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A Designer’s Guide to Landing Your First Design Job

Published Apr 28, 2023
by Richa Mishra

As a designer, landing your first design job can be a challenging and daunting task.

The design industry is highly competitive, and the job market can be tough to navigate, especially for new designers with little experience. However, with the right strategy and approach, it is possible to land your dream job and kickstart your career in design.

In this guide, we will share valuable insights and tips to help you land your first design job.

Build a Strong Portfolio

Your design portfolio is your calling card, and it is critical to showcase your best work to potential employers.

Your portfolio should highlight your skills, strengths, and unique style, and it should be tailored to the specific job you are applying for. Include a variety of design projects, such as branding, web design, print design, and any other areas of design that interest you. Feeling uninspired? Check out Webflow and Behance for all your portfolio inspiration!

Platforms such as Webflow and Behance can be great sources of inspiration.

Network, Network, Network

The design industry is all about relationships, and building a strong network can help you land your first job. Attend design events, join design groups, and connect with other designers online through social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Reach out to designers and professionals in the industry for advice, feedback, and potential job leads.

Joining AIGA for example, can be a wonderful way to broaden your design network!

Apply Strategically

Applying to design jobs can be time-consuming, so it is essential to apply strategically. Research companies and job openings thoroughly and ensure that you meet the qualifications and requirements. Customize your cover letter and resume for each job, highlighting your skills and how they relate to the job. Follow up with employers after submitting your application to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in the position.

Be Open to Internships and Freelance Work Opportunities

Internships and freelance work can provide valuable experience and exposure to the industry, even if they are unpaid or low-paid. They can also lead to full-time job opportunities and help you build your network and portfolio.

It often doesn’t matter the caliber or popularity of the company, agency etc – what matters most is hands-on, direct experience in the design industry, and case studies you can reference and learn from in the future. As a designer, you will get accustomed to always explaining your process, and internships and freelance work gives you a strong foundation to grow this necessary skill.

Be Prepared for Interviews

Prepare for interviews by researching the company and the job thoroughly. Be ready to talk about your design process, design philosophy, and any relevant design experience. Bring your portfolio and be prepared to talk through your work in detail. Show enthusiasm for the job and demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow as a designer.

A trick I learned while in college was when asked a question I need a second to think about, instead of saying “uhhhhhh” just drink a sip of water, allowing you time to think about the best thing to say next.

Prioritize Continued Learning

Continued learning and online courses are crucial for graphic designers to stay current with new techniques, technologies, and design trends. As the field of graphic design constantly evolves and expands, it is important for designers to keep up with the latest developments and skills to remain competitive in the industry.

Online courses from platforms such as Udemy or Domestika provide graphic designers with the flexibility to learn at their own pace, on their own schedule, and often at a lower cost than traditional classroom education. These courses also offer the opportunity to learn from industry experts and other professionals, access to a wide range of resources, and the ability to develop new skills that can be applied immediately to real-world projects.

Online courses offer the opportunity to learn from experienced design experts.

In a constantly changing industry, continued learning and online courses are essential for graphic designers to remain relevant and successful.


Success Story from My Own Creative Community

Juliana Sampaio is an invaluable designer who achieved a groundbreaking career with Attentive Mobile right after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2020, during the peak of Covid and high unemployment rates. Juliana’s exceptional networking skills were pivotal in landing her dream job, as she relied on her close-knit community to support her in finding her true creative calling.

Juliana Sampaio is a Strategic Design Manager at Attentive.

With her bachelor’s degree in hand, Juliana quickly became a critical member of Attentive Mobile’s design department, leveraging her expertise in visual design to help the company grow and succeed. In less than two years, Juliana has been promoted twice, a testament to her talent, hard work, and leadership skills.

As a design manager, Juliana is irreplaceable to her team, using her eye for detail and creative vision to develop innovative design strategies and deliver top-quality work. Her colleagues and superiors recognize her as a true design expert, someone who consistently exceeds expectations and brings a unique perspective to every project she works on.

In the competitive world of design, Juliana stands out as an exceptional talent, and her success is a testament to her dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Her story is an inspiration to aspiring designers, reminding them that with hard work, talent, and a strong network, anything is possible in the world of design (want to connect with her to know more? here you go!)

In conclusion, landing your first design job can be challenging, but by following these tips and putting in the hard work, you can position yourself for success. Remember, your first job is just the beginning of your design journey, and it is essential to keep learning, growing, and exploring new areas of design. Good luck!


Article written by Richa Mishra.

This post contains affiliate links to partner brands. We earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase. There is no extra cost to you, so it’s just a nice way to help support the site.

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