The scary thing about our industry is that while there are more creative jobs than ever before the competition is fierce. Since I started professional creative community The Dots, incredibly talented juniors are always asking me for tips on how to get that all-important foot in the door.
To be honest, there is no single thing that will land you that dream job. But after compiling tips from creative directors, artists, agencies, recruiters, and industry bodies, I now firmly believe there is a combination of steps you can take, a secret sauce in a way, that if you take can guarantee you league's ahead of others vying for the same job.
If you’re a student in your final year, or a recent graduate looking for that elusive ‘first job’, before you even start sending out applications it’s best to get all your ducks in a row.
Make sure you allocate enough time to work on your portfolio, cover letter, website, profile on The Dots, and identity, as this is a massive project in itself, but I guarantee it will set you up for life.
1. Work on Personal Projects
This quote has really stuck with me:
“If your portfolio reflects nothing personal, then it might as well be someone else's”.
All the Creative Directors we’ve worked with have been massive fans of portfolios that include self-initiated personal projects. In the end, these CDs review hundreds of portfolios, and if they only include responses to university briefs, they start looking a bit samey. Including personal projects in your portfolio will not only help your portfolio stand out, but will show that you’re a self-starter who’s passionate about design. Below are some top tips on how to get the ball rolling on personal projects:
Create a Personal Identity: Let’s face it, your own brand is the most valuable brand you’ll ever work on and one of the only projects you’ll have complete creative license over.
Do an Internship: Internships are an amazing opportunity to get real-world experience, build up your portfolio of work and make contacts that can last a lifetime. If you are at university, ask if they have an internship programme. If they don’t, lobby for one! Also, more and more job boards have internship roles appearing. Obviously I’d recommend The Dots but hey, I’m biased. There are loads more out there, just Google “Internships” and take your pick. As long as they’re paid and well structured, internships are an amazing opportunity to get real-world experience and build up portfolio of work.
Enter Competitions: Competition pieces are a step above student work. If you don’t win at least you have some great content for your portfolio. If you do win, it’s an amazing way to get your work and name out there. Fantastic competitions include D&AD New Blood and Young Cannes Lions & Design Council Ones To Watch. But there are loads more, just check The Dots for updates. Ask a senior creative for a Brief: Contacting a senior creative who inspires you and asking them for a brief is not only an amazing way to challenge yourself creatively, but if the CD likes your response they may even offer you a job.
Help out a Friend or Family Member: Friends and family always need creative services, be it designing their wedding or party invites, an identity for their business, a new website, some copywriting, social marketing tips, etc. You’ll not only get fresh content for your portfolio and resume, but also win major brownie points in the process.
Collaborate: Find a group of friends you love working with and start collaborating. Come up with your own passion project — be it an exhibition, a zine, a pop-up store, a product range, an installation, hosting a creative event — whatever goes really. It’s a great way to show potential employers that you are self-starting, with a true passion for creativity.