Why networking is more important than your bachelors degree or diploma
I congratulate you for being armed with a shiny, new arsenal of skills that you’re ready to put to use. Yes, completing University or College is indeed a huge achievement (assuming you actually attended) but is only really the beginning. Have you ever asked yourself what it takes to get your dream job as a designer straight out of school? That piece of paper is a fundamental step on the journey and will certainly be an asset you can leverage. However, even more important are the people you know and the experience you gain while you’re already studying. The sooner you start building industry relevant relationships, the better your chances are of being considered when a role is open.
Just before I graduated from college I saturated my local market of advertising and creative agencies with my resume and portfolio; however, I never got a call back. Feeling discouraged and rejected, I blamed it on not yet completing college. Then I realized something: The job that I currently had (as a graphic designer without a degree) was because I knew the Marketing Manager from a previous job! I’ve been offered the position for every job I applied for since. How? I joined a professional organization and focused on networking and leveraging the people that I knew.
WHERE YOU CAN START:
Let’s first talk about getting professional experience while studying. The best way to beef up your resume and to earn some professional “street cred” is to take on internships (paid or unpaid). Many times these internships are unpaid for college credit. Your ‘Career Services’ office can help you qualify for an internship or simply contact as many design studios or creative agencies direct to open the conversation. Ask them, what are the steps you need to take to come in for some work experience and go from there.
TAKING ON INTERNSHIPS WHILE STUDYING SHOWS A POTENTIAL EMPLOYER THREE THINGS:
1. You know how to manage your time with school and an internship
2. You take initiative in improving your educational and professional development
3. You’re passionate.
These are three great qualities to have coming out of the gate. On top of that, internships aren’t only primarily for hands on experience. Equally as important (if not more so) is the exposure to career mentors and meeting industry creatives who have large professional networks they can refer you to in the future.
ALL IS FAIR IN LOVE AND EMPLOYMENT (SAID NO-ONE EVER):
No matter how talented you are, no matter how smart you are and no matter how creative you are, the fact is you aren’t moving forward as fast and as effectively as the person who knows the right people. The sooner you accept that networking will improve your chances of having your resume pushed to the top of the pile and in front of the Creative Director, the sooner you’ll be paid for doing what you love.
“In today’s competitive job market, we’re seeing older, more experienced workers taking pay cuts and entry level jobs (the jobs usually reserved for you) to ensure their financial security” (Rapacon, Stacy. How Grads Compete in the Job Market. http://www.kiplinger.com).
So whoyou know is more important than ever!
HERE ARE A FEW HOT TIPS:
- NEVER burn a bridge with an employer. NOT EVER:
Past employers are key in finding new employment. Former colleagues and supervisors offer the most comprehensive review of your abilities, work ethic and professionalism. Plus, you can use them to help you get your foot in the door to other companies too (trust me, they know all the right people, it’s a small world).
- Join a professional organization and GET INVOLVED—even while you’re studying:
There is a professional organization for virtually every single profession out there, from accounting to basket weaving. You’ll find a great organization (especially for Graphic Designers and Creatives) to help you meet other professionals. Most professional organizations have student memberships which can help you save big bucks, and also get you in touch with current industry professionals. Join as a student and be active at your school. Plus, it’s a great little bonus to add to your resume. If you take part in your school’s student group/chapter for the organization, you can use that as professional experience on your resume.
- Keep in touch with Teachers and Instructors after you graduate:
If you had a great relationship with an instructor while in school, they can be helpful in pointing you in the right direction or to the right person when you’re looking for a job. Educators want to see their students succeed, so they’ll help you out in ways that you never imagined!
- Join LinkedIn and keep your profile up to date:
It’s your online resume. Get people to endorse your skills, write recommendations for you and connect with everyone you came in contact with in school. Other students will also help to build your professional network too, so make sure to connect with them. A lot of employers will recruit from LinkedIn. If you’ve got a great profile page and good endorsements, that could help you to land a job.
So keep you’re eyes and ears open for networking opportunities while you enjoy the conceptual and technical craft. Be the chess player, not the chess piece. Your degree alone isn’t going to get the job for you. It takes a village.
What other small tips can you share that has helped you network?
For more, pick up a copy of Ram Castillo’s internationally and industry-acclaimed book ‘How to Get a Job as a Designer, Guaranteed’.
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About Kate: Kate Wight has been a professional graphic designer and design advocate for over 15 years. In her various roles, she strives to help emerging designers make their mark on the design community. She resides in Denver, CO with her husband and goldendoodle. www.aiga.org
Image purchased from: www.shutterstock.com
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