Top 10 tips – Getting a job in design

1. CVs

CVs – If you have the usual word doc in 12pt Arial, tear it up right away. CVs are effective if done properly but for many creative jobs, a simple Word doc just won’t cut it and anything less will likely count against you.

Harness your creativity. If you’re a graphic designer then use InDesign, Illustrator & Photoshop, create a clean stylish layout and include infographics, icons and other elements that show off your ability. If you’re an illustrator include drawings, doodles or a background image you’ve created that showcase your style. Motion graphics, create a show reel. You get the idea…

Creatives are notoriously bad spellers so always, always, spell and grammar check everything.

2. Portfolio

Build your online portfolio. There are many great apps out there (Behancé, Deviant Art, Dribbble, Dunked, Carbonmade etc…) that allow you to easily manage and build your portfolio and then share it. If you already have one, clear out the junk or works in progress. Don’t post anything that you’re not proud of and try and include a brief explanation of what the work was for to add relevancy.

3. Your professional online profile

LinkedIn is a great tool but only when used properly. Clear out any useless, irrelevant information or junk that doesn’t show you at your best and remember to spell and grammar check anything you post. Use your CV as a reference to make sure you’ve posted all the relevant information.

4. Social media

If you use Twitter, Instagram or make Facebook public be careful, if it’s in the public domain it’s fair game. Be yourself, but consider how you look to a potential employer. Be human – everyone likes to have a good time and party, but know where the line is, if an image projects you in a bad way, don’t post it.

5. Get work experience

Offering to work for free may feel like employers are taking advantage, but stop and consider the benefits to you:

You get access to working professional’s knowledge and experience

You increase your knowledge

You gain valuable experience

You build industry contacts

You produce professional work for your portfolio

You get a first step on your career ladder…

…and sometimes it can eventually lead to a real paid job offer.

6. Looking for jobs

All potential employers will have an online presence of some form, so building a list of companies you’d like to work for is a good start. Do your research and you can find the right person to contact or give them a call and often they will have an email address they use for applicants.

Approaching companies directly has some key benefits:

  • You’re more likely to get an interview. This is because you’re missing out the middle man (recruitment agency) that will filter applicants before they put them in front of potential employers.
  • Companies have to pay a commission to recruitment agencies if they employ you, so you’ll save them money.
  • You’ll come across as proactive.
  • You can establish direct contact with your potential employer early, which allows them to get to know you better.

7. Recruitment agencies

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use recruitment agencies, give yourself every opportunity. In the London design scene many companies rely heavily on recruitment agencies, as they simply don’t have the time to recruit themselves. Some good ones to try are:

as well as the more generic like

Magazines are also a great source of potential jobs. Many employers advertise vacancies in industry relevant publications. Try:

8. Interview prep

So, you’ve spruced up your online presence, put together an amazing design portfolio, and found the job you love. You’ve applied, got the call, and they want you to attend an interview. Showtime.

Prep your portfolio. Remember the interviewer will have already seen your online portfolio, so keep something back to take to interview so you can show something new. Try and include relevant work to the job you’re interviewing for if you have it – it proves your ability for the role. Sometimes you’ll be sent a brief to work on before the interview but if not then create something special that’s relevant to the role and industry that you can leave behind.

It’s useful to practice talking through your portfolio with friends, family, whoever will help. Get them to ask questions about your work. This gets you used to talking around each piece and what your creative process was. It really helps to stop you getting a blank or tongue tied when you’re put on the spot in an interview and a lot of what you’ve said in practice will come flooding back.

Do your homework. Always go prepared with some useful background knowledge about the company and role you’re interviewing for. Look them up online and have read through their website. It will show you’re enthusiastic, proactive and know what they do and what the job involves.

9. The Interview

So what to wear? Well it’s OK to be yourself, but remember to present yourself well and don’t overdo it. Most design agencies don’t expect their staff to wear formal suits, ties, etc – so neither should you.

But remember, it’s still an interview, don’t turn up in your battered trainers and scruffy ripped jeans. Dress to impress and keep a hint of your personality. If you’re unsure, give them a call and check the dress code.

Arrive on time. Punctuality shows that you care and turning up late suggests you would do that when employed, which won’t get you a job. If you are delayed for any reason, give them a call and let them know, be polite and apologise, even if it’s totally beyond your control.

During the interview remember your manners, be confident, above all, be yourself. Always be honest or you’ll just get found out later. You can’t always tick every box. If you show enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, that will count for a lot more. Employers are often happy to teach and develop your skills to fit the job.

Remember the interview works both ways. You are there to check them out as much as they are to interview you. Ask relevant questions about the role, hours, holiday etc. but also try and get a feel for the type of place it would be to work in. Ask to be shown around, see the design studio’s or other relevant facilities. Is their equipment up to date? Or are they using old slow or damaged kit. Do the staff look happy and relaxed or stressed and miserable? Is it a place you want to work? Would you be happy there? To thrive as a creative you need to be in the right environment so it’s OK to decide no.

10. Don’t give up

It can be a hard, demoralising slog applying for jobs and even following all these steps is no guarantee you’re going to land your dream job straight away. But following these steps will definitely put you in a stronger position than not. Keep trying, there’s something out there for you somewhere. Get feedback and keep tweaking and improving things to put you in a better position next time.