You can’t expect to walk out of university and into you dream job. It takes hours and a lot of preparation to build up a portfolio. Long before I graduated, I contacted as many design studios as I could to apply for work placements. I even squeezed a placement in over the Easter of my graduation year. My aim was to build a portfolio that not only demonstrated my interests, but was also hard evidence that I was proactive about getting a good grounding in the industry.
I think it’s also important to be patient – you hear about graduates that do one placement and get hired immediately. That’s certainly not always the case. I did four or five placements before The Partners – at places such as big fish, Williams Murray Hamm a few times and Blast. The knee-jerk reaction when you’re not offered a permanent role is ‘I must not be good enough,’ but that’s not true; think of placements as invaluable periods of time that add layers of experience and let you experiment, don’t get hung up on getting hired.
When an opportunity comes your way, take it. Even if you find it intimidating. In fact, especially if you find it intimidating. When you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re learning. And suddenly, you’ll find yourself working faster and making smarter decisions without second-guessing yourself. You pick up tricks and learn from your mistakes – whether it’s laying out spreads, shortcuts, design development or preparing for client meetings – just keep throwing yourself at every aspect of the job. In the past year, I’ve grown to be not only a better designer, but a better communicator, and it’s all been through trial and error, (sometimes a bit more error than I’d like!)
And by that, I mean ask for it. All the time. You’re not in a vacuum when you do a placement or start out as a junior and the more you ask for help, the quicker you’ll learn. At The Partners, we tend to work in regular teams but certain projects will require more fluidity which gives rise to opportunities to work on different clients with different people. That’s how I got to work on the typography for the London Symphony Orchestra – which was amazing because not only did I get a chance to experiment with type design concepts, I also gained a deeper understanding of the identity work as a whole, and I’m a big believer in learning by osmosis.