Jen here! Over a year ago now I recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Communication and have now been lucky enough to be working with Sail for just under a year. I remember my final year being filled with tonnes of excitement to finally finish but also full of anxiety about going into the design world.

To make sure I was ready before graduating, I completed various steps to help me feel prepared but also enable me to stand out from other students. Doing these steps helped me to get into the design industry and be where I am today!

So here are my top 10 tips for students to be industry ready:

1.  Brand yourself

Agencies are looking for designers who look professional, know the subject, and produce work to a high quality standard.

How to get started…..

  • Find your name, use your personal or create a name.
  • Design a logo with branding.
  • Get feedback!!!
  • Create a website, Instagram account, Behance or LinkedIn.

2.  Use industry software

There’s nothing worse then starting a job and not having a clue what they are talking about or how to use it.

How to get started…..

  • Figma – many agencies won’t use XD.
  • Monday – cloud-based platform software that allows agencies/users to create their own applications and project managements.
  • Slack – messaging app with different channels.
  • Toggl – time tracking and project management.
  • Notion – think, write, and plan. Helps capture thoughts, manage projects and can run entire companies.
  • Miro – visual platform to connect, collaborate, and create. Mainly used with clients in workshops.

3.  Put yourself out there

Get in touch with agencies, creative communities, events, host workshops and offer to volunteer. 

How to get started…..

  • Creative Communities – take part in events in the North East, many are free and a great chance to meet designers. Look at Ladies Wine & Design, North East Times Magazine and Sail events.
  • Build relationships – get to know people in the industry, it’s a small world and it’s easy to say hello.
  • Email agencies – Ask about jobs, internships and work experience. If they have nothing currently, still ask about having a chat and a portfolio review.

4.  Portfolio reviews

Don’t always see feedback as a negative, I know portfolios can feel precious but it’s important to get feedback from agencies / designers who see portfolios daily.

How to get started…..

  • Email agencies – Ask for a coffee and a chat to talk through your portfolio.
  • Many agencies might not have a job to offer but they’re more then likely to give feedback on your portfolio.
  • I had more then 12 portfolio reviews from different agencies and designers!

5.  stand out

Agencies are constantly seeing portfolios and CVs, so it’s important to stand out, be remembered and get recognised. Make each application bespoke and tailored to the agency.

How to get started…..

  • Creative CV – Use your design knowledge and create a CV that’s exciting, think about making a zine, creating a story or sending physical work to agencies.
  • Websites – Don’t just show off your work, show off your design, show agencies you have an understanding of UX and Ui.
  • Portfolio – Could you create a magazine, zine or book to send to agencies as well as having a digital copy.
  • Create 2! – Have a sample / preview portfolio and then a full portfolio. Make sure they contain work that specifically relates to the agency.

6.  carry a sketchbook

It may be a digital world but it all starts with a pen and paper.

How to get started…..

  • Write down thoughts, ideas, references and inspiration.
  • Sketch logo ideas and don’t restrict yourself.
  • Design moments happen at the most random times, you never know when you might need to record an idea.

7.  Collaborate

Employers want a team player. Collaborate, share ideas and work together. 

How to get started…..

  • Look at collaborating with another student in your class or on another course.
  • Share your work with other designers and get their input by talking through ideas.
  • Post your work online and get involved in the creative communities.

8.  use social media

Social media is a main focus for clients now, so if your own isn’t up to scratch, they might not trust you with their own brand.

How to get started…..

  • Instagram – Make sure your Instagram is up to date and professional.
  • LinkedIn – Create an account, follow agencies, like creative work, it’s a great way to prove your interest.
  • Get in touch with small businesses and ask if you can create social media templates for them.
  • Post high quality photos, it doesn’t always have to be the final product, sketches and ideas work too.

9.  Value people’s time

Be patient, polite and say thank you.

Many agencies are super busy but if they email you back saying they can’t stop for a chat, still say thank you and  you appreciate them getting back in touch.

Being polite and saying thank you, might encourage them to put you in touch with people in their network.

10.  ask questions

Constantly ask your tutor questions, other designers or agencies. Show your interests and that you are eager to learn.


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