Image via BossFight

Your career is happening right now

A case for practicing professionalism while you’re still a student.

If you do good work you will succeed.

It would be nice if it worked that way but it doesn’t.

There is more to being a graphic designer than producing great work. Your reputation as a person is as important as your ability to design. Sure, good work will help you get clients, but without a certain level of professionalism you won’t be able to keep those clients.

By professionalism I mean: meeting deadlines, delivering what you’ve promised, being on time, responding quickly to messages, receiving feedback, being available when clients have needs, resolving concerns, communicating clearly, and the thousands of other things we do that aren’t directly related to the actual creative act of design. Design is as much a service industry as a creative industry and it’s all these little things that comprise the “business” of you.

Here’s the thing though: school is where you begin to develop your professional network.

Every job that I’ve ever had, I’ve gotten through a school connection. Either directly or indirectly, every position I’ve held, and (nearly) every freelance client (in one way or another) can be tied back to a professor I had or a person I went to school with. Creating this network might be one of the best reasons for getting a graphic design degree.

Both your professors and your classmates are part of your professional network.

And why is this important? Because everyone is paying attention. Just like you are paying attention to what everyone else is doing, they are paying attention to what you’re doing too.

The design community is small. I’m not talking about your local community either, I’m talking about the entire profession of graphic design. It’s really not that big. You never know who you are going to end up working with or for. Understand that your time in school can create positive or negative impressions on your future professional network. Because your network isn’t just made up of your fans, it’s made up of everyone who knows you. That includes people who have had both good and bad experiences with you.

Make school a time to practice your craft as well as your professionalism.

It’s easy to think that school is separate from your career. But in reality, there is no distinction between the two. Your career is happening right now. The skills you learn, habits you form, and connections you establish right now will directly influence the course of your career. So take it seriously.