New year, new design graduates

Each year we try our best to attend all the graduate shows in the hope that there will be one diamond in the rough. However, this year, I hope that there will be more than just one…

I have been lucky enough to teach and lecture both at UCA Epsom and Central St Martins where I focused on giving the students a real insight into what to expect when you begin your career in the industry. This involved setting up workshops with the likes of Mike Radcliffe (director of Represent UK, a London based design recruitment agency) to work on developing stronger portfolios and fielding a series of talks inviting different industry creatives to share their experiences in the hope that it would not only inspire them but also kickstart their careers.

The notion of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” vs “I wish I’d known that” will always be up for debate. Here at Signal Noise we get regular enquiries regarding internships and employment, which is great, but sadly the letdown often comes with poor preparation and not enough research.

Our team is made up of experience and new talent which, as a balance, works really well. Some of the team have been students I have taught or they’ve been recommended to me by great tutors I have worked with in the past.

Each design studio/agency will have their own requirements or standards, no doubt, but I think the important thing for any graduate is how much do you really want it? This doesn’t mean a blanket email addressed “Dear Sir or Madame” either. It’s about being sharp and thinking what is going to really get our attention?

Once you do have their attention and you have arranged a simple coffee and a quick chat, what happens next? You will be amazed by how many graduates come in and have nothing to say and, on occasion, nothing to show…

As we have grown as a company I tend to look at graduates or any new creative we meet differently (each one of us partners see things differently which is great), for me the personality means just as much as their creativity. True grit, perseverance and dedication speaks volumes. Often when it’s backs against the wall, no matter what the circumstances, it’s a good time to really get a true reflection of these attributes in any creative. The extra mile so to speak…

1. Intern, intern intern

The first fulltime position can often be the hardest. One way of showcasing your talent is to try and gain an internship, it’s often a great way to find out if you like the agency and whether the agency likes you. If they do not offer to pay you, or at least cover your expenses, then walk. It’s not the place to be.

We offer internships when possible and our last two interns have gone on to be fulltime and part of our family.

2. Make connections

If someone gives you a lead take it. Also, have the decency to follow it up good or bad: it’s a reflection on your character. It’s something that gets overlooked and can come back to bite you when you least expect it. It also doesn’t do any favours for the person who gave you that lead or made the introduction.

3. Whatever happens don’t leave your own site until two months after you graduate

Giving your card at any graduate show leads to your work being checked out : Lo and behold, “Website coming soon”… Gone…

We appreciate that you have your final major project going but if you really want it, it’s something that should be in the making from day one.

4. Think about who you really want to approach

Don’t do the blanket emails. It if takes time to craft that introduction email then so be it but it doesn’t need to be an X factor audition either, keep it sharp, concise and to the point. Make it as easy as possible for the reader to understand who you are and what you can offer or would like to do. No large pdf files either!

5. Self-initiated projects

Whilst you are looking for a position, make the most of your time and do your own self-initiated projects. It’s great way to showcase your skills and work on a project without any restrictions (remember diamond in the rough). It’s not all about how polished you are but more about what ideas and potential talent you have. The rest will come with being shaped by the team around you…

There is a lot of noise out there but I look forward to seeing what stands out come graduation time.