Top tips for graduates
It’s that time of year when graduates put up their shows, pack up their portfolios and head off in pursuit of their dreams. Only it’s not as fun as it sounds. Back in 1989, before the Internet was invented to do research or mobile phones were around to call mum and dad for emergency travelling money, I remember schlepping around London looking for work. It was not fun. In the words of Withnail “Four floors up on the Charing Cross Road, and never a job at the top of them.”
So, what follows are a few tips from designers and others at jkr who have been down the road you are setting out on. Lots of common sense advice, I hope it helps you achieve your dreams.
Here is my own tip: The meeting has gone well. But “Sorry, I would love to give you a job, we just don’t have a position to offer right now.” Don’t take this and leave. They rate you, yes? They just said so. Ask them who they know, who they would recommend you to go and see. Ask (politely) if they will call this person for you. Explain you are in town for another day, and train tickets cost cash you lack. Strike while the iron is hot. That’s how I got my first job. Thank you Phil Wong for making the call.
Here is some more advice…
“I look for two main qualities. Firstly, ideas… lots of ideas, different (but relevant!) ideas, ideas I haven’t thought of, ideas from different angles. Secondly, I look for enthusiasm! Graduates should be full off enthusiasm about their work and their future. I am looking for someone who will bring a buzz to the studio & I can imagine myself enjoying working with.” Della Lawrence, Design Partner
“Firstly, look keen and interested in the agency you are interviewing for. Why do you want to work there rather than anywhere else? Secondly, don’t make out that you are better than everybody else, even if you are. Be humble.” Adam Swan, Designer
“Don’t forget to show us who you are! It’s not only great work that we are looking for but also the person behind it. Use interviews and placements as an opportunity to really show people who you are as a person, your fun side, your creative side, and your talkative side. Don’t be shy, just be you!” Donna Trist, Design Director
“Be unique…make your application memorable to the receiver.” Diana Campbell, Studio Manager
“Beat the rush. After a frantic end to the term, it’s easy to think you deserve a break. Lots of my colleagues did and still managed to get placements resulting in work, however those of us who got out there first certainly seemed to have an easier time of it. Trains back and forth to London were expensive, so I used the afternoon downtime from putting up the New Blood show to have a couple of interviews and get the ball rolling. Companies are keen to recruit juniors almost every year and, as much as it is generally a myth, will always assume those first graduates who are being offered work by their peers will be the best. So if you want to have a chance at working for the best agencies, make sure you’re on the boat.” Sean Thomas, Design Director
“Research any company you’re going to, as it gives you something to talk about in an interview. Prepare yourself to use any placements as a short period to shine. Be nice because no one likes a w****r.” Isaac Sodipo, Designer
1. If you have redesigned something show the original design along with yours.
2. Bring along any examples of physical packaging that are out there that you have produced.
3. Remember the sketches and other thoughts – not just the finished product.”
Sean Harvey, Design Director
“If you’re interviewing for jkr, why do you want to work in branded packaging? What is your favourite current piece of branded packaging? Which piece of work in your portfolio do you feel relates to branded packaging? (If you don’t have one, maybe create one). We often interview graduates who say they desperately want to work for jkr but have a portfolio full of photography projects, stamps and grungy posters.” Martin Francis, Design Director
“Be special. In a sea of A stars and gap years work out what it is that sets you apart from other candidates. Then present it in a distinctive way. It could be something about your experience, your interest in the sector or a particular passion or hobby. Then find a way to share it that is memorable either visually in the presentation of your CV or in your written communication.” Hannah Sanders, Client Director
“Placements are stepping stones, not holes. I thought it was all about getting a job. In effect, a two-week job interview. Make or break for your confidence. But it’s not. It’s much more than that. It’s also a unique opportunity. It’s probably the first and last time in your career that you will be able to sample so many different places with such minimal consequence. I wish I’d realised this earlier and used it to my advantage. I had no idea what type of design was going to suit me best. On reflection, I could have structured my placements to ensure that I visited completely different types of companies; one branding, one packaging, one interactive etc. In turn, this would have helped to point me in the right direction when looking for a job.” Gus Cook, Designer