It's not always easy for design students to know what employers are looking for. Chances are there's a difference between what design school tells you and how the job market actually is. So how should you spend your study time to land a job? Here are my personal tips and tricks for you: Intrinsic motivation, take responsibility for your learning, and build your portfolio.
There are two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the drive to work for internal rewards. For instance, to improve your design skills. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, involves external rewards like good grades. Students should base their learning on intrinsic motivation. One of the reasons why is that employers will take notice of your inner drive. This increases your chances of getting a job. You'll also likely become a better designer by having a genuine interest in it.
Don't get me wrong, that’s not to say that you should aim for bad grades! It's more about the basis of what drives you as a student. Your motivation should be to become a great designer as oppose to getting a pat on the back from a teacher.
Disclaimer: this article will not magically give you intrinsic motivation! Intrinsic motivation doesn't suddenly appear by reading a random article on the internet. It's an inner drive that you'll discover when you find something you love doing. Try out different disciplines and just have fun! When you find something you love doing, cultivate your learning around your field of interests!
Take Responsibility for Learning
Students tend to believe that they're becoming a specialist simply by following the curriculum. This may be true regarding some curriculums, but most don't have that intention.
Design school is more about creating opportunities by including a wide variety of subjects. There's a limit to what you can learn in one or two semesters about a particular discipline.
Let's compare design school to a TV show: the different subjects they teach you at design school are like the pilot episode. It's then your responsibility to make sure you watch the rest of the seasons to know what's going on. The more you watch, the more exciting it becomes! This also highlights the importance of intrinsic motivation and the quest to find a field of interest. Who on Earth wants to spend time watching a TV show that’s not particularly interesting to them?
Build a Portfolio
A portfolio is a good way to show two of the key factors that attract employers: passion and self-drive. It can contain everything from school projects to hobby projects. Just make sure that none of the content in your portfolio infringes on any legal rights, like non-disclosure agreements, for instance.
Because of your impressive portfolio, you'll most likely get some invitations for a "coffee chat" (read: job interview).
"Coffee chat" is a term that employers often use to act hard to get. Before you show up for the interview, you need to know how to present your portfolio. You may fall short of impressing a potential employer if you don't know how to explain your work.
I held a presentation about this topic where I gave advice on how to be well prepared for the transition from studies to working life at NTNU Gjøvik earlier this year. The presentation is in Norwegian.
Summing It Up
After three years in the design industry, I've become a little bit wiser as to how things work, yet I still have a lot to learn! I hope that my tips and tricks have been helpful (to at least some of you anyway).
If you have any questions about this topic or EGGS, or anything else design related, please feel free to email me.