Janna Hagan on educating yourself outside the classroom
If you are a design student, or a recent graduate from university, you may be feeling hesitant about what the design industry is really like. University provides a great chance for students to network with other like-minded individuals and take the time to own their skills and get experience.
Unfortunately, university can’t provide you with everything you need to know before you hit the job market. Working hard and educating yourself outside the classroom will put you ahead of the game after graduation.
Social media is the new way to present yourself and if you don’t know how to use it effectively, you’re missing out. Twitter is the main hub for designers to communicate, collaborate and market themselves to employers and potential clients. A large part of securing employment after post-secondary is who you know. Be nice to everyone – you never know who will give you your next opportunity for a job. Establishing these connections early on in your career will be beneficial.
Your diploma won’t get you a job
Despite what your teachers or parents tell you, your diploma won’t necessarily get you a job in the web design field. Proving what kind of work you are capable of producing through your portfolio or demonstrating passion and potential to an employer will more likely catch their eye; compared to a student who has more formal education. Having a killer portfolio and personality will land you a job anywhere.Be weary of jumping straight into freelance
Freelancing straight out of college can be an enticing option for students. Although the thought of working from home sounds glamourous, very few students have the perfect combination of skills early on without any real-world experience to jump straight into freelancing. Approach university as a buffer of time that allows you to own your skills – something that freelancing can’t offer.
If you are going to do freelance, make sure you understand that you are running a business on behalf of yourself. Understanding business fundamentals is crucial to having success on your own. It would be beneficial to invest in some business classes over the course of your education. Subjects such as marketing and economics can all be applied to your job as a designer.You need to work outside of school
Internships can be a huge stepping-stone in getting your foot in the door. The connections, friendships and mentors you will gain through getting professional experience in the industry is invaluable. Although internships can be daunting at first because they put you in an unfamiliar environment working collaboratively with other designers and real-life clients, these experiences will help you grow as a more sharpened designer.
Design is ongoing
Design is an ongoing learning process that is always evolving. Any static academic semester will not be able to keep pace with a technologically based field such as web design because of how quickly knowledge and practices can advance. Those students who are constantly learning and become pro-active with their education outside the classroom will be better equipped to succeed after they graduate. You need to put yourself in a never-ending state of growth; never be satisfied with where you’re at. This takes time, patience and discipline to stand out among seasoned designers.
Keeping up to date is solely dependent on how much important you place on having the ability to teach yourself. Given how fast the internet moves, investing your time and effort will certainly pay off and provide you with more practical information you can apply to improve your everyday work. The fact that you are reading this article proves that you are already ahead of the game.
Many people that don’t work directly within the design industry believe that web designers are socially isolated people that stare at their computer screens for eight hours a day. Although this is (somewhat) true, having good communication skills will propel you to new heights in your career. Even if you are an introverted person, like myself, it is still important to be able to have basic social skills such as communicating your ideas and being able to persuade clients in certain situations.
Written skills are also important
Having good writing skills is the essence of turning our ideas into well articulated, spoken words. Writing skills are often neglected by designers because they don’t directly see any importance. If you have bad grammar, poor sentence structure or spelling mistakes in your emails, CV or cover letters, you have little to no chance of getting a response.
If you don’t write, you don’t know what you think.
Most employers receive hundreds of resumes in a given time and if you can’t take the time to proof-read your writing, they won’t take the time to look at your portfolio. Also, be professional in all your emails unless it's a close family or friend. Treat emails like writing a letter, not like an informal text message.
Articulating your design ideas
You have to be able to explain the “why” in all your design decisions. Good design should speak for itself at some point, but if you are unable to articulate why you made a decision, your clients are least likely to be persuaded by something they are unsure about. Having good communication with other designers and clients takes practice. For some students, it might take longer than others but being able to articulating our design decisions is an important aspect of our job description.Conclusion
The bottom line is that you have to work hard, both in school and outside the classroom if you want to become successful. The more work you put in now while you’re still young, the easier it becomes later on when you are searching for employment after graduation. Becoming familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, knowing your personality and skill sets will prove to be major assets when marketing yourself as a young designer.