concept or if they also manufacture. If they only do concepts chances are they have a short list of nearby companies they go to for prototypes and production, get their names too.

Then start sending out press packets for yourself. If you can’t afford to do mailers then send out emails with pdf’s, web links, whatever. Follow up everything with a confirmation phone call. If they tell you they don’t have anything ask them who does. For all you know they have friends two blocks away who just lost a crew of people for some reason and need to get bodies behind some workstations.

Repeat as needed. Persistance is important. Out of 100 phone calls you might get 99 no’s but who cares because number 100 says yes and they aren’t that bad.

Just be carefull to check things out and don’t get too excited about your first offer. I’ve walked into some places before where they make it sound like the greatest place ever and then two weeks in you figure out why the position was open in the first place.

Thats my two cents.

Wow- you picked a tough one………
I remember saying the exact same things you are……right after I graduated in ‘01. It’s definitely tough out there still. Employers are still reluctant to provide on-the-job training when a surplus of skilled designers exists in the market. But things do seem to be picking up, and there are entry-level jobs out there for product designers.
Although I feel like I have a pretty nice gig right now, it took me awhile to get a job that I really wanted.
I’ll tell you what I learned in the process:

Target the companies that you want to work for.
Send them a seriously tight portfolio, either disc format or hard copy. Include your name and contact information on everything that they will receive.
You’ll probably have to be patient for the job opportunities you really want- meanwhile, work on your portfolio and website!
If the firm you’re targeting is large enough to have an HR department, work your way around and past them at any cost- unless you’re responding directly to them considering a posted job ad.
Human resources personnel know almost nothing about design, and even less about you.

Don’t be too concerned about how “hot” your work is. Your present skill level is what it is. The designers that will be reviewing your work and interviewing you are pretty smart. They will recognize what’s crucial to them from your work, and from interacting with you. (regardless of how much time you spend tweaking your sketches in Photoshop.)

Do be professional and organized. Give yourself a leg-up, and do some reading on the subject of writing a good resume and cover letter (Yes- some places still depend on these to screen applicants), and on the subject of networking and interviewing.

My experience from interviewing-
Look the part- if you’re interviewing at Motorola, wear a nice suit (generic, but nice). Likewise, if you’re interviewing with IDEO, put on your best “hip and intelligent”. This goes a long way. And- absolutely never underdress.
Be relaxed and confident- not cocky. Being really well prepared allows this to come out naturally.

Join the local IDSA- even if you are jobless and looking for the job that gives you your first experience in the professional environment.

Stay in touch with your advisors from ID school. (and become suddenly nicer to them than you were in school).

Apply for jobs that spec more experience than you presently have. Design applicant requirements often turn into unrealistic wish-lists, but the real hire is the person that “fits’ the position and the firm best.

Create a portfolio on Coroflot or similar. Keywords listed in your profile are important.
Employers definitely do look online using resources like this- they do searches based upon what they’re looking for, like a specific location, or college, or software package.

Create your own website- include your URL on everything that prospective employers will receive, including your portfolio (even if it’s redundant).

Create your own business cards……
Just make them distinctive and cool- include your URL. Send two or three with every portfolio or CD that you mail out.


Anything you send to an employer is an opportunity to sell yourself as a designer. When I applied for the job that I currently have, I made my own letterhead from thumbnails of my work, and put them in a soft binder that was printed with the same design. It was a way to set my stuff apart when only a resume and cover letter were requested. (I also included my URL in my contact info at the top of both pages)

If you’re insecure about your work at all, consider time the great equalizer…Don’t be afraid to spend some reworking your portfolio. It’s not really realistic to redo all of your school projects for one interview, but there’s always room for improvement.

Regardless of the vibe that exists in design school, a designer can have original ideas and be a great designer- and still have some sort of manners. Remembering this fact alone could get you in the door somewhere.
Designers need to be skilled no doubt, but noone wants to work everyday with someone that’s obnoxious- regardless of how good they are.

It’s true that one of the best ways to locate a job is by networking- but you can’t simply “assert” yourself into the job you want. I would almost never prefer to receive a phone call while I’m working, from someone looking for a job. Calls normally find me in the middle of answering a question, solving a problem that requires all of my concentration, or on my way to a meeting. Designers that are higher up are even busier than I.

Cold calling can work- particularly if the company you’re calling is looking for no more than the next warm body with a design degree to fill a position. This being said, virtually any design job can lead to your next worthwhile design position - and in this market, just about anything is worth a try.

In the two years that I lived in Cincinnati immediately after graduating from UC, I applied for a lot of jobs. I never once received a response from a cold email solicitation. (regardless of how well put together it was)
An email sent after an initial “real” contact can be considered good follow-up.
An unsolicited email, regardless of the subject, is considered spam.

Overall, it is still a pretty tough job market- but doable with the right amount of effort.

Could it be the economy still hurting the job market for creatives???

Unfortunately many (maybe most) graphic design interships are unpaid. I ended up doing an unpayed one for 7 months (2 days a week) and don’t regret it. At the end of 7 months the art director quit. They asked her to call me in for freelance (fill in till they found someone. Since the Art director was the only designer in the department I really couldn’t be considered for the perminent position.) I did turn it down thought because I already had a fulltime freelance gig that was paying much more… and they weren’t budging on the frrelance rate.

I now have a job… and I"m not getting an entry level salary. (The place that I freelanced at hired me.)

My suggestion is to find an intership a 2 days a week (or 16-20 hours) and work a paying job the others. Unpayed interships that are more than 2 days a week are slave labor IMO!. This way you will have some experience.

Now a days there are no real entry jobs in graphic design because just about everyone has some kind of intership or freelance experience when they get out of school. Portfolios filled with only classroom assignments just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Like the subject,
how many project is appropriate?

I am a newly graduate, and wondering how many projects
should I include int my portfolio?
I am working on a small brochure kind of stuff for sending out.

Hope to get some suggestions form people.
:slight_smile:

That’s just it, a majority of my work is from school and only a few pieces from freelance.

But I find that all of school projects are sneered at. I’m constantly now asked, “so is there anything you’ve done that has been published?”

It’s nerve wracking when that’s what you’re trying to get at in the first place!

What to do, what to do…

I know how you feel- It is frustrating out there. I’ve been at it since February and I’m still looking for work. I graduated at the top of my class, with a few very prestigious awards under my belt, some published work, a great portfolio and even an IDSA scholarship-- but that part of my resume usually gets skipped over when they realize I don’t have the 1-3 years ‘real’ industry experience. I’ve even seen some that say: experience: 1-year (no internships). So even interenships aren’t counting as experience sometimes anymore.

It’s tough to find that company that’s willing to take the chance with you. I know there are a lot of very talented, creative people that can learn whatever it is they don’t yet know about the professional world in a few days on the job, but getting that opportunity is rare.

I’m in the exact same position at the moment. For me, I first went after one specific city I wanted to live in (Austin), with not much luck. One interview, but no job. So now I’m scrambling to apply at anything I find that’s interesting (all over the US) I’m not too thrilled about having to move somewhere I’ve never been, but at this point I almost have to.

Keep trying, and keep networking I suppose. It seems like once a job hits the boards it’s too late. I’m about to make a call that could lead to an interview-- but at this point I’m training myself not to get my hopes up too high about anything.

Unfortunately this is the excact thing that happened to me last year. Fortunately I found a crappy design job where I could keep an eye open for something good and get paid in the meantime. Plus this gives me extra time to work on a good portfolio because mine always needs work.

That is exactly what you need to be doing! Let’s face it , we are not going to be getting that job at ELLE DECOR right out of school, and probably not even that job at the ad agency down the street. But what you can get are graphics assistant jobs, usually part time, and ad layout jobs for companies you never thought of before. I just accepted a full time graphic artist position at FOOD LION headquarters… Not glamourous by any means, but I’m doing something that is actually going to print. From what I understand, this career choice we have made is a slow moving process, and you are going to change jobs like changing underpants, until you find something you love. good luck!

Don’t forget that while you work on getting that job, do what you can to keep working on your skills and knowledge. Look for design competitions and freelance. Do work for free if you have to. Look for holes in your skillset and brush up on learning what you need to know to fill them.

I know what it’s like to be out there looking, I did it for quite a while, but persistence pays, keep at it, work a crap job during the day to make ends meet, but do what you can with your freetime and it’ll happen.

It also doesn’t hurt to narrow your search either, examine your abilities and try to focus in on 1-2 design realms you’d like to go into, be realistic.