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Ask Lawrence: What advice would you give design graduates?

15 Sep 12:00 by Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers Advice Design Graduates

This week I had the pleasure of talking to the students at RMIT about what to expect from the creative industry once they left the classroom.

Many of them were already freelancing with clients directly, which is absolutely awesome. Statistically, only half of them will go on to make a living out of being a graphic designer. The more that they can invest into building their career now and getting into that 'business mindset', the better their chances of building a career they can be proud of.

While we covered many topics over the course of the hour and a half I spoke with them, there were a few themes that we seemed to constantly come back to.

What you need right now.

The key thing I really wanted to stress to the graduates was that the one thing they needed more than anything was experience. This might seem really obvious but it comes down to the fact that a CV and folio can look very bare without it. 

This was where I stressed to them to always consider what every opportunity has to offer them. I asked them to avoid automatically making assumptions and saying no to work that they feel might not be ‘creative enough’ - the more they can get out there, use their skills, develop new skills and get some commercial pieces to add to their folio, the more employable they’re going to become.

I also pointed out that when we start our own business and ‘open shop’, we can easily believe that the phones are just going to not stop ringing. The reality is that there is a lot of hard work in finding clients and building a reputation and quality of service that has clients coming back. Some are blessed and lucky while others often become disempowered from how hard this side of business can often be.

Advice from your younger self

Having the lecturers in on my chat was beneficial as well as it gave me the opportunity to ask a question to them that only someone with experience can honestly answer.

“What advice would you give the younger version of you now from the years of experience that you’ve had?”

One lecturer wisely noted that he would tell his younger version to not be so precious and to get out there and network, connect, explore opportunities, ask for advice, and remain passionate about his craft. All very wise words.

Leading from values

The one thing I always remind people is to connect with the reasons why you wanted to be a graphic designer; what are the values that get you out of bed in the morning and get you in front of Creative Suite.

This is going to be relevant through out your career as opportunities present themselves and, in some cases, may eve take you away from some of the responsibilities and activities that you enjoy about your role. 

If you’re aware of your values and why you’re doing something, they can help in the decision making process as opportunities come up and guide your actions and goals. 

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