Background Information

For three years, from 2016 to 2019 I studied for my Bachelor's degree in graphic design. My course was unlike most courses out there. I had most of the teaching done online with some weekends at University. During those long three years, I was living and working in one country while I studied in another. In that time I had multiple hospitality jobs and was struggling to find a job or even an internship in graphic design. Long story short - I completed a university course and went on carrying and working in hospitality.

Things changed around September 2019. I've been offered a job as a graphic designer & artworker at a printing studio. Around the same time, I found out that I've been accepted for a Master's Degree Course in Graphic Design here in London. Everything worked out well: the position was part-time so I could continue working and studying at the same time. The plan was to make up all the activities I missed out during my distance learning and use the time at University to the maximum.

University was great, and I'm glad I did spend one year practicing the craft. I've graduated in December 2019 with the last teaching lesson in October 2019. That's a bit of background information to give more context for a better understanding of my situation. Now, back to the main question of this post: How was life after Uni and What have I been doing since graduating?

Image / Unsplash

Getting the foot in the door


I've started University with one main goal: to get proper experience working in a design agency afterward. That's probably every graphic design student's dream. My advantage was the fact that I've been employed as a designer since starting the course. It was an in-house position and even though It wasn't really what I wanted, I'm grateful for the experience I had working there.

The first few weeks out of Uni were good. Having finally time for friends and family, time to clear my mind and take a few deep breaths. Let's be honest the great feeling of happiness didn't last very long.

Portfolio


Every person breathing the design world knows that a portfolio is the most important thing a graphic designer needs to get a job. Upon finishing Uni I had completed a few bigger projects (in the student metric) and throughout the course, I was developing the work with one question always in the back of my head - will I put it in my portfolio?
It took me about two months since finishing Uni to get my website up and running as well as to photograph and edit the work, write a CV and create a PDF portfolio - all the elements needed when applying for design-related jobs.

Being alone


Probably the biggest downside to the whole part was that I've been putting it together alone. That meant I didn't know how another person would perceive it, especially when it comes to the people who will judge my portfolio - design directors, senior designers, and other more experienced people. Before I started contacting design studios I approached a recruiter for feedback on my portfolio. I also went to a couple of portfolio reviews hosted by various networking groups in London, as well as just talk about it with few friends who could give me some feedback. This was a really important step: I learned what people look for in a portfolio, what to avoid and how could I improve my chances of getting hired for a design position.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Applying for jobs


Now that my portfolio was sorted it was a good time to start applying to design studios. I've started to contact design agencies by the end of November. Now I know - it's not the best time to look for a new job - it's almost the end of the year and companies are more likely to think about the Christmas parties than hiring a junior designer.
I didn't apply for jobs that were advertised for a few reasons. One - there was only a handful at my level and the majority of them were at places I knew I wouldn't want to work for. Two - small design studios seldom post job adverts. I kept sending emails to studios I admired and kept checking social media accounts of those agencies. I knew this from my experience, often design jobs are advertised only on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter.
That was a lot of emails from November to February. The balance was: I got around 10 automatic responses, one NO, plenty of positive comments about my portfolio, but the studios were at full capacity, half of the places never got back to me but seven invited me for an interview and three of them made offers.

Mental health


Having gone through a job search for a few months I can agree with the sentence that "Looking for a job is a full-time role." It does take so much of your time. Refreshing job sites, checking for new adverts every day, writing personal emails to design studios, researching the company, adjusting the portfolio and cover letter, getting ready for interviews, waiting patiently after the interview... All those steps matter and I'm not gonna lie - it's hard.

Stress, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, anger, all those negative feelings are mixed with happiness, excitement, and confidence. It's a real roller coaster if you are searching for a design job. I could dive deeper into this topic but perhaps it's a subject for another post.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Peers support


When I was at Uni I was surrounded by other students. All of us shared similar struggles and it was comforting to share worries and good news with each other. The moment I was out of Uni those connections started to fade away. Everyone was busy with life. Add to it living in London - not the best city to maintain relationships; people live on the other side of the city and sometimes it can take up to two hours to meet, the schedules of working might vary too which makes it even harder. Losing the connections and support of your people can feel very devastating and lonely.

Life after University is not easy. Even though I wasn't expected it to be easy I still experienced many moments when I just felt like I couldn't do it anymore. Luckily I had the support of my fiance and my family - mainly in the form of conversation to lift me when I got into the bad and depressing mood. To every design graduate who is out there and struggling, I'd say keep pushing, and surround yourself with people who will get you back on your feet when you need it. Nothing good in life comes easy but it's definitely worth keeping working for your dreams.