HUGE time gap after graduation. What now?

I’m sort of new here… I had an account a few years ago but I forgot my username so ended up creating a new account…

So anyhow, I need some advice and thought this would be the best place.

Long story short, I graduated from college in 2011 (ID major) and I had 2 short-term internships before I finally got offered a full-time job at a design firm in San Diego. However, a week before my flight, I had a serious family emergency and had to drop everything and go back home.

I don’t want to bore you with the details…But the 2 years that followed were tough…spending pretty much my entire time either in the hospital or taking care of my younger brothers at home.

I don’t regret what I did but now that things have finally settled down I feel really lost. I want to get my career back on track but I’m not sure how to start.

It’s been nearly 3 years since I graduated. I only have 9 months of design-related work experience. (unpaid internships) And my portfolio is clearly useless at this point.

I want to make up for the time I lost but I just don’t know where to start.
I considered going to grad school but most of the schools I wanted to apply require a couple of years of work experience at least.

For now, I’ve decided to work on my portfolio and work on some projects on my own.

Do you think this is a good idea…spending a few more months working on my portfolio/skills? Or should I just start with whatever job I can get?

I’m sorry if any of this sounded like I was whining. I just wanted to explain my situation hoping to get any helpful comments/advice.

Thanks in advance.

Tough story. I can understand your trepidation in getting back into the working world.

The gap between school and present day will be noticeable of course. It will be tough going through the same front door as the rest of the graduates. Your biggest priorities should be bringing your book up to date as much as possible, with one or two manageable self-directed projects, or perhaps competition entries to provide some rigor.

If you have solid Adobe CS skills, you can also look for support-level jobs that require those competencies. I’d be an advocate of taking whatever kind of design job you can get, even peripherally, in order to jump start your networking and being around designers and firms again.

Sorry you’ve had a tough time Andrea.

My advice would be to start putting out your current portfolio whilst you work on new stuff. You don’t want to be in the position where its just one more project until its ready and another two years slip by.

Tear off the band-aid and start sending it to places. Theres not a lot to lose because even if its a no or you don’t hear anything back it will still be the same as right now, the only difference being you at least tried.

I’m sure you haven’t forgotten the skills you learnt, even if they are a little rusty. Someone might just pick you up for a paid internship which will lead to a full time job or eat least add more experience to your resume. Good luck!

Tell people the truth in the way you feel comfortable.

My father died half way through my final year of my ID degree in 2009. I still finished but couldn’t complete my honours thesis.

I tell most people who ask why I didn’t finish honours the story. Most people understand.

Keep designing and use the life experience as motivation.

Hi Andrea,
I would love to know how you are doing since you posted this, since our experiences are VERY similar!

I completed two internships prior to graduation in 2012 (BFA in Object Design), but that summer I had to move back home (out of state), and ever since, I have gotten caught up in taking care of my sister’s serious illness and the family drama that follows. I’ve had some graphic freelance and other jobs in between, but never the ID job I wanted/really skilled in, since I felt my portfolio wasn’t good enough yet.

I’ve been doing my best to make time to update and finish projects for my portfolio, which seems like a never ending process, while battling those same feeling of being lost and unsure as the clock keeps ticking. Long story short, I feel I am now finally in a better place to buck up, finish what I have so far, and start applying to places, large and small, local and out of state, and see what I can get.

Good luck to you, I will keep my fingers crossed for your success, and I hope to hear some good updates for both of us soon! :slight_smile:


Thank you for sharing Andrea.

What you may want to try are accessible design competitions - what I mean by that are design competitions with open call briefs and not ones which require you to have a product currently on the market or in development.

These competitions can give potential employers an idea of how you work within the constraint of a brief. There are quite a few out there! You can start by looking at the Core calendar

Another great place to look especially if you’re interested in footwear or lifestyle design is


Hope this helps