I’ve now been working for a Design Week top 100 company for over 6 years. After coming out of University and jumping around a few other jobs I landed the position by handing in my custom designed CV in the same week that someone at the company handed in their resignation. Admittedly this was quite jammy — but I still had to make it through the interview.
The interview consisted of a sit down with the boss, a tour of the office and a Mac test. Besides being completely under-skilled in the majority of the Adobe suite, I managed to click, drag and scale my way through the test. Looking back at it now I realise how lucky I was to get the position. The company took a punt on me, but hopefully 6 years down the line I’ve proved to be a risk worth taking.
I remember my first year very well, and hopefully you’ll find my top tips useful if you’re looking for a job in the design industry, or you’re about to embark on the same journey I have.
Tip 1: Determination
This first tip helped me through the entire first year. Things are going to be tough, especially if you’ve just left university and a cushy design degree, you will be working long hours for a small salary. You will have a very steep learning curve but you have to stick with it. You will become quicker and things will get easier. I found myself questioning if I had made the right choice in giving up my easy, simple, previous job — if it isn’t hard, then you aren’t learning and you aren’t developing professionally or personally.
Tip 2: Knowledge
As previously mentioned, you are going to be learning — a lot. Make it easier on yourself and do some of your learning at home. Find out the methods that the company use, they may, for example prefer Illustrator to Photoshop for a design tool. I would recommend then going away and doing some reading up on Illustrator, learn it’s shortcuts and best practices. The more you can do at home, the less downtime you’ll have at work and the less stressed you’ll be about making a deadline.
Tip 3: Ask questions
I drove my studio manager mad when I first started. I had so many questions and she did her best to answer them but she was obviously balancing her large workload with tutoring a junior. Questions are good, they are the best way to learn, ask as many as you can — but ask Google first! On a side note, if your company has such a thing as a job manager, when taking briefs from them, ask as many questions as you can, even if you feel silly asking the obvious ones. Get the best understanding of the brief that you can, then if things go wrong later down the line, or if they have been miscommunicated, you know you did the best you could with the information you got.
Tip 4: Be Eager
Be the first there in the morning, volunteer for tasks and make yourself known as a hard worker. Be positive — ask if there is anything you can do for someone to help them if they are having a particularly difficult or stressful day. Show enthusiasm and encourage others around you.
Tip 5: Social Balance
Be eager and positive, come in early and stay late but not every day. Remember that it’s only a job. Leave work so you have enough time to spend the evening with family or friends. If you push yourself too much you’ll burn out and end up resenting your job.
Tip 6: Self respect
The more you learn and the more knowledge about the industry you gain, the more you should rely on and be confident in your own design decisions. Stand your ground if you think something is right; design is often down to personal preference and your preference is just as valid as your colleagues. Having said that, your colleagues knowledge and preferences are just as valid as yours — so listen to them! Respect that they have probably had more experience than you and take note of tips they give you, they will influence your future decisions.
Self respect isn’t just about your design decisions though, it’s also ensuring that you strike a balance between the personal sacrifices you’re willing to give to your job and your own well being. Like Tip 5: Social Balance, you must make sure that you show integrity by standing up for yourself, be that a design decision or not.
Tip 7: Hydration
Everything got a bit heavy with Tip 6, so let’s get a little lighter — Hydration, it’s simple really. Drink plenty of liquids and make lots of tea and coffee for your colleagues. Liquids aid concentration and tea runs put you in the good books!
Tip 8: Intuition
Use your brain — don’t rely on people coming to talk to you about jobs, go and find them, chase the information you require. Be organised, on Monday find out what you’re working on for the week and get prepared for the projects. Ensure that all the information is ready to roll when you’re on the Job.
Tip 9: Professionalism
This is pretty obvious really, you are now a professional designer, make sure that you act like one. Be polite, courteous and knowledgable. Ensure that every major design decision has had thought behind it and reasons for it. Keep your workflow tight and communication clear and understandable. Of course there is more to being professional than this — I’ll let your common sense guide you.
Tip 10: Patience
So lastly there is patience. Patience stretches from taking your time to understand briefs, to waiting your turn for a promotion and many things in between. Before stomping off and throwing a paddy about an issue, take a deep breath and try again to resolve it. A quick word about your first promotion as well, this potentially could take a while, you will have a lot to learn and the company will reward you when you’re ready. There is nothing wrong however in asking what skills they think you need to strengthen in order to improve your chances of moving up the ladder.
These 10 tips have helped me and hopefully they can help you too. I’m not saying that these will guarantee success in your first year, but hopefully they’ll help you develop and grow as a designer. I’m sure that there are another 10 tips I could give — maybe there will be a part 2 some time!
If you’ve survived your first year why not share your tips too!