Tuesday, 07 Apri, 2015
by Emily Owens

Getting a job in the creative industry – advice I would give my younger self

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

  1. Make the most of your time at university.
    The projects set at university tend to be really interesting and lend themselves to creating something just as interesting in response. This is your chance to explore different media, techniques, to get to grips with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign and learn what each program can do. Most importantly use methods that you ENJOY. If you enjoy the way you’re working, you’ll enjoy the project and spend more time on it as a result, which will show in the final product. At the end of each project, your aim should be to end up with a body of work that you are proud of and that both answers the brief and says something about you as a designer at the same time. Sounds like a tall order doesn’t it? But it leads me on nicely to…
  2. Every project could potentially end up in your portfolio.
    When you’re in the middle of your second year, have three projects to juggle (not to mention written assignments) and feel like you’re stretching yourself pretty thinly to just keep everything moving, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Every project that you work on is a potential example to include in your portfolio for when you leave university and enter the big, bad world of job interviews and self-promotion. It goes back to what I said previously. Does the end result answer the brief effectively and does it showcase you as a designer? If illustration is one of your biggest strengths, does it reflect this? If you have a way with words and can write great headlines and copy, does it show this off? These are the kinds of things you will have to talk about in interviews and so are worth bearing in mind.
  3. Create a portfolio that you are proud of.
    At the end of my third year I actually went back to a couple of earlier projects and reworked them for my portfolio because I wasn’t happy with them. As a designer, that perfectionist streak is ingrained but now is a good as time as any to start self-assessing your own work and look for ways to improve it. At the end of my third year, we had a bit of time between handing in final projects and our end-of-year show. Use this time wisely. This is an ideal opportunity to spend time selecting what to include and just as importantly what not to include in your printed portfolio. Be self-critical, don’t include everything and if like me you revisit a piece of work and it suddenly seems blindingly obvious how it can be improved… do it! It might seem daft creating extra work for yourself but it is so worth it in the long run.
  4. Have an online presence.
    These days every man and his dog has their own website. The truth is, one of the first things a potential employer will do is google you, and so the first impression you make is more likely to be online rather than in person. While I was a student we were taught how to make a basic website in Flash (I know I know, I’m really, really old) and so I took the opportunity to make a portfolio site. The point I wanted to make here is that you don’t need to be a coding genius to have a website. With sites like Wordpress it’s possible to create a smart, responsive website that’s easy to update. Side note: if you are going to make the effort to create an online portfolio, don’t leave it for months at a time collecting dust with out-of-date work.
  5. Put yourself out there! And I mean EVERYWHERE.
    Don’t be too narrow minded about where you apply to either. While you can get a general feel for an agency from it’s website, it’s just not the same as visiting in person and meeting the people. An agency you thought looked like the coolest place on earth could have an MD who makes your skin crawl. Likewise a smaller agency that you weren’t sure about could bowl you over during your interview. I was a bit timid when I finished university and would agonise over writing emails to send to companies I wanted to work for. I’d then stress a bit more before eventually hitting send. It’s worth saying that agencies receive lots of emails from students and recent graduates asking about jobs and work experience so try and make yours stand out (in a good way!) I recently found one I actually sent to an agency many moons ago. I’ve included it below, just for laughs:

    Hi Xxxxxx

    On realisation I would never be taller than 5’5’’ my dreams of becoming a supermodel bit the dust...luckily I had already discovered a love of all things creative... Kate Moss slept easy...

    I am a recent Graphic Design graduate specialising in advertising and copywriting. I love to play with words and to create campaigns that make people smile and think and hopefully respond.

    Thank you for taking the time to view my CV... I look forward to hearing your feedback soon.


    Ok it’s a bit cringey looking back, but it got a response at the time. Tailor your message to you, tailor it to the company you’re sending it to and most importantly, click send.
  6. Believe in yourself.
    This is all going a bit American self-help book but stick with me. The email above that I sent to an agency I really liked that got a response… I never followed it through. I chickened out if you will. All I had to do was make a phone call and I didn’t do it. At the time I didn’t have the confidence to be pushy and get back in touch and pursue it. It was an opportunity and I effectively turned it down. The point I want to make here is even if you don’t have the confidence, fake it until you do. What’s the worst thing that could’ve happened? He’d meet me and not hire me? All interview experience is good experience. You learn from each one and get better and better at presenting yourself and… ta-dah… your confidence improves! And finally…
  7. Don’t give up!
    The important thing to remember is that if you’re not right for the company, there’s a good chance that the company isn’t right for you either. I look back at some of the places I had interviews and in hindsight can see that actually I wouldn’t really have enjoyed working there, whether it be down to location, the type of work or who I would have been working for. If you have an interview and don’t get the job, try not to take it personally and get disheartened. There’s lots of competition for that one role and just because you weren’t the best fit for them doesn’t mean you won’t be the best fit for the next company. Every candidate is different and so is every agency, you just need to find the right one for you. It’s a hard slog but when you do find the job that’s right for you and everything clicks into place, you’ll appreciate it all the more.