7 Pivotal Career Guidelines for Design Students

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Thousands of design students graduate each year looking for careers in design industry, little knowing what the industry is actually about.

The design industry, especially graphic and we design industry, is not just about your artistry or your designing sense. It is much much more than just ‘designing‘. What is it about then? That’s what this article is about.

In the 21st century, the market has become almost supersaturated. Hundreds of designers graduate each year and there are other passionate designers who dive into the market without a specialist degree. After all, clients don’t ask for degrees.

In such a scenario, the first thing we need to be able to do is support ourselves and our families before we can start dreaming like Michelangelo or Steve Jobs. Being able to support yourself is the first step in the journey of your career. And you know what they say, first step is always the hardest.

Today, I wanna make this first step easy for you.

Before go deep into the subject, one thing needs clarification. It doesn’t really matter if you want to start your own business or if you’d like to have a permanent job and stick with it. The fact is that designers usually have to go through both during their careers. So I’m writing this article keeping in mind that you must equipped for entrepreneurship as well as good old fashioned jobs.

Technical Skills

This article is divided into two parts. The first part contains the technical aspects of the trade which you would have learned in your college days, but I’m restating them because these are the points that beginning designers sometimes forget to emphasize on, and pay later.

Learn problem solving

There was a time when designing was all about artistry but these days it’s about science. The target is not to “create something beautiful” rather create something that works.

Design is not just how it looks like and feels like, design is how it works.” -Steve Jobs

These days, delivering a better user experience and improving conversion rate matter more than creating a gorgeous design.

How do you deliver a better user experience? How do you create interactivity? How do you make a design that works? It all boils down to problem solving skills. If you can take a problem and find its solution, you can do well in design business.

For this reason, you need yourself to be an artist at the heart but a scientist at the brain.

To make your brain a scientist, you can play problem solving games on Brilliant.org or Brain Food. You can also google to find other websites.

Lose your fears

You know what is human’s biggest fear? It’s not pain, it’s not even death, it’s failure! Knowing that you did the best you could and you still couldn’t do it… that hurts. That really hurts.

But…

Originality

To live a creative life we must loose our fear of being wrong.

Self Doubt and Creativity

fail-better-quote

These pictures were taken from our mighty collection of design quotes and sayings that we published last year.

Even failure has its benefits. In fact, we learn more from our failures than we learn from our successes. If you have an idea but just because your boss or your colleague, your friends, anyone or everyone thinks it wouldn’t work… that doesn’t mean you should not pursue it.

Discover your specialization

Beginning designers often try to become jack of all trades which really hurts their career. A single day doesn’t pass when I don’t see a LinkedIn profile or a resume that goes something like this:

Jack of all trades resume

Nobody wants Henson. When the HR managers encounter a resume like the above one, they think that the person is confused and certainly not good at anything.

What people want to hire is a person that seems extremely good and experienced at one thing. Designing is too broad, how about web design? It is still too big a category. Go further, how about responsive web designing or designing for web apps? That sounds better.

Find your niche. Here are some niche examples:

  • Corporate logo designing
  • OOH media designs
  • Portfolio web designing
  • Interactive web apps

There can be a humongous list of design niches out which you can choose. But I’m not gonna make that list because I think you should not choose your career niche from a list I make. You should ask this question to your heart, which niche would suit you the most.

You can try with a few niches and discover your talents. If you are at the beginning or your career, you can afford to experiment.

As good as your competition

I think it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said that a man is only as good as his competition. Whether you like the general or not, this quote is 100% true. Consider that the best of the industry is your competition. Not your colleague, not your senior but the best of the industry.

This hunger, this passion will keep you going in the difficult times. You need this passion more than anything else.

Business and Management Skills

Now we have come to the part that is usually not emphasized enough and this is where designers usually lose the game, especially entrepreneurs and freelancers.

You need more than just technical skills to succeed in this industry, or any industry.

Even if you are a highly talented person but you don’t have the following skills, you have almost no chance of surviving. However, if you are just moderately talented but you pay attention to the following, all those highly talented people will be working under you one day.

Non-verbal Interpersonal Communication

It’s amazing how much communication we make without uttering a word. Our facial expressions, body posture, dressing, perfume, accessories and everything else speak for us. There’s a saying in communication studies: You cannot not communicate!

non-verbal communication

It’s very very very very very important to understand non-verbal communication. Being a designer, it is almost religiously important for you to know this because your whole craft is based on non-verbal communication. You have to understand the how colors affect the mind and how fonts affect the mind and how anything else affects the mind of the user. You have to know this.

Non verbal communication is a huge subject. I may write an independent article about it, but for now, you can have a look at this awesome video.

Your non-personal communication is what gets you hired. This is the type of communication that makes the client pay you more money for the same task that someone else could do in less.

When your non-personal communication meets with your interpersonal communication, that’s when you start to make really good money.
Little things such as subtle nods, wearing a watch, color of your laptop bag and such little details actually make or break the game.

Public relation skills

The science of public relations is much more than just making contacts. It is about making a good image of your brand. In your case, YOU are the brand.

PR is also about publicity. Mind you, this is not advertising, publicity is free!

PR helps your business to grow its roots strong. PR is what can make you famous. Here’s a video I selected to share with you.

Management skills

Management skills include the basic set of skills that every human being should have. This set of skills includes basic communication skills so you can not only convey your mind but understand the other. You should also learn bits and bytes of HR skills because these skills will teach you whom to be partner with and how to keep your partnership. HR skills also help us understand how HR managers think and when we are in an interview, we can understand what does the HR manager wants to know when he asks a particular question.

Of course, you also need time management skills. Every person on earth should have this set of skills but sadly, only a tiny segment of us have grasp on these skills. Only this tiny segment is the one who rules in each walk of life.

Summing it up

It’s getting lengthy so I think I should conclude the article now. However, if you’d like to hear my say on any of these topics in detail, you can contact me on Designzzz Facebook page or shoot me an email. I always reply 🙂

Getting back to the topic, here’s a revision.

  1. Improve your problem solving skills: designing has become more of a science so you need to be able to solve problems like a scientist.
  2. Be fearless: because the one, who never tried, never won.
  3. Find your specialization: select one niche and make it your slave. Specialization is the key to making a name of you in this extremely saturated market.
  4. Aim for the skies: your competition must the best of the game. Only this attitude will take you places.
  5. Pay attention to nonverbal communication: this is the channel we communication from. This is the channel each designer must master.
  6. PR is the key to entrepreneurship: without excellent PR skills, you can never be successful in your own business. But, PR skills come highly useful even if you work in jobs and don’t have your own business. You still need your good image.
  7. A set of management skills: success is impossible without these basic management skills. Your time management, essential level communication skills and HR skills will get you hired quickly. They will also help you to be more productive with less effort.

That’s it. I hope you found the article useful. I’ll be waiting for your feedback. See you tomorrow.

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