So, you’ve just graduated and received a piece of paper stating you understand design, layout principles and graphic disciplines. Well… it’ll take a bit more to break into the graphic design industry.

First off, the piece of paper that vouches for your skills is actually not as important as the portfolio you have to prove it. A creative director will never care what classes you took in college or whether you got a B in Calculus. He or she could care less. More important is the collection of your best work that actually displays and proves your talent. Between you and me, the creative director doesn’t even care if you graduated. He or she only cares if you can produce. That is why you should not only have a solid portfolio, but it also should be able to cash the checks that your mouth writes. Many new designers have fallen to the wayside because they never really delivered on the promise of their portfolio. They looked good on paper but not in practice.

In addition, you must remember that good talent will get hired. Good talent finds its way to the appropriate eyes. That’s not to say one needs to sit at home and wait for the offers to roll in. Be proactive and get your stuff in front of as many people as possible. There are the online vehicles, such as Dribbble, Instagram and Behance to name a few. There are also traditional networking solutions, such as Meetups, design groups and AdFed. Get yourself involved with the design community to keep your name and work in the mind, eyes and ears of your fellow AdFed members. If you continue hitting the pavement, your talent will soon come to their attention.

After you have found an “in” into the graphic design industry, how do you stay there? First, you need to be ready to compete. Yes, you need to get along by being friendly and working as part of the team. But keep in mind the other creatives or designers are going to try to usurp your efforts every time they can. It shouldn’t be vicious, but friendly one-upmanship that will keep your work relevant and up to snuff. Learn to take criticism, but at the same time get some confidence and learn how to assert yourself.

And that means you get to toot your horn when you’ve done something cool or have figured out new design or animation software. It’s okay to make sure people know this. Don’t be annoying with it, but tactfully share the enthusiasm of your accomplishments. This will always keep you fresh in the minds of your peers. At the same time, however, don’t wait for compliments. You will rarely get them, which means nobody else is going to toot your horn. YOU need to do it. Creating the idea that you are always breaking new ground will ensure your tenure and longevity in the business, if not just a particular agency.

On a similar note, don’t take anything personally. What you do is going to be pelted with opinions and remarks everyday. This will especially come from the client, if not your creative director. Learn how to develop a thick skin and roll with the punches. You need to forget the idea that you are creating art. Embrace the fact that you’re communicating. If you want to create something with no boundaries, budget or direction, you’ll need to go door-to-door selling your stuff because an agency setting won’t be for you.

In closing, don’t ever get emotionally married to your first concept or your best concept. Chances are there will be some changes made. If a client LOVES what you have presented right away… chances are an even greater change may be coming down the road. Be mindful of that trap and keep your chin up.

It may sound tough. It may sound uncertain. But the career is hugely rewarding. Love it and you will never actually work a day in your life.

If you’d like to hear more insights into the positions and methods of a marketing agency, please give us a call at 701-478-111 or contact us at to schedule a tour of our facility.