How to Design Your First Job

May 11, 2008

Recently, I picked up a copy of CMYK* #40 because one of its features, Get the Design Job You Want, caught my eye. I guess I heard an inner voice yelling, “Hey lost sheep, you need this!”


But how much could an article tell me?


I’ve seen self-help books a 100-pages thick that claim to “clinch that perfect (fill in the blank) job” or “chart your path to your dream occupation”. When I flip through them in the library, they either leave me laughing to myself or in despair.


Why? Because you’d have to be the perfect human specimen to get all of it right.


So excuse the scepticism – something that doubled when I realised that the article was only 4 pages long. I was expecting a manual of golden rules, even though logically I knew it was a magazine. Yes, please to meet you, Illogical is my middle name at times.


However, in the end, the limited length of the article worked in Jeff Domke’s ** favour. It was succinct, it got me thinking and he delivered what he said he would – shedding light on how to make the right moves to get that job you want.


And he would know, because for his first 14 months, he made all the wrong moves before he finally learnt to make the right ones. Saving us from learning it the hard way, he gives us 10 Steps:


(Note: Not the full article)


1. Define the job experience that you want

 What kind of designer do I want to become?

What work environment is best for me?

What’s my unique value?

 What do I want to learn next?


2. Learn from the masters

Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi

– “All Access: The Making of Thirty Extraordinary Graphic Designers” by Stefan G. Bucher

What risks should I take

How does my fear influence my search?

What will happen if I give up?


3. Get great photographs of your design work


4. Film yourself presenting your portfolio


5. Go here the jobs are

Which cities specialize in a certain type of design?

Which cities hire many junior designers/

How poor can I stand being?

How much time can I spend searching for a job?

How can I quickly connect with local designers in a new city?


6. Join the AIGA and get involved


7. Go on 3 studio tours


8. Win a design competition


9. Find Your weakness, and improve on it

Does every project I make look the same?

How is my attitude? How is my ego?

Do I understand the business of design?

Can I present work well?


10. In conclusion, start over

“Every time I thought I had failed, I was actually learning how to perfect the job-hunting process. Eventually my growing knowledge and abilities caught up with my job ambitions. Yours will too. Just start over…. Just keep pushing forward.


Take big risks, make big mistakes and design everything you want in life”



Domke’s article is a good start to anybody wanting to go into the industry. Answering all the questions he poses is a daunting task, but it gave me a structure to work with rather than floundering around.


I know I don’t have to kill myself and answer all the questions before I try out for that first job but at least now I know how to go about it and will be more prepared.


I’m on my way to start with #1 tonight.







*    A design publication that states its sole intention as “presenting outstanding student creative”


**  Jeff Domke is an award-winning graphic designer. As a former internship coordinator for Landor Associates & an AIGA mentoring director, he has gained firsthand insight into the challenges of today’s emerging designers.







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