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Are you a designer looking to start your career in an agency?

Ok so you’ve made the decision to become a designer. Great! Now where do you start?

Whether you’re a design student, graduate or young professional, making your first steps into the world of design is not an easy task. We understand how overwhelming it can be trying to get your name out there, so we have complied our best advice on how to get your foot in the door.

Do your research

Our first piece of advice is to do your research. Understand what type of agency you want to work in e.g packaging, web design, graphic design and then look for agencies that specialise in that. Once you know the agency you are interviewing with, research them thoroughly. Visit their website/social media and understand how they work, their style and their approach so you are prepared for any questions they may ask you. There’s nothing worse than not knowing any of their clients if you are asked which you would like to work on..

Practice makes perfect 

All interviews are different, but you should still prepare for the standard interview questions – have your answers ready. If not all of them, at least prepare to tell them a bit about yourself and your studies. Agencies love it when you ask questions too, as this shows enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. Try to think of at least one question to engage with your interviewer. It may be the one thing that sticks in their mind when you leave and it’s a great way to start a conversation! If you are worried you may forget  questions or key points you want to cover, write them down in a notepad. This shows the agency just how prepared your are.

Think outside the box

Agencies are sent many CV’s/portfolios every day, meaning it’s vital to make sure yours stands out. Be different, be bold, be unique. Why not try hand delivering your CV or getting creative with the format? Make sure your portfolio is the bee’s knees! Agencies will always see your portfolio before they see you, so it really is the deciding factor on whether you get an interview. We recommend not just showing final execution but also showing development and how you got there. It’s important that all your skills are shown from thought generation to sketching to Mac visuals. Show no more than 8 pieces of your best work as anything more than that is design overload.

Don’t be late

This is a simple one but if you do get an interview, don’t be late. Unless you have a very very good excuse, being late will leave a bad impression for the duration of your interview. Make sure you are there at least 10 minutes early. If it’s a bit too early, find a coffee shop nearby and run through your notes whilst you wait. In London especially, there are factors such as tube delays that are beyond your control, so leave earlier than you should just in case. Your interviewer will have meetings and possibly other interviews that day so you do not want to be holding them up.

Leave a lasting impression

The first question the interviewer is asked when they walk back into the office is “how was that?” You need to have left the interview on good terms for them to say “They were great!” as opposed to “meh.” Be memorable – leave them with an interesting fact about yourself that they can share with the team.  An agency is always looking for someone that can fit culturally with the team and will be a great addition. It’s key that you are yourself in an interview as this is what they will base their decision on.

Come with an opening statement

When you’re waiting outside the room you’re going to interviewed in, understandably you may be a little nervous. That’s completely normal – take a deep breath and try to relax. If you’re worried you may not have anything to say, come prepared with an opening statement or question. It could be something you’ve seen on your way in? The office dog you’ve just spotted? Or simply about the weather that day? Be engaging.

Eagerness to learn 

We understand a graduate or design student’s work may not be perfect and will need moulding. That’s why you should always show your eagerness to learn. Talk us through your passion and love of design and why you want to make this your career. Are you ambitious? Great, tell the interviewer! When you’re starting out, you will get to experience lots of different tasks within an agency and it’s only then that you will know which ones you do/don’t like.

Get feedback

If you have been for an interview and not heard back from them for a few days, pop them an email or give them a call asking for feedback. If the answer is a no, feedback is a great way for you to progress in the next interview you have. Please don’t be disheartened if it’s a no, we understand this is difficult but success is never  instantaneous – it takes time. Interviewing is A learning curve in itself and is something you can only get better at! Your interviewer may also give you feedback during the interview. If this is constructive, the best thing to do is not get defensive but rather take it on board. They are only trying to help you for future interviews.

Consider any kind of experience 

An internship, placement or work experience is a great way to get yourself out there and get some knowledge of the industry. This also means you have something to discuss at interviews beyond your  your portfolio. An internship could also very well turn into a job if you impress them whilst you’re there, and  a job opening comes up. Even if it’s unpaid work, we would definitely recommend any kind of experience as this is more likely to help you secure a job.

Be patient 

These things don’t happen over night so be patient. You can send out hundreds of CV’s but that one place that gets back may be perfect for you. Keep at it and something will come along. If not, review your tactics and mix it up. If you’re getting no where over the phone or email, go to the agency and ask for a meeting. A bold move will make a statement!

So there you have it. Our top tips for designers looking to start their carrier in a design agency. If you have any other tips, do let us know. Good luck! Enjoy the ride! You can find Slice on Design Rush’s Top Beer Branding Agencies list.

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