I wanted to share a few pointers that I wish someone could have told me when I first started out in design and development. I am by no means saying that these are definitive, nor do you have to follow my advice, but I do hope that these tips give you a little advice on how to approach certain career situations and think differently.
Differentiate Yourself From the Rest
University is awesome for teaching you some of the essentials in design and development; but it’s not the only way to get your foot in the door. These days the job market for students straight out of university and college is the most competitive, so you need to differentiate yourself from the next applicant. During your time at university is the perfect time to build up your portfolio (and your bank account). Put yourself out there, ask around for people who need support with design work, introduce yourself and your skills to that local restaurant, shop, retailer or startup to gain experience. Employers want to see examples of how you can apply yourself to real world situations.
If you can’t get someone to do work for, then come up with a project concept and execute it on your own to build your portfolio. If you are a designer, design a poster for your favourite band, or redesign a website of a brand you like. If you are a developer, think about a plugin that could be useful, or develop an app. The more examples of how you can apply yourself differentiates you from the next applicant. And, not only will this demonstrate initiative, but you will have a collection of work to showcase, all produced by you on your own accord.
It is ok to say NO
This is one of those things that I definitely didn’t do in the early days of my career. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are certain occasions where you need to make compromises. However, one thing you need to understand is that it is perfectly fine to say no to a client’s demands. There are a number of reasons why saying no can be so much more productive, than just agreeing to all demands. There are a lot of articles on this subject, but here is one that I think summarizes my thoughts really well: No one nos: learning to say no to bad ideas
Sweat the details!
The details are the parts of projects that will get you noticed by your peers. In fact, I would say that these finer things in projects are what really highlight the potential and vision that you have as a designer or developer. Take a step back and think about every detail your project has to offer. Time will always be tight, deadlines will always be bearing down on you. However, if you can add just one thing to a project that will make your peers step back and go “Nice, he thought about …” the prospects for securing your place on the next cool project coming are increasing every time.
No room for egos!
If you want to progress and become a better designer or developer, there is something you have to do right this minute… put your ego aside! I suggest you embrace contribution, criticism and advice now. Working with a team is something that you mustn’t take for granted, you will never be the very best at one skill, there is always someone you will be able soak up a bit of knowledge from. Having an ego will only limit your progression up the ladder.
Sharing nothing, gets you nothing
Don’t be afraid of putting things out there, that idea is never going to get any feedback sat on your computer. Share it on the web, get criticism on your work, it will only make you better at what you do. Heck, it can even lead to more work if people dig it! It can be very nerve-racking at first getting feedback, don’t get your back up if it’s not great, just use it to your advantage on your next piece of work.
I hope the above may have given you a few pieces of advice and useful tips that you can take away and put into practice, the main thing you need to take away from this is to create for the love of it. Don’t always think about your pocket or bank balance, money led projects are easy to spot, enjoy what you do.