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The First Design Job – A Graduate’s Perspective

I often read articles on how we (graduates) should go about that first design job or tips and tricks to enhance those skills for job opportunities. However I very seldom read what happens once you have secured that first job and the rapid stages that follow. So I have decided to write a bit to help, and hopefully prepare recent graduates for  what is expected of them in industry:

Learn Fast, then work faster.
The biggest shock to the system was the speed at which I was expected to work. From spending nearly a whole year on developing one project at University to “visualising” all the key aspects of a design in just three days; needless to say this was a serious shock to the system. However, do not let this put you off; learning new programmes, the way a company works and your capabilities and speed efficiency comes with time, ironically.

Be Professional
This may sound like a “given” but trust me there are people who walk into an office and treat it like the Computer Lab at University. Professionalism is never underrated whether a face to face meeting with a client, telephone conversation with a manufacture or email communication with a colleague; always be professional.

Don’t pretend you know something, when you don’t.

Be Honest. Ask when you are unsure of something. You may feel as if you are being a pain but everyone had to start somewhere. If you don’t ask and get it wrong, trust me you will hear about it.

Make mistakes, ONCE.
My first day on my industrial placement, in Germany, I walked into the office confident of my German speaking capabilities but not so much my technical or professional knowledge of the language. I was challenged with the mundane task of resizing an image in Photoshop (in German of course), which after a little while was no problem. I resized the image, played with the contrast and hit save. Within two minutes the boss of the sister company came into the room and threw a pile of 50 A4 high res images of the image I had resized……swearing profusely in German (which I understood perfectly well).

I had hit drucken (print) instead of speichern  (save). Needless to say I didn’t make that mistake again, I learnt from it.

At the end of that experience I had two of  my concepts chosen to go into production and if I had taken my first mistake to heart, or the way my Boss dealt with it , I wouldn’t have gone back my second day or gained as much as I had done from my experience out there. EVERYONE makes mistakes; the important thing is to learn from them.

The only advice I can give you is that of my personal experience, so here goes……..

Learn from those around you
Whether that be a new software, enhancing already established skills or working on those skills that you always knew needed work, there is always something to learn. Your colleagues and peers have been at the company longer than you, and often have great experience from other areas whether in Design or otherwise. This is the best way to learn and hone skills as well as making some excellent friends.

Work those additional hours
You are at the seedling stage in your design career, put the hours in now whether they are paid or not. You are not only showing enthusiasm but those hours are aiding you in your own personal development. By doing more you learn more.

Let you work speak for itself.
 However tempting don’t be sneaky or pass others work off as your own, people know what you are doing however clever you may think you are being.


Finally, once in the role do not become complacent still Be Proactive. You may not be competing with recent graduates for that initial design position but now, whether you like it or not, you are competing with those in the work place.
Most of all, I don’t know about you, but I have chosen a career in design because it is something I love doing, Enjoy it!


About the author:  Andrew Gordon is a product designer currently working at Innovate Product Design, where he is engaged in the design and concept visualisation field for Inventors.  You can contact him through LinkedIn (http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/andrew-gordon/37/b59/712) .



{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Monte April 24, 2012, 8:16 pm

    I finished university in the summer – product design, I have since worked as a design draughtsman two weeks temp work, 6 months as a draughtsman at an engineering firm (they ran into financial difficulty) so I left there, and 2 days after I left there I got the job I have now, working as a product designer for a high profile bathroom company.

    So a point I would like to add/expand on from what you wrote is that, if you can’t get a job, don’t be scared to venture out into similar industries where you may not need as much talent, as it looks fantastic on your CV – and if you get bored in these jobs you are less interested in just keep at it because the more places that took you on, the more successful you look. I was lucky, but I made my own luck in some senses.

    The best advice though, is to just be friendly to people – employers want people that get along with others as much as anything.

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