how to survive your first design job

Design 101: What to expect in your first job

So you just graduated with a degree in design—congratulations! Now that you’re looking for work, whether it’s freelance or full-time, there are many ways your job will not be anything like school. We wanted to create a list of what to expect on your first design job so that there are fewer surprises for you and more big wins.

Here are a few major points to remember when you land your first job: 

There will be less creative freedom overall

Most of us loved school for the creative freedom and already have big-picture ideas of where we see ourselves building on our creative dreams. But your first job will most likely not be the place where you are asked for your opinions or creative input. Frustrating, right? The thing to remember is that your job becomes about knowing and pleasing the expectations of the client or customer—and they’re always right. Expect many more revisions before you land a polished design they’re happy with. At the office listen to your manager and lean on your colleagues for support through revisions. Outside of the office, however, continue your own personal projects, get to know where you want your career to go, and strive toward your dream. 

Focus on getting to know the basics of the company

From file organization to templates to past successful campaigns, it’s your job to know how to do your job well and work seamlessly within a team. In order to do that, you should prioritize learning everything you can about where the company has been and where it wants to go. This is why it’s key to find a job with a company you truly care about and are interested in. Your enthusiasm and effort will shine here and help you to be considered for more challenging projects in the future. 

Lean on your colleagues for support (occaisionally)

As we mentioned, you can expect frustration initially when you set out to crush a project with ease, only to discover you were way off the mark. Your coworkers can be the ones to help steer you in the right direction, especially team members who have been with the company for years. Lean on them when the going gets tough, listen to their suggestions and advice, and you’ll start to learn crucial ins and outs of the brand. Don’t be surprised if they eventually start asking you, as a freshman on the team, what you think is trending or beautiful right now. Your conversations can lead to innovation together. 

Meet your deadlines with no excuses

You might have gotten away with asking for extensions constantly at school and your teachers relented, well, because you were paying for school and their performance was contingent on how well you do. On the job, expect all of those pleasantries to not be the norm. Of course, we all have extenuating circumstances that prevent us from completing a project, but those should be rare. Be in communication with your project manager about your progress. Present your work for feedback to your colleagues often. And strive to meet your deadlines always. 

Revisions are constant and natural

When you were in school you often completed a project and moved on. On the job, however, expect that revisions are a part of striving for the success of the company. You may be asked to continuously revise the same project over again. Some projects may need updating after years of not touching them. As the junior member of the team, the revisions are a great way for you to know where the company has come and understand where they are going. Don’t dismiss this work and instead hold these revisions to be just as important as all your other work. Again, your enthusiasm and care will shine through, which will help you to be included in future assignments.

Bonus tip: Your first job is most likely not your forever job

No job is ever permanent. While you want to stay somewhere for a while to learn all you can, there are circumstances where it becomes clear that this job isn’t the one for you. Stick it out, devote at least a year to them, and begin interviewing once you feel ready.

If you’re looking for your first design job, we might have a client looking for you! Check out our open jobs to see if you're a good fit. 

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