This is a guest post from Shayla Ebsen at Designer Punch.
I can’t find a job because I don’t have any experience and I don’t have any experience because I can’t get a job.
Sound familiar? It’s the classic beginning designer dilemma and can be a tough situation to overcome.
After being turned down for multiple positions many designers become disheartened and begin doubting their design skills. However, it’s important to realize that most creative professionals started where you are and made it through the dilemmas to now be among the best and most highly paid. If you’re fresh out of design school or are still taking classes, here are a few tips to help you land your first design job without any previous professional design experience.
Create Mock Samples
Nearly every design job or freelance opening will require samples of previous work from applicants. Rather than stressing about not having any professional work samples as a beginning designer, create them. By creating mock projects, you’ll display your talents and will show potential clients or employers your eagerness to begin your design career. While the mock samples won’t show how you’ve handled previous client projects, they can impress potential employers with your creativity in overcoming the work sample dilemma.
And honestly, if you love design as much as you say you do, you should always be working on something. Even if it is just for your own enjoyment and/or training.
Consider Unpaid Work
If your resume is looking quite slim and you’re unable to find employers who’ll take you seriously, consider accepting unpaid work. Local charities are always searching for those with creative talents who are willing to donate their time. Although this won’t help with the pile of growing bills, it’ll provide substance for your resume and may be enough to impress potential employers.
And usually, the boards of many charities and non-profits are packed with connected people. You never know who you are going to meet through the process.
And I don’t mean with social media. Get out, shake some hands, and actually talk to people face to face. You will be amazed at how opportunities “magically” appear when you commit to something like this. To find events, check associations with chapters in the area and your local chamber of commerce. Don’t just go to design related events either. While meeting other designers can be fun and can sometimes lead to an opportunity, focus most of your time on events where business owners and decision makers gather.
Some designers enter the job market expecting to receive a high paying job, full benefits, and a corner office – basically the whole enchilada. However, to gain traction in the design world and become a respected professional, you may have to enter the job market with a humble attitude. While you may be immensely confident in your design abilities and know you can deliver stellar results, potential employers or freelance clients need to see it to believe it.
As a beginner, you should be willing to do anything including designing projects you know are far below your skill level. In time, others will begin noticing your talents, which will allow you to demand higher paying gigs or request more challenging projects.
The beginning stages of your design career can be filled with anticipation and an eagerness to display your talents. However, becoming a respected creative professional requires time and dedication. By showing a willingness to do whatever is needed to succeed, you’ll impress not only other designers who’ll want to network with you but also others who’ll offer paid work for your talents.
About the Author
Shayla Ebsen is a professional freelance writer, editor, and graphic designer with more than six years combined experience from positions in the corporate world and through freelance work. Her work has included creating online SEO website and article content, producing tours to promote products, and designing the marketing materials of a local software company. She also writes for DesignerPunch. You can follow DesignerPunch on twitter