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How to Find your First Graphic Design Job - A Career Guide for New Designers

How to Find Your First Graphic Design Job

How to Find your First Graphic Design Job!

By Lois Knight

You’re pumped! You‘re ready! All the classes with the best instructors have prepared you to succeed in the world of graphic design. But how do you go about landing your first REAL graphic design job? The very first thing to do is to create an effective resumé. Though there have been many discussions as to whether or not to show your creativity, I prefer to let my credentials to the talking. However it is a personal choice. If you decide to be a little more flamboyant, do so with a certain amount of professionalism.

To create a prize winning resumé, you will need to provide a job specific cover letter. An effective cover letter is like making a first impression. It may be the only contact you have with a potential employer, so make it count! You will need to be specific, including the position you are inquiring about and why you are interested in becoming associated with this company. Do your homework. If you don’t know much about the company, find out more about it before jumping into the fire. Your cover letter will convey this research and will let them know you are serious indeed. You will need to include a summary of skills that relate to the position as well as any experience you may have acquired through internships, or live jobs done in a classroom setting. If you have never done a cover letter before, look at sample to familiarize yourself. I found a great one at About.com when I typed in “sample cover letters”.

Cover letters are usually one page and you really want to think about what you are saying to this employer on paper. I can not stress enough the importance of double checking your grammar, punctuation and spelling. Take the time to sketch out roughly what you want to say before committing it to file and printing the “SHOW” copy. This is no different than setting the stage to start a new graphic design project. If you don’t draw out your map you certainly will never get to where you’re going.

Now that you have grabbed the prospective employers attention with a perfectly written, well articulated cover letter, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts; your resumé. For graphic designers, this document is slightly different than the average resumé in that you will need to be aware and use industry terminology. I have put together a basic outline and term definitions where needed to help.

I. Contact information

Name (Use your proper name, no nicknames)

Address (Street, Town, State, Zip)

Phone (Area Code) XXX-XXXX

Email Address (If you don’t have one, go to AOL or Yahoo for a free one)

II. Objective

What do you plan to accomplish through working in this particular area of graphics?

III. Education

List the most current first. If you completed more than one type of schooling at a time, list the most prevalent to this position first. Here is a sample of how it might look:

2008 BA University of S. Carolina/Liberal Arts

2007 AA Huntsville Community College/Commercial Art

2006 AAS Des Moines Area Community College/Graphic Technologies

2005 Diploma Bucklin R-II High School/Art, Math, English

IV. Skills

Skills are what you are good at, like page layout or cost estimation. But an employer wants to know how much you know, so you might consider using the following terms to assess your skill levels.

Proficient-Well versed and knowing how to implement and use without direct supervision. Can you do the job without someone looking over your shoulder every five minutes? Or better yet, without you running to them every five minutes asking how to do something?

Skilled-You have a working knowledge of what you are required to do with minimal supervision on the finer points. This is where most graduating students are assessed. They know how to use the programs they just haven’t got the practical applications under their belt yet.

Familiar-Just what it says. You are familiar with a program or skill needed but lack practical training to produce results. I am familiar with variable data but I do not have the training to implement it. You do not want more than one of these on an effective resumé. It shows a lack of training in various areas if you have several. Focus on what you do know, not on what you don’t.

V. Graphics Related Experience

Again, list your most current experience first. When I was studying for my degree, I went out of my way to volunteer for live jobs that would come in as well as taking an active part in my student government and other related projects so that when I graduated, I had a fairly impressive number of accomplishments to draw on. This is an excellent area to list out internships, work study jobs and other related opportunities you’ve taken advantage that relate to the position you are applying for.

VI. References

Include a copy of any letters of recommendation that you have received in connection to work you have done. If this is not possible, list 3-5 names with contact information of past employers or instructors that are willing to give you a great reference. Remember to ask and never assume they will do this. It shows a lack of professionalism and may come back to bite you. Case in point, you are a great design student and your projects get straight A’s, but you only show up half the time. This is not good material for a reference. Always put your best foot forward.

Keep your resumé simple. Most employers don’t have time to read a novel. They tend to take a few minutes to assess your potential and go on to the next prospect. Keep your resumé to about 1 ½ -2 pages plus the cover letter. This is why your first impression is crucial! Keep it simple, keep it elegant, and keep it professional.

Now that you have created an award winning cover letter and an absolutely stellar resumé, where do you look to find a job? The answer is anywhere and everywhere and all points in between.

1) If you are getting ready to graduate, check out the college’s job placement office. Many times they can give you suggestions to improve your job seeking skills and have applications on file from area employers.

2) The local Job Service office is a great place to look as well. If you register for work and post a resumé online, you can be notified by email of jobs matching your skill set.

3) Local Graphics Associations. These are the potential employers all gathered in one room. Most students are offered an introductory price that is very affordable. This is not only a great tax deduction it is a wonderful resource. These people are happy to answer questions about the industry and help you with insider tips on how to do different things. And they get to know you and your talents. Spend the $10 for dinner and surround yourself with your peers. You will not go wrong by doing this!

4) Newspapers/Shopper Papers. Depending on the size of the city you live in, this can be fairly productive. Be careful though. Do not randomly send your personal information out unless you are totally comfortable with the person you have made contact with. Ask for the name of the company if it is not provided and check them out before you jump in.

5) The Internet. I love the Internet for job searching. I don’t have to spend my hard earned money on gas not to speak of the traffic and finding a place to park and all the other headaches that go with job hunting. However, make sure you are hunting in the area you want to end up. If you put out resumes three hundred miles from where you live, you are either going to have a long commute or you’re going to move. The Internet is a truly wonderful place to start your search, but nothing beats a face to face interview. If you decide to post your resumé on one of the job sites, stick with well established sites such as CareerBuilder.com, Job.com, and Monster.com.

6) Carry business cards with your name and contact information. Since we are in the business of creating visual graphics, show some of it off here. These come in handy when meeting new prospects and possible employers and will leave a small remembrance for later. Basic business card stock can be found at any Wal-Mart or office supply store for under $10. Print them on your regular printer at home. Or if you want to have them done check out the local print shops. You may be surprised at the amount of attention you get there. You might also consider asking for referrals from these shops if you plan to do freelance.

All of these ideas and suggestions work. I know because I’ve used them, sometimes frequently. The bottom line is to get your name out there. Make your presence known and look everywhere. Graphic design jobs can come up in the oddest places. I once got a job working for a waste management company that wanted to rework their corporate image. My trash guy had one of my business cards and gave it to his boss. As they say, the rest is history. They called, I got the job and they are still loyal customers after two years. Who would have guessed finding a job THERE?

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By Lois Knight - You can also see Lois Knight’s Articles on Freelance Folder

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2 Comments

  1. Posted September 22, 2009 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    My desire is to become a graphic designer.I need to know more about this field..I think this information is not enough .

  2. Posted August 17, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    I found this article bookmarked and I really liked what I read. will surely bookmark it as well and also go through your other posts later.

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