Embarking upon your design career can be fairly daunting. So how should you go about it? Well who better to ask for advice than an actual creative manager; in this case George Burton from boohoo.com.
There is no magic wand that enables you to instantly have all the attributes required in the industry, but you can definitely give yourself a headstart with a few simple pieces of direction. The following tips are a good place to start.
01. Don't underestimate your education
A lot people seem to think you don't need to go to university in order to gain the right experience. However, unless you have something outstanding on your CV already, your application for a design job will be judged at least in-part on your education, so a good degree of at least a 2:1 is essential.
University provides us with the chance to learn about our chosen field, and the chance to learn from our mistakes under the guided care of tutors - which is a vital step we must take before landing a real job. Also, make sure you’ve done as much as you can whilst at university in terms of projects, on the job experience and modules, and make sure all of it was in some way relevant to the role you want.
02. Consider the application
This is true of any industry, but with so many applicants and being such a competitive area, fashion and the design industry certainly require you to go the extra mile. I get hundreds of applications when I’m recruiting, so you need to stand out from the crowd. My advice would be to make your application unique, really creative and more importantly, relevant to the company and the role you’re applying for - don't just fire out your CV. Tailor each one. Make it using an Adobe program, create an online CV with a URL that viewers can visit, send it as a message in a bottle: anything to be remembered!
03. Keep up to date with industry news
Before I do anything else in my day, I check a few design blogs. This can help to give me ideas for things I could use later on in the day and helps me keep abreast of any changes or trends that I could use. Knowing what's happening in your industry is important for any role, and this is definitely true of advertising and design where things move incredibly quickly and ideas need to constantly be fresh and innovative.
When it comes to interviews, it's imperative that you know any goings-on in the industry - being able to talk about something significant with a prospective employer will of course impress them and make them realise you’re already incredibly able.
04. Don't just focus on the end goal
Though I'm the creative manager for boohoo now, I haven't always been in fashion. I started working in advertising for an agency, before making the leap to client side. Working for one company gives you a bigger sense of accomplishment, as you get to see the evolution of all your hard work - something we should all aim for.
However, agency work can be essential in developing and honing your skills when you graduate, as can any work you do whilst waiting for your big break. Getting similar skills in a different range of roles can help you later down the line when you're looking for other jobs. Can't seem to break the design industry in your first year after graduation?
Well perhaps the job working in a clothes shop isn't exactly what you want, but it can teach you a lot about consumer behaviour, visual merchandising and customer service - knowledge which can be used later on in a job interview. There are always positives! You just have to be patient.
05. Network, network, network!
Knowing people can be a great help in your job searches. The old "it's not what you know, it's who you know" adage rings true in every job, not just fashion and design. Networking at events such as design expos, galleries, even just on nights out, will allow you to make more contacts within the industry you want to break into.
Make the most of every opportunity at university too by volunteering to help at events, attending special lectures and screenings and design displays. Whether these people end up giving you the leg up on the ladder or vice versa, knowing people is key.
06. Your portfolio
A portfolio would preferably exist in two iterations - online and offline.
Your online portfolio would have your best work on it for a whole range of different clients and purposes to show your versatility - think of it as a digital footprint of your career so far - successful marketing campaigns you've created in the past, logos and websites you’ve designed, blogs you've written.
Your offline portfolio, however, would be what you bring to your interview. Unlike your online portfolio, your offline portfolio needs to be tailored to the interview and the client. What's your most relevant work, how did you do it, why do you think it's relevant, and what aspects can you transfer from that piece to the company interviewing you?
If you're interested in design, it's also essential to ensure your website is designed to the best of your ability. Think of your website as an extension of your work and a brand you've developed for yourself - this is the first thing a visitor to your portfolio will see, even before any of your work, so make them want to stay on there.
To see if boohoo have any roles you would be interested in, check their careers page here: https://careers.boohoo.com/careers.html
Illustration: Sweaty Eskimo