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  • Writer's pictureAlex P.

A 10-Step Guide for Graphic Design Graduates Entering the Workforce.

Updated: Feb 2

Congratulations, young designer! As you step into the professional realm post-design school, whether it’s the corporate world or the exciting path of entrepreneurship, here’s a brief roadmap to help you thrive.

I graduated from RMCAD with a B.F.A. in graphic design in 2020, so I know just how challenging and daunting this time can be. This guide will lend a helping hand!

Graphic Designer graduate entering the workforce

Showcase your Work

Your portfolio is your design passport. Showcase various case studies, emphasizing your problem-solving skills and creative process. It's vital to not only show the "pretty" designs and mock-ups but the raw sketches and ideation phases as well. Tailor it to the industry you’re entering while maintaining your unique design voice. I highly highly recommend having your own website as well as social media pages so you can easily be found online! Adobe found my Instagram almost a year ago and reached out about a partnership because they liked the work I was putting out. Now I'm being compensated as a contractor to help with social media marketing while also getting invited to Adobe conventions where I connect with other creatives in the industry.

Brand designer website SEO optimized for graduates entering the workforce

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Be open to continuous learning. The design landscape is constantly evolving, so stay curious and adapt. Seek feedback on your work from colleagues, embrace challenges, and view failures as lessons and learning opportunities.


Network Strategically

Attend industry events, join design communities on social media, and connect with professionals in your field. Networking opens doors, provides mentorship opportunities, and offers insights into the industry’s nuances. Grow from those around you and lean into the expertise they're willing to share.


Master the Programs

Stay updated on the latest design tools and softwares for your specific niche. Proficiency in these tools will enhance your marketability and efficiency, whether you’re working for a corporation or building your entrepreneurial venture.


Create Passion Projects

Understand that not every client project will be a glamorous design case study. Real-world projects often involve constraints - especially when kicking off your career. Balancing creativity with practicality and crafting work for fictitious clients in your spare time will help you discover your style, build a strong (and cohesive) portfolio, and attract real-paying clients.

Brand designer who recently graduated and entered the workforce. Project for a creative bakery

This is a passion project I created for a fictitous client that ended up landing me a new client!

Embrace Collaboration

Design is a collaborative effort, whether you're working a project for your boss or working one for a personal client. Learn to communicate your ideas clearly and be open to feedback. Ultimately, you are the expert and your opinion matters but collaborating with colleagues, clients, or team members will enhance the quality of your work and foster a positive work environment.


Stay Updated on Industry Trends

Design trends evolve, and staying ahead of the curve is crucial. Follow design blogs (like this one hehe), attend webinars, be active on social media, and subscribe to industry publications to stay informed about the latest developments. Keeping up with Adobe and their work is an incredible way to stay in the loop.


Consider Entrepreneurship

If entrepreneurship beckons, plan meticulously... but also, follow your gut. I spent 6 miserable months in the full-time corporate design world before pursuing my own path. I learned the ins and outs on someone else's dime and it helped me establish what I wanted out of my own personal business.

Key takeaways; understand your niche, identify your target audience, and develop a unique value proposition. Entrepreneurship requires a blend of creativity, resilience, and business acumen.

Social Media marketing from a graduate who entered the workforce. Brand photoshoot

Financial Literacy Matters

Whether you’re freelancing or working for a company, understand the financial aspects of your work. Negotiate fair compensation, budget your projects effectively, and save for the future. If you're pursuing entrepreneurship, it's vital to understand how long your services take you to complete so that you can accurately quote your clients from the get-go and leave them feeling that you respected their budget.

HUGE TIP: If you can avoid working hourly, DO IT. Quoting your clients a lump sum at the beginning of the project will make for smooth sailing and less interjection from their end. Take it from someone who started out charging hourly - I had too many projects to count go over the set hours and was essentially working for free. #neveragain


Take Care of Your Well-being

Lastly, the design world can be demanding. Prioritize your mental and physical well-being. Establish a healthy work-life balance, practice self-care, implement morning routines, and don’t hesitate to seek support when needed.


Remember, this journey through business and life is uniquely yours. Stay true to your passion, embrace challenges, and enjoy the adventure of shaping the visual landscape in your own, distinct way. The world deserves your uniqueness as a determined graduate entering the workforce!

Here's to unlocking fresh possibilities, from your favorite brand designer ❤


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