4 Ways to Secure a Design Placement
Like many second year students, back in 2016, I was relentlessly looking for a placement. When it came to the end of my placement year, I was also involved in the interviewing process for hiring the next placement student.
1. Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio!
“You are not the only one applying from your university.” That may sound obvious at first, but it is very common to see student submit portfolio containing the same “default” coursework over and over again. Try to include personal projects or commission projects outside of university to diversify your portfolio. Joining design competitions is a nice way to differentiate your portfolio from the rest, it shows employers you are self-motivated and passionate about design. Portfolio requirements differs from company to company, but the main principles are usually the same. Always put your work in context of a project, don’t include random sketches at the back of your portfolio. Only include a selection high-quality photos per project to deliver the message, don’t overcrowd your portfolio with text and irrelevant content.
2. CV Design
Writing a CV for a design position can be tricky. Many student tries to be creative with the layout of their CV to show their personality. While that is somewhat true to a certain degree, moderation is key. Your CV should be a summary of your professional career and skills, not a cheap attention-seeking print ad. Similar to designing a product, you need to understand the “user” needs of the recruiter. Typically speaking, CV needs to be first and foremost, legible. It needs to read well on-screen, and printed (even in monochrome!). Never use more than 3 fonts on one document, stick to 1-2 fonts ideally. Avoid script, handwritten, and decorative font, as they may come across as non-professional. Try to use the same visual language across your portfolio, cv, and any other mediums. Having said all this, it is ultimately up to your own better judgement to decide what is most suitable.
More and more people are including a software proficiency ‘scale’ in their CV. However, the number of stars you grade yourself is purely subjective and cannot accurately show employers your real proficiency in that software. This is also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Research showed that people the lower their actual ability is at a particular task, the more likely they tend to rate their perceived ability much higher than their actual ability.
3. Be Relevant.
You probably heard recruiters usually spend a minimal amount of time to read an applicant’s CV. But just how little time do they actually spend on one CV? Don’t include jobs or skills that doesn’t relate to the position your are applying to; no need to put “full manual driving license” under skills, if the job did not ask for it. The more time recruiters spend reading irrelevant information, the less time they focus on your key skills. Don’t cramp text onto your CV, less is more. The same theory works on portfolio as well, edit your portfolio to only include projects you think your employers will be interested in.
4. Don't be afraid to ask.
You can increase your chances of landing a job by simply applying to more positions. A lot of design agencies do not advertise internship opportunities publicly. To put it in perspective, 2-out-of-3 positions I applied for were speculative applications, and I got responses back from more than half of them. Always try to phone the company if possible to follow up on the application.
Please remember these are just my personal opinion and to be I hope my experience with placement applications was helpful and I wish you best of luck with yours!