Freshman: How to break into the graphic design industry

I have been in discussion as of late with a few graduates that are looking for their first job in the design industry. The most common comment i received was the fact employers advertise for freshman but expect experience. Being in the same position myself many years ago, i formulated a range of tactics to land my first job, which i eventually cracked as a freshman before i even graduated! I was a step ahead of my class mates, and i attribute this to my career achievements.
So how does one break into the graphic design industry as a freshman?? Read on.


Do you remember in high school when you went out and did work placement at a business of interest to you, FREE of wage? Well, same principle applies. Approach businesses asking if you can work for them for a short period of time, for FREE. This is the quickest way to gain experience and see how things work outside of design school. Although it won’t pay the bills, you will acquire much needed EXPERIENCE and referees for you resume! (I will cover that a little later). Out of this free experience, you will also land yourselves contacts within the design industry that may just offer you a job if one arises. WIN WIN!


Same principle as work experience, except you offer your design talents to actual clients. I am talking charities, fund raisers, local sporting events etc. You know, those not-for-profit organisations that could really lend a hand. Again, work for free but trade your free services for a testimonial from your new not-for-profit client. Not only will this testimonial help with your credibility, but it can also be used in your RESUME to impress future employers. Your not-for-profit client will also more than likely give you some exposure publicly for supporting their cause; again fantastic for your reputation – which will in turn help you to become hired (see where i am going with this?).


Now you have some work experience and volunteer work under your belt (as well as some references and testimonials from these experiences), it is time to craft your resume. A well designed resume will not only show off your skills, but it will grab attention away from other job applicants if done correctly.
I have found giving an employer 1 document, containing everything they need is more successful than sending 3 separate documents. Put yourself in the employers shoes for a moment: would you rather (a) open 1 document or (b) open 3 seperate documents, waiting for  each to load before you can read through? I hope you chose option a. Time is money so you don’t want to ruin your chances with a multi attachment email now do you?
So what to include in your resume?
First page – Cover letter
On the first page, individually address the position you are applying for and why you are a good fit for the job – don’t send out a generic cover letter as many employers will not read past it!
Proceeding pages – Resume Content

  • Personal Details
  • Career objective (ie. what you want to achieve through employment)
  • Qualifications
  • Any awards (even if you acquired these at Design School, It still counts)
  • Software knowledge (eg, what programs you are competent in using)
  • Work History (include non graphic design jobs if you are yet to land one, include volunteer work and work experience
  • Work description (Key points of experience for each job)
  • References and testimonials

Last page – Sample Folio
Include 3 (and no more) examples of your best work. Add a link to your online portfolio and mention that a FULL PORTFOLIO will be presented at an interview. This way, your folio is a teaser so make sure you put your best pieces forward. Having only 3 also keeps the file size of the email down!


I mentioned above that you only supply a teaser with your resume and supply a full folio at your interview. This is so you can chat to the interviewer about the contents in the folio, show of the different areas of your skills and answer any questions they might have. Having a hard copy folio is also good as it gives a professional impression to your employer. Having a book to touch and hold it better than handling a USB sick and mucking around loading drivers, scanning for viruses etc. etc.
So there you have it –

© Studio: tiffany gouge