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Since Creative Designer, Daniel Tomlinson, joined the Brandwave team back in December 2016, he has established himself as a key part of the design team and top recruit for our Tuesday lunchtime football games. In our latest blog, Dan reflects on his journey as a young designer and provides his top tips for those getting their foot in the door.

You’ve thrown your hat into the air, you’ve shaken hands with the old bloke in a gown on stage and he handed over your degree. You’ve said goodbye to all of your course friends and have said a big thank you to your tutors for spoon feeding you for the last 3 years. You pack your student house up, move back in with Mum and Dad into the single bedroom, as they’ve turned your old room into that walk in wardrobe that your Mum always wanted. Now what? Now the hard work begins.

Pulling your portfolio together and finding you first design job to get your foot into the design industry, with no tutors to hold your hand through the process, is arguably one of the most daunting and difficult things you’ll do. Trawling through 3 years worth of work on your hard drives, choosing your favourite projects and bringing it all together into a portfolio. Choosing that killer font that catches your potential employees eye as well as that trusty 4 column grid that got you through most of your degree. You have to spend a good chunk of time on this and not rush it. It’s the first thing your potential boss will see of you which gives them an overview of you and your design personality.

So, your portfolio is looking sick, your CV shows previous experience such as any freelance work or internships you may have done. Now, what job do you want to apply for exactly? Magazine editing, marketing, packaging, clothing, the list is endless. I applied for everything and anything to just get me on the design ladder to get me going, knowing full well that later on in my career I could choose exactly what I wanted to do. I was very lucky and in 4 weeks of applying for hundreds of jobs and 2 unsuccessful interviews, I bagged myself a Graduate Design role. At the time I didn’t know if this was what I wanted to end up doing for the rest of my life but there was only one way to find out.

You’ve got an interview date arranged for a potential role. Now what? Brandwave’s Senior Designer Rich has some great advice on this subject as he’s seen his fair share of junior designers interviewing for their first role. See his helpful tips and what he has to say in his blog post about preparing for an interview.

Congratulations you have been successful! You’ve done it. You’ve got your first role as a Graduate/Junior designer, and you start next Monday. Hopefully I can help and share a few things on what to expect from your design role which I have learnt over the past few years as well as my first few months at Brandwave. This should help you transition from a student to full time employment.

If in doubt, ask! If you are in doubt of anything you are doing, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask someone. This is better than getting into hours of work doing the wrong thing, presenting your work back and it be completely wrong. It only takes a couple of minutes to ask but this could save you hours of what could be pointless work and a possibility of leaving you red faced. The other designers around you know what it’s like being a junior, they have all been there. They won’t mind taking a few moments out of their busy day to help you and get you started, so make sure you ask!

Communication – You need to be able to communicate well with people in any job. Let work colleagues or clients know what is going on with your work. If you are falling behind let someone know so they can ease your workload or if you have nothing to do ask for more work. If you have completed a job let the senior designer know so they can QC it and send it to the client. Even something minor like if you are running late into work one morning, ring someone and just let them know and then make the time up after work.

There’s no such thing as a 9-5 in design – You work to deadlines. If something is needed to go out before the end of the day you may need to work until 11.59pm to send work to the client. And no you don’t get paid extra for it but they may buy you dinner, if you’re lucky.

You need to take criticism – Your tutors at university may have given you some and nudged you to another idea, but not now. Something you may love that you think works really well which you have spent 3 hours on, the client may not like it and want to execute their own idea. Always have at least 3 ideas. One with exactly what they want, another with kind of what they want but slightly tweaked, thirdly one completely out of the box.

The learning never stops – Just because you can pull a composition together in InDesign, edit a photo in Photoshop and draw a vector in Illustrator doesn’t mean you have learnt all there is. There’s so much to learn with so many design programmes around in the industry, do your research into what job you want to apply for and try and get familiar with the programmes they are asking for. Even if you don’t know it like the back of your hand explain to them that you are learning in your own time specifically for the job, this shows willingness to learn which the employer will love! As well as programmes buy some design books. These little things are stacked full of information and inspiration you could take from. Create a small bookshelf of what design you like and what inspires you and have a flick through now and again when you get design block. You never know this could generate a surge of ideas which develops into your final design you’ve been racking your brains about for the past 2 days. Swap the Playstation controller for a Graphic Design book. Don’t stop looking for your next idea.

Get experience – If you are struggling to find a permanent design role, look for an internship. I know a lot of friends who took internships which turned into full time jobs at places like Mens Health and Esquire Magazine. I was extremely lucky and fell straight into a design role after studying but completing 11 week’s worth of internships whilst at uni 100% helped.

Say yes to everything and anything – This is obviously in reason. If someone is offering you an internship, take it. If its unpaid then see if you can afford to complete it without money, if not get a part time job at the weekends/evenings. If they are offering a 6-month contract, take it. Work for 6 months whilst still looking or applying for jobs, letting them know your current situation. If your current workplace wants to send you on a course, take it. This shows they want to invest in you as well as broaden your design skills.

Get some sleep – No more partying until 5am knowing you don’t really have to go to that 9am lecture if you don’t want to the following morning. Get a good night’s sleep ready for work as you and your creative mind will suffer the following day if not.

Change jobs every 2 years – Until you find something you love and wake up early in the mornings for. I’ll never forget this piece of advice as I think it is a great one, it was on my graduation day and my tutor told me this after the ceremony. My previous 2 jobs I completed a year in both as it wasn’t something I could see myself doing for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to get comfortable in a job. Doing the same thing day in and day out until you retire. Personally this isn’t something that I would like to do. But going into work and knowing I could be working on a global campaign in the morning and then editing a video in the afternoon whilst going surfing at lunch, now that is something that floats my boat. Don’t get stuck in a rut as they are hard to get out of!

Learn to like coffee. Trust me you’ll need it.

These are the few things that I learnt in my first few years as a junior designer and hopefully they will give you a little insight to the design world. Now go get em’ tiger.

Author Daniel Tomlinson

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