The Good Graduate Guide

Top tips for students looking for that first graphic design job.

As many of you will know, at 52 Degrees North, we work closely alongside clients in the education sector and with exam season in full swing and employability skills high on the agenda, we thought we’d put together a few tips that are intended to help the next generation of aspiring designers land that dream job.

So spread the word amongst your students, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews… We’re delighted to introduce the ‘Good Graduate Guide’. 

So let’s get started…

Graduate 1

The Industry

Design is growing – both in terms of value and demand, and in the West-Midlands alone, there has been an 83 percent increase in design GVA since 2010. According to research published by the Design Council in 2018, there were over 1.6 million people employed design roles in 2016 – that’s an increase of over 99,000 since 2014.

Growth has been notably strong in digital design, which has expanded by 121.7% to create 19,115 new companies and employ 51 percent more staff.

So what does this mean?

In short, it means if you’re leaving education with design qualifications, then there are a wealth of opportunities available to you. It also means you’ll be hot property – you’ll have skills that are in demand in one of the UK’s fastest growing (and most exciting) sectors. Great news huh!

It also means that you’ll likely be facing some stiff competition when it comes to applying for that first job too…

Getting a design job (or any job for that matter) can be tough. It takes hard work, perseverance and unwavering commitment. You might get knock backs, but it’ll be your ability to bounce back and learn from them that will ultimately get you to where you want to be. We’re here to offer you some words of wisdom on how to stand out from the crowd (giving you the best chance of landing that dream role.)

Tip One: Do your homework

‘Homework?!’ I hear you cry. ‘I thought I’d finished studying?!’ Well, we hate to break it to you, but there is more work to be done and it all starts with research. So let’s start with the (seemingly) obvious…

In most circumstances, addressing your approach email (or letter, if you’re going old school) to Dear Sir/Madam is a no-no as far as we’re concerned. You may think that you’re being polite (impeccable manners are a must), but it’s impersonal, and worst of all, it implies that you haven’t made any effort to tailor your message to suit the employer that you’re approaching.

This heinous crime is made all the worse when you are sending an email to an address that includes the person’s name. My name is Katie. I’m female (at least I was the last time I checked). You can find my photo on my LinkedIn, so why would you address me as dear Sir? It’s a mistake as far as we’re concerned and the irony when you go on to say you have a ‘keen eye for detail’ is not lost on us.

As we said, you may think that this is obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of CVs and applications we’ve seen that are addressed in this way.

We’re not suggesting that you make things too informal – a message starting with ‘Alright mate’ is clearly a step too far, but first impressions matter, so make yours count. We’d strongly advise you take the time to research the company you’d like to work with, and that includes finding out the name of the person you need to contact.

The same can be said for the content of your message. Phrases that could be included in a blanket email like “I’d really like to work at a company like yours” and “I love the kind of work you do”, without any specific mention of our company name or reference to a project we’ve worked on, suggests that you haven’t done your homework. Have you REALLY looked on our website? Do you REALLY want to work with us? Then prove it.

If you particularly like the typography we used in X campaign, or the branding we created for Y, don’t be afraid to tell us. It will go a long way towards showing us that you have a genuine interest in us – and that makes us all the more interested in you.

Bear in mind that when contacting a potential employer, you’re asking them to do you the courtesy of reading your CV, looking at your portfolio, checking out your website, meeting you and potentially employing you – the least you can do is make an effort with your approach.

Ultimately, let’s not forget, if your applying for a design job, creativity is key. Don’t be afraid to stand out. You need to remember that you’re competing with others, all vying for attention in a crowded industry. If they give us a compelling reason to believe them and you don’t… you may have fallen at the first hurdle.

Part Two of our Good Graduate Guide is coming soon.  In the next instalment, we’ll be exploring how to ‘Keep it Relevant’ when applying for a design job. Don’t miss it!