Once you’ve graduated how do you go about finding employment and what are design employers looking for? Clearly with design covering so many different industries it is not easy to give a single answer.
However there are some aspects that remain common. These are design procedure skills, materials and resources knowledge, tool skills, communication skills, personal presentation and confidence.
Design employers want to see evidence that you have design skills that relate to their business needs. Your folio, which consists of the work you’ve collected during study and any commercial jobs that you’ve already done, is important for demonstrating this.
In the computer age employers want staff who are familiar with the standard software tools. In many fields of design the office environments have fully computerised work flows making it essential that new recruits are computer literate.
It’s very important that designers be able to explain clearly and confidently why they’ve produced the designs they have. Employers are looking for this ability to present work confidently. Design courses emphasise this skill. If its not your strong suit be sure that you practise at every opportunity.
Design often requires a great deal of client or customer contact. Employers are looking for designers who will make a good impression. This is a mix of knowledge, personal presentation and confidence.
Many designers choose to be self employed or to run their own small businesses. For some designers it is not a matter of choice, the large numbers of graduates competing for jobs leave them with no alternative. Design skills are well suited to private practice and small business making this a prolific growth area in business start-ups.
Designers often find satisfaction in self employment because it can allow them greater freedom in expressing their creative skills and a heightened sense of achievement when they are more responsible for the outcome of projects.
Self employment is not for everyone. To be successful you will need to be a competent designer, a good salesperson, an administrator, a bookkeeper and have the self-motivation, energy and health to keep it up day after day.
Some design disciplines are more suited to private practice than others. Product development is usually an internal capability of manufacturing businesses so industrial design (product design), which delivers services to manufacturers, has less scope for consulting designers. On the other hand interior design is much more rarely a permanent requirement of a business and is commonly purchased from an external consultant or consulting business.
There are many books that outline the process of starting a small business and the personal skills and attributes that lead to success. You’ll find these in any good business section of a bookstore or library. There are some excellent guides available through government bookshops and departments as well.
A most important lesson in finding employment is networking. Many jobs are never advertised. They are filled by word of mouth and personal contacts.
Make yourself known to as many potential employers and designers already working in your desired industry as possible.
Make yourself known to your professional body, the Design Institute of Australia. Join it and take every opportunity to attend functions and introduce yourself to people.
Keep reminding people that you’re available. Remember they’ve got plenty to keep them busy, just because you’ve told them once doesn’t mean they’ve remembered and just because they said no once doesn’t mean that the situation won’t be different next time.
‘ “It looks good” is the worst feedback you can get.’