Our generations are more career focussed than ever. But, how do we stand out?

Don’t be a University Snob
Don’t choose your university by rank alone. I attended Loughborough University’s BA Graphic Communication course.

What is Loughborough?  I get that a lot.  I chose my university because of its ranking. However, Loughborough has connections with London agencies; and I am loyal to the North.

"It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be."

Paul Adren

Recently graduated?
Congrats! This is only the beginning. Let grit determine your success. It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be (can’t really argue with the words of Paul Arden, ex-creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi). It’s also who you know. If you don’t know anyone in the industry, reach out to designers in your area. Network, collaborate, ask for advice. Put a face to your name and become more than a number on a job application. Be bold because shy bairns get nout.

Continually educate yourself. Borrow books, join Skillshare, watch Youtube, seek advice on forums. Never have we been so lucky to have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips.


Stalk your favourite designers (social media, obviously). Stay in touch with course mates – mine never fail to motivate and inspire (Becky, Sarah & Abbie – you go gals). Create work that challenges your abilities and starts conversations. Get off your ass and find real sources of inspiration. Make me care and make employers care. Don’t rest on your laurels because of that first class or upper second class degree.


Do your Research
Research agencies, and/or companies you want to join. Learn about their team, what they stand for and the type of work they produce. Ask yourself, what can I bring to their team? Does my work compliment theirs? Most importantly, ask, would I be happy working here? Appropriate your portfolio and tweak your work; your handwriting should match theirs. Now do something different to grab their attention. Personalisation is key.

Autumn leaves with a basket of eggs on top

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
It’s also about numbers. The more agencies and companies you contact, the more likely you are to get a response.


Rejection is character building
Unfortunately, competition is high, rejection is rife, and it really sucks. There is always going to be that one peer whose parents are designers, are averaging 80% and have already secured a job at a leading design agency (before you’ve even graduated).

If this isn’t you, and it probably isn’t – that’s fine. (It isn’t most of us).  But for god’s sake, don’t compare yourself. We’re all from different walks of life, use your experiences and identity to create authentic work. No-one else is you, your process is unique and that’s your strength.

Don’t let rejection put you off, let it fuel your drive for success. I’ve been rejected from 90% of design applications, ghosted by mentor services, and told my skill set is of no interest by creative recruitment agencies. Brutal.

Kat sat reading a design magazine

After a year of building a solid portfolio, an additional seven months of attempting to get my foot in the door, and having failed miserably, I thought I sucked. It was a low point – design is part of my identity. I felt alone and lost motivation. I quit.

A few weeks later I read an article about a successful Scottish illustrator’s career journey. I was surprised by their difficult and relatable experiences. I began to read about the failures of highly successful people. I began to design.

I designed personalised, bespoke die-cut flyers and sent them to a select number of North East agencies (agencies I actually wanted to work for).  After rejection upon rejection, I was contacted by multiple agency directors to meet for coffee and discuss my work. I made connections, I felt included. I began to reach out to other Northern freelancers and exchange experiences. I was overwhelmed by the response.


Life’s not always plain sailing
After graduation I was employed in an admin role – dull.
I left,
I worked for the government – dull.
I left,
I went back to the same admin role part time,
I learned bookkeeping and basic accounts analysis – dull.
I set up a LTD candle business,
I sold candles, paintings, planters and cuttings – it wasn’t profitable.
I made custom resin models and terrariums – it wasn’t profitable.
I freelanced:-
I designed logos for £20, I branded real companies for free. I learned how to design and build websites in my spare time. It wasn’t profitable – I was skint.

At 25 years old, 3 years post-graduation I landed my first temporary creative role at Sail. I no longer clock watch, I no longer design for free, I now enjoy going to work.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to reach your goals; keep going.

If I can do it, you can too.