Landing Your First Design Job: Advice from Industry Leaders


Attention, recent grads. It’s a great time to pursue work in the design industry. Demand for creative talent is high, and employers are vying to hire those with in-demand skills.

And the work is more interesting, too. More than half (53 percent) of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they feel like jobs in their industry are more appealing to those entering the field than the positions were three years ago.

We’re in an era of global marketing, with ample professional opportunities for those with the right skills. But you can’t approach your job search blindly. The Creative Group reached out to a few industry leaders to get their advice on how to land that all-important first design job. Here are some key take-aways.

design jobPhoto by Baim Hanif on Unsplash

Andy Brenits

President of the Board of Directors at InSource, a professional association for in-house creative leadership and management

Tell people you’re looking. Yes, it’s that simple. Don’t blast it on social media or bulk email your entire contact list. Instead, reach out individually to people you know well, and ask them to keep their eyes and ears open for you. Call someone on the phone and talk to them. Better yet, ask to meet for coffee or lunch, and talk about what kind of work you want to do.

Use LinkedIn. Look up the companies you want to work for, and LinkedIn will show you your connections who work there. Then reach out.

Stay engaged. Activity breeds activity. While you’re looking for that full-time gig, get out and do some freelance or on-site contract work. Keeping busy will lead to more work, which grows your network and increases the possibility of hearing about the next opportunity.

Amy Balliett

Cofounder and CEO of Killer Infographics, a visual communication agency

Make sure your online portfolio is up to date and leads with your best work. Most hiring managers look at a portfolio before a resume. Some will even hire designers without degrees and with little job experience simply because their portfolios show a great understanding of illustration, layout and typography. If you have a great portfolio, it will speak volumes.

Highlight your versatility. If you’re a creative who can design, animate and maybe even code, make that clear right away in the email you send a prospective employer. As the need for visual content grows, employers are avidly seeking skilled professionals who can deliver more than just one aspect of design.

Lead with accountability. When interviewing, let prospective employers know you will be accountable to client needs, timelines, budgets and your boss’s expectations. Blaming others for past failures, is a big red flag for any hiring manager. Instead, be honest about your occasional slips and what you’ve learned from them. Celebrate mistakes. Don’t hide from them.

Alex Center

Founder at CENTER, a design and branding company

Be someone who’s a pleasure to work with. Always remember: Attitude over skills. Graduating designers are often preoccupied with showcasing their technical talents. But employers are looking for great people, not just great skill sets. Designers who have the right energy, enthusiasm, intelligence and willingness to learn have an edge over someone who can make a great clipping mask. Skills can be taught, but attitude is everything.

Cool creative jobs are out there, and employers are eager to hire talented graduates who will fit into their workplace culture. By following these design leaders’ advice, you’ll improve your chances of finding a position that’s just right for you.

design jobPhoto by Sydney Rae on Unsplash

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