With internships being canceled and job offers being rescinded, 2020 graduates might be off to a rocky start. Our Summer design intern, Delaney Pfeiffer, is a recent grad and had some questions for our design team on how to navigate the beginning of her career. Read the full interview below as our Art Director, Shane O’Brien (SO), and Digital Content Designer, Stevie Gould (SG), answer all of Delaney’s queries about portfolios, freelancing, and what exactly should be on your resume.
1. As a graphic designer, would you say working remotely is easier or not?
I think it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but I prefer it. The positives are the ability to spread out a bit, have all your things readily available to you, there is zero commute time, and the temperature is always to my personal preference. The negatives are missing out on the silliness that ensues daily just by being in proximity to work friends, the office provides things that I now have to own (like a printer, a nice desk chair, external monitor, etc.) and the snacks used to be free!
But I find that once you have all the procedures in place, you can do anything. There are more video chats, but they work almost as well as in-person conversations. All in all, it has a feeling of greater freedom and autonomy that I think anyone can get behind.
As Shane was saying, I think this depends on what kind of person you are. I can’t say I agree that working from home is always my favorite! Being a social person like myself, you start to miss interacting with coworkers and building those relationships. I tend to work heavily with other members of our team and rely on daily communication to make sure deadlines are met. If you put proper protocols in place while working from home, then communication is easy, but when you have a team like ours, trust me, you want to go into the office.
2. How do you organize your daily workload?
I think this is a tough question to answer because everyone deals with time management differently. I am always looking at what is due that day and then what is due the rest of the week. This allows me to determine what I should be working on first—maybe it’s the largest project that is due at the end of the week, or maybe it’s due in a few hours that needs to be wrapped up. But the better you can stay on top of what is coming up, the better you can organize your time and make sure everything gets the effort it deserves.
ASANA ASANA ASANA! If you are a designer, you are working with deadlines. That much is known. Asana helps me stay organized and track my time efficiently. I highly recommend it whether you are working with a team or going solo because it keeps all your tasks and deadlines in one place. At the end of the day, it never hurts to be five steps ahead.
3. What’s some key advice I can give to my recently graduated graphic design friends as they are looking for jobs in this climate?
- Create a portfolio you are proud of. Only fill it with the work you love and want to do. Don’t just put in things you think people want to see or you don’t like doing or you will almost certainly find yourself doing that work.
- Hunt. And I mean really hunt for jobs. Pretend that is your new job and find every job opportunity page you can find on the internet and put yourself out there. Finding a job is usually a numbers game. Use craigslist. I’ve found some odd jobs through there over the years and sometimes that’s what helps pay the bills.
- Put together a resume that can set you apart. Make it black and white with your information very clear, easy to read, and take in quickly. If you need to use a template, do that! And then update it to suit you. No need to reinvent the wheel here.
- Network. Reach out to businesses and agencies you would like to work for. Even if they don’t seem to have any openings. Sometimes you can find yourself in the right place at the right time and then other times they may even know about a place they can recommend you for. The more people you know, the easier it will be to find a job.
My advice would be to reach out to those in your community and search for conferences, groups, and meetups in your area that serve creatives. It never hurts to attend these kinds of events to meet like-minded people and get to know what other designers are doing so that you can set yourself apart.
Another tip I have is to research companies that you are interested in and reach out to someone at the company over LinkedIn. You should ask them if you can buy them a coffee. This is your chance to talk to them about their work and more than likely, they will return the favor and ask about yours. You might not walk away with a job, but you will be on their mind if they start to look for a graphic designer—and it doesn’t hurt if you learned something in the process!
4. Talk to me about the experience of freelancing versus being on staff somewhere.
I think the only real downsides to being a freelancer vs a designer in-house or at an agency is the consistent paycheck and (this one is more a personal issue) having to promote yourself for new clients. Other than that, freelancing allows you to set your own, well, everything: timelines, payment, schedule, etc.
I prefer being an in-house designer. People underestimate the luxuries of being a part of a team and working together on projects. Everyone has a role. It teaches you to work seamlessly with others, and it allows you to learn from those around you. I ran into difficulties when I started my design career as a freelancer because I didn’t have someone to ask for advice. Ultimately, I felt like I could learn more effectively and create better work when I had access to constructive criticism.
5. What should be on my resume? What can be left out?
These are my recommendations:
- Have your name, phone number, email address, and portfolio link top of the page. If nothing else you want people to look at your portfolio.
- I find putting a short “about” section gives employers a preview of who you are as a person and if they think you’ll be a good culture fit.
- List your 3-4 most recent positions and never more than that. If you are going to put descriptions with all of them, only put 3. If they want to know more you can always fill them in later.
- Write about any recognition or awards that you’ve been given in a designated “awards” section.
- Have your education or training present on your resume. If you’ve been to college then there is no need for your high school to be listed.
The only thing I have to say for this one is to add hyperlinks in your resume and save it as an interactive PDF. That way it is more likely a recruiter sees your portfolio and social media accounts because the links are already in your resume!
6. What’s the best way to present your portfolio for interviews?
Digitally. We live in a digital world. Because of that, no one is looking for you to bring anything in and present it yourself. People want to be able to visit a website that showcases not only the work that you do but also represents who you are as a person and as a designer.
I agree with Shane. That being said, bring your laptop. Do not assume that they will have your portfolio pulled up during the interview. Also, bring a few hard copies of your resume just in case.
7. How would you compare the experience of working in a smaller company versus that of a larger corporation?
I could go either way. Both have their pros and cons. I have found myself more often working for smaller companies. I like the ability to do more of the work and have found that these places will quite often give you chances that larger companies may not be willing or able to give you.
On the other hand, a larger company will have more positions/more people and this allows you to focus more on the one thing that you’re good at vs having to do possibly lots of different jobs at a smaller company. It’s trial and error in trying to find a place where you will feel comfortable. I’ve enjoyed my time in both large and small companies.
I prefer a smaller company. They tend to give you a more versatile workload and the opportunity to learn new skills from time to time. It has made me a more well-rounded designer because I can express things that I’m interested in trying and have the advantage of experimenting with them.
Smaller companies also eliminate the long chain of command you might have to go through just to talk to someone about those interests. It makes me feel like an asset to the team for my skills and for who I am.
8. Is it better to stick to one design style that you know you’re good at or to expand outside of that even if you may not be your best work?
I saw a post the other day by @jackrdesign on Instagram and he talks about how you should stop trying to find your style and just make stuff. This is because your style fits in the middle of your vision and your ability. As you practice and improve your ability, and practice good design thinking your style will follow.
That said, if you find something that you’re good at, use it to your advantage. If you can stick to the one style you’re skilled at then that’s amazing! But I find that most designers—especially when they are first starting out—are going to be working in many different styles that they may only be “ okay” at. This allows them to get better at those styles and may even create the desire to evolve one of those previously less refined styles into “your” style.
I agree! In our industry, working with different styles is necessary. Since we work for different clients, we have to adapt our designs and work within the bounds they might set for us. This is not always the easiest task, but it’s rewarding because you might discover styles that you never knew you liked! It pushes you to be creative.
Thanks, Shane and Stevie!