Advice for graduates: what’s next?

Advice for students_Header image

Advice for graduates-to-be

Recently, Mandy, founder of Sail, did went to speak to the design students in York. Sail are passionate about empowering and inspiring young people, and are proud to be active in talking to people regarding the creative industry, the options and how to make it a career.

After graduating

The weeks before (and after) graduating can be daunting. It can cause self doubt, worry, questions, nerves – all of which we can assure you are normal! There is no simple answer in terms of what route you go down after graduating, there is no ‘creative careers manual’. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be the ‘traditional’ degree-portfolio-interview-job. This is your experience, and different routes work for different people. The possibilities and opportunities are in your hands. As a person, and a professional you will also change and grow over time. Your goals and what you want out of life may change too – this is okay. Nothing is forever. It also keeps it exciting.

Here is some of the advice we presented to the students at York. We presented and discussed points we thought were useful to know before graduating. Here they are:

1. Everyone is just a person, and started where you are right now
Everyone starts somewhere, it’s okay to be nervous (nerves are good and mean you are challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone), but don’t be intimidated. Everyone has been in your position. Use the opportunity from everyone you meet to learn too, you can learn from everyone.

2. Everybody gets creative block
We’ve all been there. Even after being in the industry for decades. We can’t be creative every second of the day. To reach that amazing idea is a process. When you get a new brief, it’s the ‘blank white paper syndrome’. If you come across creative block, use experience or try different things to find out what triggers your mind into creative mode. Maybe it’s completely coming away from the project and taking a walk, taking photos, watching a film, reading a book. If you can find your outlet – this will be a big help when you come across the dreaded creative block.

3. Keep a sketchbook
Sketchbooks are invaluable. Write notes, details ideas, draw, sketch – use it as a reference for your projects. A sketchbook will help you grow as a creative. It also helps you get ideas out of your head quickly. The Sketchnote Handbook is a great book on visual note taking.

4. Share your work
Employers want a team player. Working as a team and collaborating can reach excellent results. Collaboration offers ideas that you would never come up with alone. Try and start collaborating and sharing work with your peers. If this is too intimidating at first, start a blog and go from there. Austin Kleon, of Show Your Work has some useful tips.

5. Design is a process
Process can be messy. Use what works for you. At Sail, we have a framework that we follow to ensure we cover every element of a brief. A basic process to follow is research, sketch, feedback, refine, refine, refine, implement. But you may work differently, as you grow you will learn what works for you.

6. Always have a brief
This is integral to fully understand the task at hand. If you don’t have one, ask for one. If they don’t have one, write one, and get the client to sign it off, so you are both on the same page. Within this valuable document ask who, what, where, when. Keep it simple and concise so it is easy to refer to and so you don’t get side tracked with jargon.

7. Always question the brief
After you have the brief, pick it apart. This will help you to understand the problem that you have been commissioned to solve. Read it. Read it. Forget it. Read it again. Refer to it. Answer it. The solution to the problem often lies in the brief.

8. Make it wrong
Stop pursuing perfection. What is perfect anyway? Don’t always look for the obvious answer. Pursue the imperfect instead. Turn the brief on it’s head. See what happens.

9. The importance of research
Research is key to reaching the lightbulb idea. Research gives meaning, different perspective, and could inspire a concept you never would have reached without it. Use books, use people, use music, documentaries, anything relevant to the brief

10. Ideas don’t have to be ‘polished’
Sketches are the easiest and quickest way to get ideas out of your head. It gets your creativity flowing. It’s also an excuse to get away from a screen. You can also use sketches when presenting to clients.

11. People can’t see inside your head
Always explain the obvious and have reasons for your creative decisions. If you’ve done your research, this will be easy.

12. Prepare for tight deadlines
The difference between studying and the real world is that it’s very rare to have the comfort of a long deadline. Try and prepare yourself for quicker turnarounds. Give your project milestones so you have something to aim for.

13. Don’t be offended by criticism, understand it’s importance
Constructive (optimum word) criticism will help you learn, improve and grow. It’s important that your employer is positive whilst being constructive. We all have strengths and weaknesses and can’t be good at everything. Employers should nurture your strengths whilst supporting you to grow.

14. Don’t be scared of failure
Everyone will interpret a brief differently, don’t be afraid of that. It is a wonderful thing! And no idea is stupid. The most random ideas can turn into the bravest, which will stand out a mile:

“Far too often, playing it safe results in shiny, swirling, bland masses of ‘meh'”
Erik Kessells, author of Failed It.

15. Never stop learning
Inspiration is everywhere, look, listen and learn.

‘Seeing comes before words’
John Berger, Ways of Seeing

This will not change throughout your career. If anything it will become more relevant. You will grow, change, your work style may change, and you will see things differently. Embrace this.

16. Don’t rush, and above all, enjoy it!
It will take time to develop as you keep learning, don’t pressure yourself, take your time with the growth of your creative skills and mental outlook. Meet people as you go, pick up the phone to that person you aspire to, or want to work with and say ‘hello’ – this simple phrase can open up many doors. We’ve been there!

Believe in your talents, enjoy it, and good luck!

A few of our recommended books we have used along the way:

Failed It

Show Your Work

The Sketchnote Handbook

Don’t get a job…make a job

Know your onions

How to be a Graphic Designer without losing your soul

Receive updates