Years ago I was fresh out of college. I had a BA in Journalism concentrating in Graphic Design and Web Design from UNC-CH’s Journalism School. I knew it ALL! Companies were going to fight over me and offer me a salary of $75K a year. Life was going to be great!
As good as I wanted to think I was, I was NOT a great graphic designer. I had a LOT to learn and my career would take many, many turns to get me to where I am today. From what I have learned, if there was any advice I could give to students today it would be get at LEAST one internship and do as much freelance work as you can… and I do mean FREE!
Get one, get two, get 10. Hopefully these will be paid internships, but nonetheless, this will be an experience like none other. You will get to work in a “real life” environment. And let me tell you, school is NOT a real life environment. You will have REAL deadlines and learn more than you ever thought.
My internship was an amazing experience. I worked for University Directories in production. Was the job glamorous? Not really. I spent all day designing yellow page ads for the back pages of campus directories, and if we were really lucky, we could design the front cover!!!
Again, not glamorous, but I would never take this time back or change it. I learned SO much about design and deadlines, I met AMAZING friends (they had about 30 of us 20 year olds in a room together), and it actually turned into my first JOB out of college. It is what happens behind the scenes that make it worth it! We were paid a small amount but at the end of the summer they took our entire group white water rafting. I look back now and realize it was only one summer…a few months, but the relationships I made there are still with me today! GREAT experience!
One thing any new designer will quickly learn is a LOT of people will want you to work for free. Now, this may sound ridiculous but I will say that many of my best design experiences have been doing free work. It may be for a foundation, a good cause, a special event – but keep this in mind… it gets your name out there, it gets you recognition, and it gets you your next job! On top of that you will have fun and learn something new, so in the end… everyone wins!
My first FREElance job was right out of school with a start up magazine, Mental Floss. Three guys from Durham, NC were starting a magazine. They had the first issue under their belt and were working on a redesign for the 2nd issue. There was already a graphic designer involved, but they needed help with layout for the entire piece – and I was the lady for the job! Today this magazine is all over the place. They are on magazine racks in many large book stores, they have a blog and a fantastic website and guess what – I can legitimately say I helped in the beginning! It was such a great time for me and I wouldn’t trade that FREE experience for anything! Look closely in the top lefthand corner. They are still using our :: feel smart again :: design concept!
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!