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Post Category: General Graphic Design

Is anyone else getting ready to graduate with a degree in graphic design and just feel… utterly overwhelmed??  I am graduating in December, and felt very confident in my work until I started browsing through the endless online portfolios and reading through job descriptions, and I suddenly feel like I have learned NOTHING! And the worst part is, I’m not sure where to go next.  Do you go back for more schooling…??  They say in graphic design, you don’t need to get your Master’s degree.  Do you?

Or do you just keep searching for side jobs to do to build your portfolio?  

Right now, I’m stuck in the… famous college student rut.  I have a job that has NOTHING to do with my goal in life, but it pays my bills.  I’m ready for a real job, a job in my field, but I don’t make the time to work on my portfolio to GET that job!  


All I know is, I look through websites, and I look through peoples’ design portfolios, and I WANT TO BE DOING THAT!! How do I get there…

  1. Patrick On June 25th, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Been there,

    Well Amy, if your a fresh grad and young w/o the responsibilities of a family the choice is a little bit clearer than you think.

    With only the basic needs in life rent, food elec, ect you have a bit more flexibility in what comes with the first few years in the real world. Potential hiring and firing, relocation.

    As someone who graduated already having that “job that pays the bills” its always going to pay the bills. By doing so it will silently eat away your current tenacity and willingness to take risk. Thus you would probably find yourself sticking to that job and never taking that leap.

    Now is your opportunity and now is the time.

    You said “felt very confident in my work” and what changed that? nothing should change that. Confidence is and will always be key to your first and future jobs.

    As your aware hiring managers, Creative Directors, etc see a lot more in your portfolio than you think. Along with that they will see things in you.

    If you have not read it I would also recommend reading

    Jessica Helfand
    An Open Letter to Design Students Everywhere
    Over at DO

    And when your done pack up the portfolio while the work is still fresh and not several years old. Research the firms your interested in and fire out individualized crafted pieces that introduce you. Wait a few weeks and make some follow up calls.

    All of this we both and many other designers learned in life/school. So take the plunge now while the heart is still strong for our beloved profession. It may be tough at times but when you look back in a few years from the position and firm you want to be at, the smile will be really big on your face.

    Congrats on your graduation and good luck in your future endeavors.


  1. Laura On June 25th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    The truth is, you probably haven’t learned anything. I was the same way. The only advice I can offer is to get real life experience, expect to do production work for your first job, and find a mentor. Also, sign up with a staffing agency like the Creative Group, and find an internship (don’t expect to get paid). Both are great ways to get your foot in the door.

  1. Raneo Graphics On June 25th, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Hello there

    well I’m a graphic design student too ,

    and i feel like you when i look through others website ,, i mean its really easy , but i dont have to time to do like them .

    but well you to change , and make a plane from now before you graduate

    by the way , i hope i can see your work in college ,, i want to see the difference between my college and yours

    Thanks Amy , and GOOL LUCK with your life

  1. brabl On June 26th, 2009 at 3:49 am

    hey there!
    I just graduated and I’m kind of in the same position as you (the job that pays the bills but sucks etc). But what I did is work less. I now work 3,5 days a week instead of 5 which gives me a lot of extra time to do the things I really want. In that time I can do some little assignments and graphic jobs and extend my network. Once the work starts coming I will quit my regular job entirely. But I agree with Patrick. There is a point where you have to take the leap. Just do it. If it doesn’t work out there will always be another job that sucks and pay the bills.
    Believe me! Good luck!

  1. Douglas On June 26th, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Hindsight is 20/20. Having the chance to do it all over again, the second you realized you were going to declare Graphic Design as a major, you should have sought out an internship at a design agency. I spent three years as the intern at an ad agency (during school) and at the same time an internship at a large printer (where we were still cutting film, but also one of the first to have DTP. I spent a lot of time mocking up presentation boards, scanning pictures, arranging stock photography books (I’m old) but responsibilities grew!)but that was absolutely crucial in my development. I still draw on those experiences today. So I hate to say it, but you have to start somewhere. As Patrick noted, without the responsibilities of family you are much more flexible in landing a job for the experience and not the paycheck. You have to pay your dues. When I graduated from college, the busted about 6 months prior to that. 6 months earlier graduates were writing their own checks. When I graduated there were reports of 700 applications for one design position. I ended up taking a lesser paying job but one where I knew my boss would mentor me on the ins and outs of the industry. Having been in the industry for over 10 years, it’s a constant process of growth and development. It’s a constant chase.

    Some important things to realize:

    1. Know production, inside and out. A designer who doesn’t know production in this day and age is a dinosaur. When you send a job to print ask the printer “was the file setup the way you liked” You’ll find some good answers.

    2. Say goodbye to the ego. I think by looking around you are getting a good does of reality “I have a lot to learn!” Yes, that’s true. We all do. I still remember a quote by a famous 85 year old Japanese watercolor painter (paraphrasing: I’m just starting to figure this out).

    3. BE A SPONGE. Look at everything, what not to do, what to do. I have had the opportunity to pull apart some files from very large ad agencies from out clients and can not believe how some files are built. Ask printers a ton of questions. Getting it right is very important, but also so is the thought behind the process. Go to press checks!

    4. Don’t be scared to do pro-bono in the beginning. A great way to build your portfolio and learn the nuances of dealing with clients. During my intern days, I actively sought out pro-bono work to build my portfolio.

    Good luck to you in your search, keep up the work in the blog, this is a great networking tool.

  1. Dennis On July 16th, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I just read a great book with lots of tips on what employers look for in hiring recent college grads. Good advide on how to set yourself apart. From somewhen who has been there, I suggest reading “When Reality Hits” by Nancy Barry

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