Landing a job right out of college or university is tough for anyone. Landing a creative job in a great agency right out of college or university during an economic downturn is terrifying. So how does one land a sweet gig at a sweet agency after graduating? Here are a few tips from a recent grad who did just that (at KEEN, obviously).
1. Work hard
While it’s true that an employer isn’t likely to check your transcript before they hire you, good grades can still be an indication that you know what you’re doing. Interested in graphic design? Marketing? Web development? Advertising? Regardless of your focus, you should want to get good grades because you should want to be good at what you do. Scholarships are a nice bonus, too.
Also look for opportunities outside of school to develop your skills. Volunteer, find contract work, seek out internships (though be wary of unpaid internships), or help out a friend. Not only is this a great way to gain portfolio material and build your resume, you’ll also make valuable contacts that may lead you to more work or even a job once you’ve graduated.
Getting a job out of university is going to be exponentially easier if you have solid contacts in the industry before you graduate.
Your university may facilitate networking events, so keep an eye out. Otherwise, do the legwork yourself and see what events are coming up in your field. Below are some professional associations I’ve found helpful for making communications contacts. Often, you don’t even need a membership to attend events or take advantage of their services as a student.
Also, develop good working relationships with teachers and fellow students. You never know who might have an opportunity to pass along.
3. Develop a portfolio
There are lots of ways to create a portfolio, but it really doesn’t have to be all that complicated.
Pick out 5-10 pieces you’ve written/designed and that you’re proud of (this should be easy if you’ve been doing #1). If you can, tailor the samples for the types of positions you’re after. Create a 2-3-sentence write-up for each piece. Organize it and throw it all into Google Docs/Dropbox. Now you have a portfolio link that’s easy to send and easy for you to update.
4. Put yourself out there
So, you’ve been working hard and have developed a good reputation, you’ve got a great portfolio, and you’ve made some solid connections. Now, put those things to work for you.
Start priming your contacts before you’ve even graduated. Do some information interviews to learn about the industry and discover where you really want to be working.
Decide who you want to work for and tell them why you want to work with them and why they should want to work with you. Back it up by sending them portfolio materials right off the bat. Don’t wait for them to figure out how great you are.
Even if they aren’t hiring at that moment, if you make a good enough impression, they’ll have you in the back of their mind for when they are, and they may even recommend you for other positions.
5. Be awesome
Keep working hard, and keep learning. Remember that who you know may get you in the door, but what you know will make you an asset. A hireable, promotable asset.