What they don’t tell you at university…

I’m a recent graduate and I loved my time at university. I don’t think you realise until you leave, quite how great three years surrounded by like-minded creative people, resources and help was...until you leave it. Don’t get me wrong, it was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but from great challenges comes an even bigger sense of achievement. All the hard work, stress and sleepless nights seemed worth it on graduation day, surrounded by my friends, tutors and my family. People would say ‘the world is your oyster’ and that’s how I felt at the start. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later when the excitement settled down and I started applying for my first graphic design job, that I started to feel apprehensive and realised I was naive to think things were all going to go smoothly. I think it’s useful to know that whilst some of you might be lucky enough to land yourself a great position quickly, it will not be like that for everyone, and that’s ok. I’m going to give an honest account of my post-grad life up today and help you with some challenges that university didn’t tell me about…

You’ll face a lot of rejection

I wasn’t quite prepared for how many email applications I would send it out, only to receive nothing back. I spent a lot of time finding jobs and researching the studio, their work that they produce and what they were about so it felt disheartening when I didn’t even get a response. You need to take your time finding the right studio and working on your application, after all, if something is worth doing then it is worth doing right. However, you also need to remember that everyone is going to receive some sort of rejection in life and this will happen. It’s normal. You just need to keep going!

Here are a few of my tips to help you best deal with the rejection if/when it happens.

1. Have a positive mental attitude

I’m starting with the most important one as this is something that will benefit you in all aspects of life. As much as it's easier said than done, we need to learn to take rejection less personally, not dwell on it for too long, and then continue onwards! Us young grads need to have a fighting spirit when it comes to applications and just keep pushing through! That studio might not have been right for you but something good will always be around the corner and for every unsuccessful application, you’re one step closer to finding your perfect job!

Positive vibe! by iVan

2. Keep at it

It may feel like you’ve spent forever applying to potential jobs but you have to keep at it. Make sure you are taking time to apply to the right places. Research the work they produce, and try to get a good feel for the culture that they have. There’s not much use in applying to places for the sake of it as you’ll only feel unhappy when you’re there so it’s good to figure this out before hand! Something will come along and remember that hard work will always pay off!

3. Try not to compare yourself to others

This can be a difficult one and I’m pretty sure we all do this from time to time but it doesn’t have any positive benefits. Your peers might have landed that amazing job and you feel like you’re falling behind but everything is going to happen at different times. Everyone offers something different and what you feel you may be lacking in somewhere, you’ll make up elsewhere. It’s these different skills and passions that make a creative team successful so celebrate your differences and learn from each other.

4. Stay motivated

I had days where I felt I was losing motivation in my job search and just sat around watching Netflix . I soon got fed up of feeling so unproductive so I decided to get back and involve myself in creative environments, something that I definitely missed whilst not being at university. I searched for creative networking events and went to two in London which were great. Being surrounded by a great mix of creative people, some people my age and at similar stages of their career and others being more established in their careers, was the inspiration I needed to get myself going again!

Find out what’s on at local galleries and exhibitions, or even read articles or magazines to keep you being curious and engaged! A few of my favourites are Creative Review, Creative Bloq and Dezeen.

Illustration by Gaspart

5. Keep learning

Your learning doesn’t stop at university, but it changes. No longer will you be researching and reading for the benefit of your university project, you will now be doing it for your own enjoyment and progression as an individual. I loved the fact that I had extra time to learn and read all those things that I had been meaning to do throughout the three years at university but always got pushed to the back of this list because of deadlines. It’s time to watch that tutorial of an obscure skill that you’re not sure when you’ll use but it looks fun, you never know when you might need it.

Rejection is also an upside- as it teaches you new skills and lessons. There’s always a chance to learn something new, even when something doesn’t go to plan. I recently had a job interview which required me to present a creative response to a set brief. Despite not getting the job, it really helped push me out of my comfort zone and improve my presentation skills and my confidence. Soon after, I was required to do another presentation, but this time I felt so much less apprehensive because of my previous experience. Always remember to ask for feedback too! I’ve found it really useful to receive feedback from people in the industry as they offer a different perspective to what your tutors and peers have. Remember, something might not work out how you would like at the time, but there is always an opportunity to learn from it.

6. Consider every opportunity

Some people are quick to have ideas about what type of agencies they want to work for, the location they want to be in or even a set plan for a career path after graduating. Don’t be too quick to dismiss opportunities. Immediately after graduating I dismissed a couple of opportunities because it was either in a location I hadn’t previously imagined myself in or it would be producing the type of work that I didn’t think I wanted to do. I found myself later questioning whether I made that decision too quickly. Don’t accept opportunities that you know you will not grow from, but do make sure you are open to changes and consider every opportunity.

Love Yourself! by Sofy Dubinska

7. Value yourself

You might have days where you begin to doubt yourself, and even question whether this is the career for you. This is a bad way to think. You are good enough and you should never let rejections or even self-criticism make you feel this way. If you are passionate, hard working and enjoy what you do then I believe you have the potential to do as good as you want to do. Stay positive, and go out and get it!
Good luck!

Tabitha Stead is a junior designer & illustrator living and working in Bristol, UK. Tabitha contributes to Briefbox with helpful guides, tutorials and inspiration for our design community.