Lessons They Didn't Teach at Design School

The team over at Hiive have asked me to offer up some advice to young creatives on life after University and to share all the things that have or haven’t worked for me.   For those of you who don’t know, Hiive is a professional network for the creative industries where you can showcase your work, apply for jobs and get access to educational resources.

It has been 6 months since I graduated from my Industrial Design degree at University. I was fortunate enough to secure a job whilst still at Uni which, meant I didn’t have a period of struggling with unemployment, but here are some of the lessons I have either learnt myself or observed from others since starting work in the creative world.

1 – You are only as good as your last 3 pieces of work.

3 projects

For anyone who doesn't have a job yet this means you can’t afford to be sitting on your arse all day, thinking the work you did back at Uni will definitely get you a job.

For those who are in a job, this still applies - what was the last thing you created outside of work?

You need to get moonlighting and be continuously updating your portfolio. Set yourself deadlines, create new briefs, do the work you always wished you were allowed to do at university. Hiive are actually currently running a Photoshop Tennis competition, where the best entries will win great prizes. Things like this, and Briefbox, will help your portfolio massively.

This way you will have a portfolio that’s not only way fatter than your previous ‘fresh-out-of-uni’ version but it will also be way more personal. Employers will see the kind of work you really want to be doing, they will see your passions and most of all they will see your work ethic. If you are managing to bosh out 2 new pieces of work a month solely by working in your spare time then this will show employer that those marking guidelines you lived by at University haven’t crushed your creativity. But more importantly they will see your willing to work hard even when you don’t have to. This is something that is so hard to get across normally.

In short, use your time well; you absolutely must learn to be proactive.

2 – You’re never done with education.


Don’t think you are now done with education just because you don’t have to go to any more lectures. This is something I only realised at the very end of last year. If anything, this is the most important time in your life to learn, as it will be the first time your learning completely independently. Anything from just reading a couple blog posts on your commute, to taking some night classes, or even just learning a completely new skill on your own through free online tutorials.  Or to keep it really simple, just read more interesting stuff.

3 – Collaborate


Following on from Lesson 2 about continuously learning.  Try working with someone new, their opinion may well let you see things in a novel way. Generally creative minds bounce off each other with really good results, so don’t be scared of showing someone a piece of work you are no where near finished. Who knows, the end result could well be more rounded, and better realised because of that quick chat you had with someone over a coffee in the very early days on the project.  It's not exactly going to be any worse now is it?

4 – 9-5 might not be for you.


It’s not for everyone, but luckily lots of people in the creative industry are quite open to new methods of working.  I am currently writing this in a coffee shop instead of my normal office as I’m not very good at concentrating on wordy projects when I am surrounded by other people having conversations which, I am interested in or could involve me.

Find out where you zone in best and your work will benefit from it, “work is something that needs done not a place to be".

5 – Your creativity is your most important asset.


Don’t just limit yourself to one type of media. Yes, if you did graphic design this is still allowed to form the majority of your portfolio, but if you are able to apply creative thinking to all areas of your work then this is a HUGE plus. There is a reason why 34 CEO’s in the FTSE 100 companies came from an arts background; there is so much room for creativity in the business world. Bring your creative mind in to everything you do.

If you are still looking for a job, I bet you have stared through Pinterest boards filled with really exciting ways in which people have tried to sell themselves.  Be it through guerrilla marketing or just a really novel presentation for a new concept.  This could be you; this is the time to be doing this risky work, you have no responsibility for anyone but yourself.  If you are indeed applying for a job, make sure the person who receives your Portfolio/CV thinks “are we taking a risk by not interviewing this person?”

 If you have made it this far thanks for reading, remember to check out Hiive if you’re looking to kickstart your creative career.

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