Top 5 Things To Do After Design School
With the the end of the school year quickly approaching, and for some of you, the end of school in general, the promise of long, warm summer days might tempt you to forget about adult responsibilities and spend your days perusing the patios lining the city streets. Though we fully support this idea for one or two days following your final exams or design projects, the truth is, if you’re going to make it in the creative industry, you’ll have to hustle. In no particular order, here are the top 5 things you should be doing once you’re done with design school.
1. Make a Portfolio.
Showing and sharing your design work is just as important as creating and designing it. Your portfolio is your key to opening many conversations and drawing people in so they get to know you, not only as a designer, but also as a person. People hire who they know. Your portfolio site will be your main tool to get a job or attract new clients to do real world projects. It’s 2019. It’s so easy to create a portfolio site without being an HTML/CSS wizard. There are many services like Squarespace, Wix or Webflow which offer great portfolio templates for you to start. One of the best and free platforms has to be Adobe’s Behance network, which allows you to upload and design your portfolio for free. From there, you can also share your portfolio with other creatives in your area, which leads me to my next point: Network.
You should be doing this right now. It's a constant grind. Build your network. Make some business cards. Go to events. Talk to people. Yes, talking is hard and people are hard, but you will need these connections to be successful in the long run. Your goal should be to contact the creative directors, the art directors and the senior designers and get them to review your portfolio. Introduce yourself to them, build a rapport, be memorable. The key shouldn’t be to get a job, it should be to make yourself known to these industry leaders and for them to offer you some constructive criticism to improve your portfolio. Meeting with more people and presenting your portfolio is a craft and the more you do it, the more confidence you will gain in your work and in your ability to land that next position.
3. Draft Professional Emails
As part of your networking exercise, you’ll want to contact people from the industry and either ask them to review your portfolio or apply for a position at their company. For this, you’ll want to create an email template where you can fill in the blanks with relevant information and send it to the person in charge. This email should be professional and to the point. Don’t give your life story. Keep it short and sweet. Most importantly, be mindful of spelling and syntax errors.
4. Lawyer Up
This might seem like overkill, but it’s not. The bigger the project, the more paperwork will be thrown at you, and the more chances you’ll have of missing an important detail. This is especially true if you’re not familiar with legal jargon. Between contracts, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and non-compete clauses, you’ll want to make sure you understand exactly what the company or client is asking of you before you agree to anything.
5. Seek Mentorship
This was a big one for me. Without mentorship, I was navigating the world of design blindly, not understanding my worth, scared to negotiate clients and awkwardly taking on hard conversations. Having someone to show you the ropes and help guide you in this very competitive field is so important. It’s also a great way to take your designs to the next level. These mentors can be within arms reach, like professors from your design school, or even industry leaders. Some of my mentors have been Chris Do of the Futur, who has taught me a lot about business in general and has helped me grow my company, and Ash Thorp, who helps me flex my creative muscles, who pushes me to strive for self-improvement and who continues to inspire me to take my designs to that next level.
Entering the working world can be intimidating, but if you buckle down, surround yourself with great people, work hard and hustle, you’ll be just fine.