Any digital designer starting out their venture into the creative industry would be forgiven for thinking that there would be some form of pre-set career path for them to follow.
The truth, however, is that climbing the design career ladder is unlikely to be as straightforward as you first think. In fact, it’s more akin to a game of snakes and ladders.
That’s because there are multiple avenues into the industry. Some are expensive. Some are cheap. Nearly all require a great deal of hard work and some form of luck.
So, while there might not be a neat narrative for you to follow to kick start your career, there are lessons you can learn. We’ll be listing five avenues into the industry that are most likely to yield success (and help you avoid landing on a snake), below:
- Study Digital Design at College/University
Studying digital design at a reputable institution, such as the JMC Academy, is arguably the most straightforward route into the industry.
Many employers look upon a degree qualification favorably as it demonstrates a basic aptitude for many of the core skills needed to be a designer.
From a beginner’s perspective, it also gives you the opportunity to learn under the watchful gaze of an experienced teacher. This can prove beneficial when it comes to honing your skills.
- Work for Good Causes
One simple way to add to your portfolio is to offer your design skills to local charities for free. Your project could be designing a logo for an animal shelter or re-designing the website of a food bank.
The experience of working with others will not only develop you on a personal level but also showcase your ability to work to a brief, however vague it may be.
It’s also worth pointing out how fondly recruiters view volunteer work. A recent study of over 2,500 hiring managers in the United States found that 82% prefer a candidate with volunteering experience.
- Submit to Work to Competitions and Award Schemes
The worst that can happen is that you won’t win, but even then, you’ll still end up with content that can further enhance your portfolio.
Winning an accolade for your design skills would be big in more ways than one. It will help to boost your reputation in the industry, which in turn will ensure you capture the attention of hiring art directors.
- Send Exploratory Fan Mail
Do you have a designer that you particularly admire? Sending them a short email explaining why you like their work, along with a subtle link back to your own portfolio, is a good way of getting your foot in the door.
You should also regularly comment on their social media channels, particularly if those channels are dedicated to their design work.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a response. This method is more about placing you in a back of someone’s mind. If a particular project becomes available that they’re looking to outsource, you could be the first person they get in contact with.
- Do Your Own Projects
Never let rejection stand in the way of you doing what you love. Showcase your creativity by coming up new content to get your name out there. You can:
- Give away a free CMS theme
- Design and build your own app
- Film and edit your own vlog
These might seem like a waste of time, but if successful, can help add clout to any application you send in. For example, the above can easily turn into:
- Created a business website theme that has been downloaded over 5,000 times on ThemeForest
- Designed and built my own lifestyle app that been downloaded over 2,500 on Google’s Play Store
- Have over 3,500 subscribers on my YouTube channel
Above all, have fun and find your niche. Having a passion for what you do will always find a way to manifest itself in the work you create.