I am currently in limbo. I have a job, but it’s unstable. The economy is affecting everyone these days, including designers. We’re running low on work and it’s incredibly difficult to keep up with our daily billable goals. So I’m in the process of looking at my other options. I have to admit that I really am excited about the prospect of a new career. Something new, something different. However, I’m being thrown back into this vast ocean filled with new and experienced sharks. I feel lucky to have two great jobs under my belt, but there is more to getting a job than experience. Namely, your first impression.

I’ve been looking up how to write cover letters. I haven’t written one in a full year (and back then they weren’t that impressive). The problem with this is that everyone has this generic cover letter with distinct sections and what you should discuss in each. But what do graphic designers look for? Do they look for design within a cover letter? Or should you leave that for the portfolio? I would hope, as stated here, that employers hiring potential designers look for more than just a proper, generic letter.  

I am also looking at enhancing my online presence. Putting your portfolio online is the easiest way to communicate with potential employers. Rather than attach a large number of pdf files to an email, a simple link will do. And as long as there is a fast loading time for all your work, it will be the highlight of someone’s day to not have to filter through a bunch of attachments.

This article has a lot of interesting information about web portfolios. I constantly have different layouts running through my head, and until recently all of them included a thumbnail gallery. I can now completely understand how this would be annoying. And yet I find having to scroll through full-sized work annoying too. If someone can find me a balance between the two, I’d sure like to hear it.

The article also mentions these simple reminders: always have contact information on every page, so no one is wondering who you are or how to get a hold of you. And something I think is very important – keep it simple. There is nothing more annoying than going to a designer’s portfolio and (a) having to wait forever for it to load (b) not having an alternate html site and/or (c) listening to unnecessary background music.  

That being said, however, your presence still needs to be unique. Because that’s the kind of person you are. And now I digress…

What makes a designer special is that we look at the world on a completely different-and more intimate-level. And not only that, but we communicate what we see to the entire world. Some of us are loud and jovial, and others are quiet and introspective. We come in all different shapes and sizes and personalities, and we should let those aspects shine in our cover letters, resumes, portfolios and later in our interviews. There is more to being a designer than being able to draw or use Photoshop filters (one can only hope that every great designer despises filters)-it’s about passion, influence, inspiration and dedication.

Be passionate: If you see good design, bookmark it. Save it. Look at it often. Design is everywhere and if you don’t love it you won’t last in the field.

Inspiration and influence: Talk with other designers, look at their portfolios, browse the books in the bookstore (collect them too). All graphic design stems from something someone has seen and turned into art. Spread design to your friends. Don’t be afraid to say “isn’t that the coolest logo?” When they ask why, practice your communication skills.  

Dedication: Don’t give up. Work may be slow. Find something else to do. Pro-bono work is a great way to get out and do something different, while still developing as a designer. You’ve been through six redesigns on one project and you’re about to call it quits. Don’t. Keep going. It’ll be a great case study later on.  Employers and clients appreciate commitment. And maybe you’ll have a moment where you don’t think you’re really cut out for this stuff. And maybe you aren’t. But maybe, YOU ARE.