The student guide; hints & tips on getting that dream job

In an interesting interview with Darren Custance – a student at The University of Northampton planning his final major project on ‘Bridging the gap between educational design and the design industry’ – I was asked whether there was any advice I could give to graduates on successful ways of contacting design companies for jobs once they had graduated. 

My answer contained many handy hints and tips which I feel obliged to pass on my insight with all you lovely students and even potential applicants to Engine Creative. Although many pointers I make are common knowledge, it is amazing how many people either brush over them or completely miss all together.

In commonplace, students normally apply for their dream and not so dreamy jobs once they have graduated past all their exhibitions highs and lows, but it’s not to say they cannot start looking, applying and planning now. It pays to be proactive and with the help of this handy ‘lil guide, you’ll do just fine.

I will give a snippet of how you can win over your new employer. I will not go into too much detail as these are just starting points, you will need to build upon them yourself.


Have you ever considered how many CVs and applications a company director receives and how many of these CVs, on average, will simply pass through the hands of the men and women in power.


An often used strategy in design is to personalise marketing collateral so it reaches the person intended, so it’s not thrown away by the receptionist or opened by anyone else apart from the addressed.


There are simple ways to execute such strategy; find out who the person is you want to contact – most companies will display on their key players or directors on their website, on the about page – carefully jotting down their names to the exact letters used. That may sound silly, I know, but can you really second guess something as vital and important as a a person’s name? No.

Remember, content is key. Get your family, friends and tutors to read through what you write.

So, what can you do with this new found information, how can you apply it?

• A printed CV; printed on tactile stock, with finishes that make it stand out and a personal message to who you intend.

• A personalised URL (PURL) of your website for the intended to view your work. You can even personalise the content for the addressed, but be careful not to smother them with their own face.

• A follow up emailer to the addressed, asking whether they enjoyed what they saw and if they would consider inviting you in for an interview or internship.

• You can even send a secondary follow-up emailer that thanks them for their time, once/if they invite you in, and even if they turn you down.

The four simple ideas stated above already show you can create for online, offline, copy-write and by throwing together (executing with precise precision) a showreel, you’ve hit all markers.


You can build a profile for yourself by networking online and in person.

This can be done by using websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Dribble, Behance etc. You can easily build yourself a high profile online. Be sure to include all networking links onto your website, via follow me icons or something similar.

If there are companies you really admire, why not comment on their blogs with useful pointers? Let them get to know you this way, but never criticise what they say as this will ruin your chances. Always be constructive.

There are many social meet ups available around the country, one for example which the guys from Engine Creative attended recently, is Glug.

Feel free to mix and mingle with industry creatives, but make sure not to make a nuisance of yourself or be too drunk or anything silly at all. Perhaps stay away from drink all together? Be sure not to ramble on about the person too much, nor yourself – most companies look for an individual who has more to them than just a life of design.

Always remember to be yourself and not someone or something else.


Education at any level is great, but you only get taught to a strict and regimented script of what is required by the course. If you’re on a Graphic Communication course, you may never venture into film, video and 3D, so why not attempt this off your own back?

 “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn

Why not show your ideas and concepts on your own blog? Add your thought processes, write a tutorial, explaining what you’ve done and how you did it. Employers are looking for people with great insight and the ability to educate others, not just themselves.

Start some self initiated projects, work on something you’re not comfortable with, push yourself. 

Trying new mediums and also using different software will help. Maybe you’re a whizz with InDesign, but did you know many companies still use Quark Express? And what about the dreaded Word programs? Get yourself familiar with all these programs, it will really help!

If you’ve got a taste for web design, why not try and learn how to programme websites you design? Try using HTML, XHTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery, PHP, Flash etc. The most conversant of web designers know exactly how to programme their designs, not just how to decorate a page in the spectator’s browser.

This principle stands for all aspects of design.


Seriously, do not lie. Lying is bad, really bad. See your employment as a relationship, one full of platonic love. Love is built on trust and trust is earned. If in an interview situation, the interviewees think your full of rubbish, they won’t want to commit to you.

Never say you can do something if you cannot. All employers expect a certain level from students, do not be embarrassed to put your hand up and say you cannot do something. Nothing is worse than disappointment, or the feeling of letting someone down.

Be inquisitive.

Do not lie on your CV! And talking about CVs, try and design them. Keep them to 1 page of written content using columns and thereafter, 2 pages max of recent work and range of work that shows your broad creativeness.


There are a few ideas for all you lovely people out there to use as starting points, but bare in mind, if you’re applying to Engine Creative as this is where you saw the insightful information don’t do the obvious, try something completely different, surprise us, show us that you can create.

Things to include; portfolio, website/blog, CV, business cards, emailers, compliment slips, your own identity, your own voice, ideas and concepts, sketch pads and anything else you can think of.

I’ve written this blog from the perspective of a designer, but there is no reason why all this useful content cannot be applied for all aspects of applying for a job. Production, artworking, film, 3D, account handling, copywriting, all of it, it’s all relevant.

We look forward to seeing what you can create.

This is your host Billy Clarke, signing off.

  • Alexis Taylor

    Good advice Billy. In the words of Yosser Hughs…giz a job!

  • Billy Clarke

    Cheers Alex! Pass this onto to all your students @MKcollege. Cheers man.

  • This kind of insight is rare to see, a great little read for all students coming to the end of their studies. I know I would of loved this kind of advice back when I was studying.

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