Tips for graduates finding their first web design job

Written by Rick Powell on 4th March 2014

(Last updated 9th February 2016)

Tips for graduates finding their first web design job

Looking for work in the design industry can be difficult and frustrating, especially if you’re fresh out of uni and looking for your first proper job. I graduated from Brighton University in 2013 and was faced with the challenge of looking for my first web design job. I found it very challenging at first as many companies told me I lacked the necessary experience. With four months of determination and hard work I finally managed to prove myself and landed a job at Liquid Light.

These useful tips are based on my own experience (and notes from a recent student talk I gave) to hopefully help you get that dream job you've been looking for.

Preparing yourself for the work environment

  • Get familiar with using a Mac. (I’ve always used a PC - so imagine how comfortable I felt on my first day when I was given a shiny new Mac to use!)

  • Get used to using Twitter and Facebook to keep in the loop with the latest design practices and to demonstrate your understanding and use of social media.

  • Have a go at writing a blog post on a topic of your interest, this could be a good chance to learn something new to improve your skills.

Get to grips with web design processes

  • Learn how to use a CMS platform. Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal are all good.

  • Get used to creating sitemaps and wireframes before you get stuck into the design process.

Do some freelance work to gain experience

  • It’s hard to gain experience without having worked in the industry before. Doing freelance work or your own personal project can help build your portfolio up.

  • Gain experience dealing with clients.

  • Learn how to communicate with clients.

  • Learn how to tackle those tricky clients.

  • Gain better knowledge of the time-frame required for each project.

  • If you can’t find any freelance work - choose your favourite product or service and give it a makeover - employers will find that just as interesting to talk about

  • Before taking on freelance work, use ‘Contract killer’ to keep the legal stuff covered between yourself and your client. Contract Killer is an open source contract for you to copy and edit to suit your project.  

Keep your C.V clean

  • Its good practice to keep your C.V to one page.

  • Keep it simple.

  • Research what makes a good design C.V.

  • Make sure your experience is relevant to the job you're applying for.

Apply to every job going and don’t give up

  • Every interview you get is good practice to finding the right job.

  • Don’t expect to get the first job you apply for.

  • Apply even if you think you are under qualified.

Prepare yourself for your interviews

  • Make sure you know who you are meeting for the interview - have they got a profile on their website? Can you find out more about them before you meet?

  • It’s good to get confirmation of the interview in an email.

  • Try and dress appropriately to the job - fully suited is not always best

  • Do a Google search on ‘Design interview questions’ so you have a better idea what they might be asking you.

Research the company before your interview

  • Find out what they do. E.g. web design, ux, app design.  

  • Research their projects. Which are your favourites and why?

  • Identify who their clients are. Are they the kind of clients you’d like to work with?

  • Make sure the job suits your interests.

Your portfolio is everything

  • Make sure you present your portfolio of work in the best way possible even if you don’t have much to show.

  • It’s worth taking a print version along to any interviews you have. (Printed portfolios can encourage more dialogue and tends to be more tactile than staring at a screen)

  • Your portfolio is a springboard for discussion about your skills, be ready for questions about process, tools and techniques.

  • For example I documented and printed out my current design process of revamping my parents website. This showed site mapping with post-it notes, wireframes, logo design and design mockups.

  • Listen out for any feedback during the interview and be ready to apply this ready for a potential second interview

  • For example - I tweaked the design as suggested then started building the home page in Joomla. I took this along with a blog post I wrote into my second interview, this showed I had taken on board their feedback given and showed initiative.

Preparation is key and although you might not have a wealth of experience you still need to show you will be a useful member of the team. It’s good to show your understanding of the industry and willingness to learn, along with this remember to be yourself. Applying some of these tips and showing initiative can go along way to making yourself stand out from the crowd.

Good luck…….. and if you have any questions, tips or personal experiences then feel free to get in touch or comment below.

by Rick Powell