This short guide is for all the creative souls out there who may not have thought through what happens when they graduate from university properly, umm… that’ll include me then! But seriously, if you are a little lost and want to change the way you do things there is a slither of hope that my guide will offer a different approach which you probably didn’t think of trying before.
Being a creative person can have its drawbacks, you may be the prodigal son/daughter of Michelangelo reincarnated in the 21st Century, but let’s face it WHO CARES apart from your mum and dad? When you started your degree with high hopes of becoming an artist, designer, or creative whatever you probably didn’t realise that in the “real world” things aren’t handed to you by a tutor, and the curriculum is a never ending barrage of lessons in life beaten into you with a stick.
When you leave University there is a good chance you may not find the job you want, after all it’s not as if there is a shortage of applicants for each and every creative job role out there. This is what the dream is all about, doing what you love and being paid for the privilege.
There is also the other side where you become so creative that there isn’t a role which you could ever fit into. E.g. “Dark-Artist”, you would have to create this role for yourself.
Being confident is important
You need to get out there and meet people who can help you get work. One of the most readily available ways to do this is by attending networking events. Obviously if you are a designer looking for a break; don’t go to a networking event geared towards members of the local train spotting association (unless you really want to). Make sure you find the most relevant networking event you can, get some business cards, practice a few one-liners and you’ll be fine.
Standing out at these events requires confidence; otherwise you’ll be stood there with a drink in your hand and not much else. Presenting yourself in a way that makes you seem interesting and fun, as opposed to a frustrated graduate could put you ahead of your competitors, and people want to work with people they like.
You have to create your own luck
When I wanted to get my foot on the design ladder I networked my backside off. And by this I mean I went to networking events, I got involved with local community based projects (voluntary), and I put my name about through as many people as I could. At that time the best things I had going for me were my creativity and charm (this sounds so big-headed but you have to be likeable). So because I was this cheeky yet likeable self-starter people warmed to me quickly. I know this because for many years I was the opposite and never got anywhere.
Because of my positive attitude I managed to create some luck and opportunities began to come my way. You have to look for it, because if you’re not looking how will you see it?
One day I opened the local paper and was looking for that first foot in the door, a design related job which may not pay very well but would give me some experience on a professional level. I found a job working in the print-room for a design company which offered design & print. I gave them a ring and the guy knew his stuff, so was able to gauge from the conversation we had that I was really interested in sidestepping into a design role if one came up. I was polite, chatty, and came across well. I obviously made an impression because later that day he called me back.
Be competitive, it’s called the human race for a reason
When my past employer (Steven) called me back he explained that another self-starter had called up and was doing the same thing as me, trying to get a foot in the door. Due to us both being so motivated he created a position which was otherwise unavailable.
He decided to pit us against each other; we both had to work a week separately.
We both had different qualities going for us: my competitor had a degree in graphic design, was good at it too apparently. I on the other hand didn’t, but I had a portfolio, passion, drive, bags of creativity and could talk the hind legs off a donkey.
Steve said he liked my attitude and also knew from our conversation that I had previous sales experience. This appealed to him as he was growing 2 businesses and wanted to make more money, so if I could get him business and do the creative stuff I would surely have the edge.
Guess who won? I did, why? Because I got chatty with all the customers calling up and sold to them, I also got stuck in with creating layouts and producing print-ready artwork.
The other guy lost because he was not a people person.
Never give up on your dream
When I Graduated from University I had absolutely no idea about the direction I wanted to go in; I put this down to a complete lack of preparation, realism, foresight and experience. I learned the hard way; hopefully my short guide will offer you a new perspective, one which you never would have considered previously.
Ultimately if you want something you can get it, just don’t give up, your competitor may give up before you, if they do you will be ready for that opportunity.