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What can I do to work up to a job as a graphic designer at somewhere like a major company?

#graphic-design #graphic-designer #design

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Dexter’s Answer

Hi Bryan,

I think the most important one is to go to college and get a degree in digital design. Once you have that, you'll have your degree and hopefully, a decent portfolio of projects that you've worked on, which will allow you to get a job as a junior graphics designer. While I college, I strongly advise that you try to find an internship, as it's one of the best ways to get your foot in the door at major companies.

To round out your portfolio, I would encourage you to look for opportunities to express your talents through non-profits and open source projects. At sites like catchafire.org or volunteermatch.org, you'll find opportunities to give back to non-profits and most of these are public-facing projects that you can easily add to your portfolio. Similarly, you can give back to open source projects by contributing to documentation, graphics assets, UI/UX, etc., which will prove your ability to work in a work-like environment in the "real" world (instead of the academic world, which is very different than what working in a company is like).

Once you have a degree and a complete portfolio, it shouldn't be too hard to get a job. Once you have it though, you'll still want to keep developing your skills through work and non-work projects. This way, if the company you're at doesn't treat you right, you'll have plenty of suitors and you won't feel stuck.

I wish you the best!

--
Dexter
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Eric’s Answer

I have a different slant here. I work as senior designer with experience at various large enterprise tech companies. Typically I work in either corporate or product marketing. I actually don't have a background in design at all but in Marketing. Now I have a couple decades experience working with Adobe Creative Cloud and now Sketch, etc but academically nada. For me personally my projects run the range of anything from web banners to large format tradeshow booths to typical business field marketing collateral such as data sheets, infographics, white papers, etc. I've worked on app store deliverables and all that but the bigger money is in the UX design side of the house which is often lumped in with engineering. It may not be as glamourous but it's definitely an in-demand skill. Another job title would be like visual designer or even web designer.

Now in corporate marketing you would typically have Brand and they essentially define the look and feel, colors, typography and then Creative Services will execute from there. The real fun stuff is typically done by external agencies like videos, animations, etc but will vary by company but some do it in house.

It looks like you're in San Francisco so you should be good but definitely the demand is SF proper down the Peninsula to SJ. There's a wide variety and it kind of depends on your existing skillset(s) and what way you want to go. My recommendation is dive in and try and learn it all. And for perspective - when I started I was making like $30/ hr and now make ~$50 above that (salary translates to ~$80+/ hr).

Sorry if that rambles a bit.
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Jessica’s Answer

Eric and Dexter both provide some great advice into getting in as a graphic designer for a major company. Here is my advice for getting into a major company.

Jessica recommends the following next steps:

Get your Bachelor's in Graphic Design (or an equivalent degree such as Advertising or Marketing): Most large companies expect or require their employees to have a Bachelor's degree, or the equivalent of four years experience in lieu of the degree. As an entry-level designer, you may not have enough experience to make up for the lack of a degree, so that's the best place to start to learn all the essentials to be a successful designer, such as the ins and outs of the industry-standard tools/software you will use, design fundamentals, and visual communication.
Begin building your Portfolio: Ensure to save all the work you create in college to add to your portfolio. At first, you won't have a lot of work, but as you get better and get more experience, you will be able to pick and choose which work to keep in your portfolio and which to cast aside. A good portfolio should be 10-15 pieces. When you start interviewing for jobs, be sure to build a digital portfolio that you can share/attach/link with your resume (there are lots of free platforms you could use to do this, such as Behance or Wix) and also print your work to bring with you to the interview so you can talk directly to your work - how you built it, what made it successful, how you could use those methods to be successful in the role you're interviewing for, etc.
Get a Graphic Design Internship (at least in your last year of college): Before you finish your degree, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND trying to get an internship opportunity to learn how to apply the skills you've learned in college to a real-life workplace and have experience in a professional graphic design role to add to your resume. There are many opportunities for internships. Some colleges allow you to do a work-study co-op course in which the internship counts toward college credit. Oftentimes, the college will have connections with local companies that regularly host interns for these types of courses. You will work for the company for the semester while also working with a professor, writing papers about your experience, submitting your work to your professor, and whatnot to satisfy the course curriculum for credit. If your college doesn't have a course opportunity like this, you can look into maybe a summer internship opportunity. Look for local job fairs in which companies are looking for new hires or interns to take under their wing. It's an easy way to quickly network and get your resume and portfolio sent out to many companies at once. And, it's easy to make a good first impression by dressing nice, having multiple copies of your resume printed to hand out, and including links in your resume to your digital portfolio. I did this in college and that was how I ended up getting multiple interviews and was able to negotiate for a PAID internship with the Marketing Department of an Architecture Firm since I had multiple companies that wanted me to work for them. It wasn't very much pay, but anything was better than nothing.
Network as much as you can and build a LinkedIn Account: Take your opportunities both in college and during your internship(s) to make positive connections with other people in graphic design, marketing, advertising, communications, etc. Build a LinkedIn account and add the people you meet in college and work within your internship as friends to that account. Endorse the skills of the friends you make and the coworkers you have on LinkedIn in hopes that they will endorse you back. Follow the pages of companies for which you're interested in working and keep an eye on their job openings. On LinkedIn, you can "show recruiters you're open to work" which will allow people to find you in LinkedIn searches for potential candidates for graphic design roles that apply/relate to you. Be open and receptive to people who reach out to you on LinkedIn and don't hesitate to reach out to your network for letters of recommendation when you go to apply for jobs after college. Also, don't be afraid to get a contract/consulting position for a company you're interested in working for full-time. You can go in and make a big first impression and impact, and network with full-time employees to the point where they want to change your contract to a full-time position, or they will be adamant about finding a way to keep you within the company in another regard (maybe a different role or area of the company). That is exactly how I got my current full-time job with USAA. I worked with them for two years as a contractor doing Presentation Design and was recommended a position by my coworker as a Business Advisor in another area of the company. I love the work, the company and my team and my boss leverages my creative background to build innovative solutions for our org (while not always graphic design-related, my creativity is used to draft communications, host employee events, and conduct employee sentiment surveys to inspire future innovations).
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Bryan,

Before you think about working up to a major company, think about how you could access a major company without a lot of experience. That could happen in the form of internships. I work at a company with an active internship program with options around the country. I am not sure about San Francisco, but I would use my company as an option. I cannot say that all internships are paid, but they can be used to gain experience in graphic design. You should also consider how you want to use your graphic design skills. Graphic Designers can make use of talents in areas varying from Marketing to Human Resources. For example, I work at AT&T University and we have a group of graphic designers to help us with animation to basic layouts in training to web sites.

Gloria

Gloria recommends the following next steps:

Look at internships like this one: https://www.att.jobs/students
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