Over the past month we have attended college portfolio shows and mentored high schoolers hoping to attend a college graphic design program. As the graduation season concludes it got us thinking about advice we wish someone would have given us before entering the field. So here are 5 pieces of advice for recent graduates.

1. Go talk to people who are in the field. We don’t just mean designers. Talk to printers, talk to people who hire designers. Don’t feel like you are going in with an agenda, simply state that you would like to learn more about the profession. Ask questions. Ask lots of questions. Ask questions you think are silly. Ask questions you think are obvious.

2. Once you make connections, keep those connections. Connect on LinkedIn. Keep up with what companies are doing. Don’t miss an opportunity because you didn’t take the time to send a follow-up email after meeting someone. Seriously, SEND THE EMAIL. Give people a reason to file your name in their memory through your positive actions.

3. Be aware of your personal brand. Companies don’t just hire for your portfolio, they hire because they like you as a person. They see something in you that they think will jive with their company. So take the time to clean up your social media presence (employers do look) and be hyper-aware of how you present yourself. After attending portfolio shows, the people that stood out to us were not just those with impressive portfolios, but those who were impressive people. We asked ourselves, “Is that someone we would want to spend 40 hours a week with?”

4. You aren’t a perfect fit for every graphic design position posted. Just because you are looking for a graphic design job doesn’t mean every graphic design job is for you. There are many different branches on the graphic design tree, and many leaves in different industries. Being a designer for a company requires a great understanding of that organization and their values. If these values don’t align with yours, the work you produce will suffer because you won’t truly believe in it.

5. You don’t know everything, and that is okay! No one expects a college graduate to have the experience of someone who has been in a profession for 10 years. Don’t think, “I don’t know how to do that.” Instead think, “I can learn how to do that.”

We encourage you to take chances, work hard, and be persistent.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
– Confucius

Here we are at the Madison College Portfolio Show with our former intern Alicia!