How To Land Your First Graphic Design Job

How To Land Your First Graphic Design Job | Matt Simon

I recently talked to a young designer about the struggle of finding and landing a job. This made me think back to a few years ago when I was starting out and some of the strategies I used to land my first job.

By no means am I an expert when it comes to job hunting but I have been able to land several jobs and internships over the past few years and wanted to share a few take aways from the experience.

1. Get an internship (or two) I can’t stress this enough to up and coming designers. Internships are a great way to build your skills and work on real life projects while your still in school. If you’re lucky you’ll also be able to land an internship that pays. Now I’m not talking Google or Facebook intern money, but when you’re a full time student and you can earn anywhere from $10-15 an hour while your working on something you’re interested in, it’s a pretty sweet gig.

2. Have an online portfolio All in all this is probably most important part of getting a design job. It’s the first thing a potential employer is going to look at when you apply for a position. They want to see what types of projects you’ve worked on and how well you’ve executed them. Ideally you’ll have a website that you can direct people to see your work. If you don’t know enough HTLM and CSS to code your own site (which you should) you can always purchase a template from a site like Squarspace or there are plenty of free WordPress templates available as well.

3. View your resume as an extension of your brand One of the great things about being a designer is that you can really use those skills to create an awesome resume that stands out from the rest. You can do so much more than just laying it out in Word and throwing your logo at the top. View your resume as just another piece of your personal brand. Don’t be afraid to use subtle hints of color or typographical elements.

4. Learn HTML and CSS I touched on this a little earlier in the portfolio section, but it bears repeating. While many of the agencies and companies you apply for will have designated developers and programmers to handle the heavy lifting when it comes to coding, it is important that you at least know the basics. Whether it’s a client question or an issue with your own site, having that basic knowledge can come in very handing when you’re dealing with the web. Even if you can’t fix a problem yourself, you’ll at least have the basic knowledge to explain what’s going on to someone who can help.

5. Know what your worth This seems easy enough, but can cost you thousands if you undervalue yourself or even worse, lose the opportunity entirely if you ask for too much. The following is a real life response I received from a company I interviewed for when I was first out of college.

While I can sincerely appreciate putting a high-value on yourself, your salary requirements were bit unrealistic for this market given your level of experience.

OUCH! That was tough to hear. All through school my teachers had stressed the fact that we were professionals and should be paid like it. However, they never gave us any clue what we should expect once we were out job hunting. I encourage you to do your research and find out what other designers in your area are being compensated. There are great resources out there to help you better understand your current value. One of my favorites is offered by AIGA and allows you to search by specific job title. To view current statistics you are required to have a AIGA membership, but you can view 2013’s stats for free. This is a great because it allows you to search by position, location, and organization size and type.

6. Everything’s Negotiable Lastly, remember that once you’re offered a job everything is negotiable. Trust me when I say the number that is offered to you is not their best offer. When I got my first job as a designer I was so excited just to be offered a position that I jumped all over they’re initial offer. I later realized the mistake I made. I possibly left extra pay or more vacation time on the table because I was afraid to overprice myself again. But believe me, no employer is going to be shocked or offended that you didn’t except their first offer. And if they are offended, think long and hard if that’s really the type of manager you want to be working for. My guess is it isn’t. I know it’s scary to ask for more when you feel like the employer is already giving you a gift by just offering the job, but employers invest a lot of time and energy trying to bring a new team member aboard and if they like you and want you enough to offer you a job then they surely will be willing to work with you on compensation.

If you need some tips on becoming a better negotiator check out 27 Simple Ways to Become a Better Negotiator

Design, BusinessMatt Simon