OK, You Graduated, Now What?

So many recent grads have emailed me asking for post-schooling advice. I wish there were a one-size-fits-all answer, but for every former student, the path to the professional industry or post-grad academia will be different and personal. Here are a few things you can look into, maybe one of them will feel right for you:

  • Network. If you didn’t start attending networking events as a student, and you’re still looking for a job or something to do with your time, it’s time to start meeting the creatives in your neighborhood. It’s never too late to begin networking. If you’re a member of an organization, find a local chapter and attend a networking event. If you’re not a member, do the same thing. Most of the time there are minimal cover costs for non-members. For instance, in Orange County, you can attend AIGA OC’s MIX event nearly every month. It’s usually $10 for non-members and free for members. The cover charge gets you into the MIX and pays for appetizers. Most importantly, it allows you to meet fellow designers, photographers, and creatives in the OC area.
  • Extended Ed. Take a class for your continued education. Enroll in a weekend or night class at a junior college or in an extended education program at an art college near you. In LA/OC, Art Center at Night is an excellent program for continued studies, as is Otis’ Continuing Education program.
  • Keep working. Develop your website, your business cards, your portfolio, your twitter account, your Facebook PAGE (not your personal profile), or whatever other collateral was left minimally tended to when you were in school.
  • Read a book. Not just any book—read something that relates to the industry you want to join. Do you want to be a graphic designer? How many times have you used Gill Sans in a project? Have you ever read Eric Gill’s An Essay on Typography? If you saw Helvetica, you probably enjoyed Erik Spiekermann’s role. Did you read his book, Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works? Both of those are more than likely available in that long tunnel of books you might have heard of, “the library.”
  • Pro-bono. Do you know someone who needs some help with a project? Can you afford to work for free just this once? Working on a lightweight project for a friend is a good way to practice social and professional skills before taking clients. You’ll begin to learn all of the tiny details that should be negotiated at the front end of the project. If you need a guide, check out AIGA’s Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services. 

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