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Tips to help land your first design job

You're fresh out of school after receiving your degree as graphic design major, and now you're seeking your first job as a designer. What are some steps you should take that will position yourself to attain the graphic design job you desire?


Step 1: Identify

The IDEO or Creative "T" Skill is a model used to help creative people identify what level they are on. First you start off as a Beginner, then graduate to Intermediate, next to Advanced level, and finally you become an Expert. If you're a recent college grad or looking to land your first full-time creative position you're typically considered a beginner. So as a beginner, it is key that you identify what your strengths are. Have one identified core strength that you're able to communicate when creating a portfolio, applying for a position, and interviewing for a company. For example, if you excel at creating awesome hand drawn logos then that's an identity you should showcase in your portfolio. Make sure that when presenting yourself to a future employer that you don't overwhelm them with everything you create. What's the difference between a pizza restaurant and a buffet that features pizza? One communicates a clear identity for one specialized food. Present your identity and what you excel at.

Step 2: Edit

The reality for most employers is that they're usually flooded with many applications. This limits their ability to take time and fully look into each applicant one by one. Therefore, it's practical that you begin to simplify your portfolio. Having a short yet simplified portfolio helps the employer see the identity of the applicant. Many employers already have a clear idea of what they're looking for based on the position's requirements and what the previous employee provided for them. Having about 4-6 good portfolio pieces of your work is sufficient to communicate your design identity. This goes without saying; show your best work! In addition, it's a good idea if your portfolio follows a theme. This will show that you're not only a creative mind, but that you understand identity, branding, and marketing. A good example is showcasing a logo and the application of it to email blasts, web banners, business cards, and apparel items for a clothing company.

Step 3: Select

Finally, you should be honest and selective. Being honest with yourself goes back to the first step of your identity. Your confidence as a designer shows up when you're able to identify your design strengths. Next, you should be selective by carefully choosing what companies you apply to. Find a company that fits your personality, identity, and style as a designer. If you're an outstanding logo designer with a focus on clean design, then it's probably not a good idea to search for a design agency with a hipster aesthetic and brand. Keep in mind what your value would be for the company you're applying for. A boat company should not focus their marketing solely to residents that live in Arizona. The value of their product would mean much more to a Florida resident. So it becomes imperative that you research companies, analyze their identity and understand what you're value would mean to a company.


1) Identify and focus you skills.

2) Edit and simplify your portfolio to showcase your identity.

3) Be honest and selective to begin to look, think, and act like the designer you aspire to be.


Credit: Written and Updated by Jonathan Irving of JI Designs LLC on 01/16/21.

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