Career Advice for Creative Graduates
Career Advice for Creative Graduates

Published by Roxi Dodkins


Career Advice for Creative Graduates

It’s hard for graduates to break into the design industry when they have little experience…

We regularly receive emails from graduates and junior creatives struggling to land their first role.

During our 30 years in the design recruitment biz, Gabriele has played a part in many success stories. We have helped countless juniors land their ideal roles – so we know exactly what is needed to get a foot on the career ladder.

There isn’t one fail-safe route we can advise. But, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions we receive, to give you a helping hand.

“I have an agency that I dream of working for, how do I get their attention?”

Ensure your work examples are up to date, tasteful and really well laid out. Tell the right story and make sure your portfolio targets the agency you’re applying to.

Do your research on the agency. Communicate what it is you can potentially do for them, where you’re personality, skill and character will add value.

Ideally, you’d want to contact the key Creative Director directly, but some larger agencies will have a HR team or an online portal which you may not be able to avoid, so even more reason to have your introduction paragraph letter about you just right.  Your intro should not be too long, but you want to strike the right cord with your tone of voice. Get to the point, let them know what you can do for them, and inject some light humour perhaps.

What should my portfolio look like?

As a junior, it’s likely you won’t have a tonne of work to show.

Don’t stress about the quantity of your portfolio. Instead, focus on the quality of your work. Do you have the right balance of work? For example, a blend of brand identity, motion or film, and examples of a brand campaign. Choose the work you’re the proudest of. Keep it clean and lean, they’ll only want to see more then!

Your portfolio should showcase your style, so design it accordingly.

One plus side of having minimal experience, is you have space to display the development of your ideas. Use several pages to show how you reached the final stage. Include work you created during your studies and any project you’re proud of and can discuss at length.

Include the passion projects you created simply for the fun of it.

Should I accept an unpaid internship?

In the UK, as many as 70% of internships were unpaid. Some dislike the practice of working for experience but it’s a rite of passage for many creatives working in the industry today. Gabriele, we do encourage some small payment, at least to cover travel costs and basic living costs.

There’s more than money to be gained from an internship

Unpaid internships could soon become illegal (a bill banning unpaid internships that last more than four weeks is currently passing its way through the Houses of Parliament) but for now, internships – paid and unpaid- are the most-trodden entry to a career in design.

Interning just once month or a few days per week is a great way to build connections and a deeper understanding of the industry,

Our advice? If you can do it, go for it! An internship will either leave you wanting more or spark a switch to a new career– just make the most of it when you’re there!

Be curious, get to know the team and keep in touch with them when you’ve left.

I didn’t get a graduate job, what other routes can I take?

You can still sign up for a programme tailored to incubate young talent. Networks like Creative Alliance, help young people get their foot in the door via a range of frameworks, roles and employers and Creative Access support talented people from groups that are struggling to find jobs or are under-represented in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic background and disability.

I want to freelance, how can I get clients?

Immerse yourself in the industry; networks like D&AD or the DBA, or via The Drum or Campaign, Design Week, It’s Nice That… are great resources for design news. Sign up to their emails and – if you can, become a member of the latter to gain access to a register of accredited expert consultants who can offer you an extra level of career support.


Don’t neglect your socials or be shy about promoting your work on your personal accounts.


Work on building contacts with industry professionals. It’s easy to be insular when you’re a one-man band but contacts are crucial.  This can be done through work experience, attending networking events or through your social media channels. LinkedIn is the clear leader for career networking, but the visual focus of Instagram makes it ideal for creatives to find businesses looking for what you have to offer.

Where can I find jobs that are actually suitable?

As well as the organisations we mentioned, we have a jobs board that is heaving with roles for creatives exactly like you. Sign up to our email updates and check back on our jobs regularly.

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