Five Recommendations for the Graduating Designer


Just a few quick words for designers in the class of 2015,

You are entering a tremendous profession. Design is hot. More and more companies are starting to appreciate how a great user experience can be a differentiator for their business. Hopefully if you are becoming a web designer, you learned or will learn to front-end code a bit as well so you can be full-stack or a unicorn or whatever we’re calling it these days. If so, you are in such good shape, you probably don’t need my help, but all the same, here is some unsolicited advice.

  1. Get out from under your loans. You probably don’t want to hear about this right now, but you probably just raked up a lot of debt. School has a high cost, but with that you bought the chance to learn and master those design skills. Now it’s time to shift that focus. So go grab a job, preferably in the industry where you can gain some real world experience, do lots of freelance, and cut expenses. Work diligently with a goal to get out from under your debt.
  2. Get involved. The world is a lot bigger out here and we don’t know you yet, so make that happen. There are loads of groups and meetups happening every week. Find ones that bring you joy and go engage.
  3. Volunteer. If you find a group or event you like, ask how you can help. If you can’t find one, start your own. And don’t forgot about things you care about outside of design. There are so many non-profits that would fall all over themselves to have a talented designer help them make their flyers, postcards or website look more professional. Find a cause you believe in, that will pay you in creative freedom, and add to your resume and your portfolio with what you give away.
  4. You should go. Once you are debt-free, and the loans are in the rear-view, if your dream is to live in NYC or move to Silicon Valley, you can now realistically go for it. It may be crazy expensive and uncomfortable at first, but this is the best time to try, and if you are driven and passionate and talented you’ll find your way. And even if you don’t and circle back home again, you’re young enough to start over and you’ll always have the memories of that amazing ride.
  5. Yes! build it already. If you find yourself talking about the same app / site / business idea at this month’s meetup that you were talking about last month, stop talking and just build it already. Most ideas can get to a minimum viable state where you can test the waters and determine if there is a market interest in the matter of a weekend at next to no costs. Stop talking about your great idea. Just go do it.

So enjoy this moment. You’re graduating, you have so much ahead of you. It may be nerve-wracking, but please don’t wish ahead to times of more certainty and security, cause once you are there you will lament you didn’t take more risk and appreciate where you were when you were younger. So expect to make mistakes, we all do, you’ll learn from them and be better for it. Just be true to yourself, be a good person, smile, and enjoy the ride.

Congratulations!

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