Advice for the newly graduated

POSTED BY Christina Arbini on May 27, 2015

You’ve walked the stage, tossed your cap in the air, and posed for obligatory photos with your teary-eyed family. Congratulations, you’ve graduated! Now what?

With a tightly fisted grip on your hard-earned diploma, you’re eager to jump into the creative workforce – whether that’s on the agency side, client side, in design or technology. But as you navigate the murky waters of finding and securing that first big break, you may be feeling some apprehension or searching for advice.

I recently asked the creative team here at Hornall Anderson for some pearls of wisdom they wish someone had shared with them after graduating. Hopefully these will help ease your nerves and set you up for the success you have worked so hard to achieve.

And remember, we’re hiring!

“Remember all of your teachers' opinions are just that: opinions. Be true to yourself.” Michael Connors, VP Design 

“Portfolios: Only show your best work. No mediocre work allowed. Be a team player; your best idea can still be improved upon by working with your team. Inspiration can come from anywhere.” Julie Lock, Project Manager

“Never apologize for work in your portfolio. If you feel like you need to apologize for it, it doesn’t belong in there. I hear students present work that they start right out of the gate apologizing for. Don’t do it. I’d rather see fewer pieces of work that can be confidently presented.” Jay Hilburn, Design Director

“Everyone goes through school thinking it’s one linear process: go to high school, go to college, get a job. It’s not. There’s no one glorious outcome that’s waiting for you on the other side – just a series of choices and opportunities. Every single step you take is a growing opportunity that you learn from and react to accordingly. They each push you in the direction of your goals or help your re-evaluate to make new ones. It’s liberating. Once you realize that, you’ll see the full potential in yourself and the skills you already possess.” Amy Carter, Designer

“The start of your career isn’t easy. In fact, it’s tough as a hell. You have to commit yourself to improving each and every day, whether it’s easy to do or not. Through that struggle, however, you’ll change—you’ll become better and someone you will admire.” Jesse Baker, Strategist

“Surround yourself with great people. Those around you help bring out the best in your work, and make your best work better.” Holly Craven, Senior Designer

“F*ck shit up. Make shit happen. Get shit done.” Euan J. Fraser, Strategy Director

“A good attitude and a willingness to jump in with both feet goes a long way. More humorously stated: Don’t turn up your nose when it’s your turn to do the office dishes.” Amy Marshall, Talent Director

“My biggest piece of advice is that it’s okay to be afraid. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably doing something wrong. When I graduated it seemed like there was an overwhelming amount of unknowns in my life – job, where to live, how to pay rent, what do I actually even want to do, how do I know if it’s even the right job I’m applying for, etc., etc. You spend years in school ‘preparing’ for ‘real life,’ but what I’ve come to realize is you’re never really prepared. The key to life after school is using what you did learn to be quick on your feet and evaluate how to navigate life in a way that ensures you’re doing what makes you feel most gratified. Don’t be afraid, and dive in. You’ll likely never be more prepared than you are right now.” Caitlin Field, Designer

“Be a sponge and absorb everything. Get compensated for being an intern. Seek out the designer or design studio whose work you really like and admire and go work for them. Don’t settle. Use your life experiences and all your senses. Experience in the work field can happen any time. But, if you have the chance to travel or experience another aspect of life, do that, too. It will only make you a better designer.” Jana Nishi, Design Director

WRITTEN BY Christina Arbini

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