As a graphic design student, gaining industry experience while still in university is crucial for building your skills, expanding your network, and enhancing your portfolio. Balancing studies and real-world experience can be challenging, but with the right approach, it can be incredibly rewarding. Here are some strategies to help you gain valuable industry experience during your time at university.

1. Internships and Work Placements

This route worked best for me,  I was lucky to secure two-year work experience where they paid for my travel. The training and welcoming me into their support network was amazing. Where I was introduced to printer, photographers, artworkers, website developers and videographers. Their support reassured me an attitude that I could do this. I strongly believe Internships and work placements are one of the most effective ways to gain industry experience. Many companies offer summer internships or part-time placements specifically for students. These opportunities allow you to work on real projects, understand industry workflows, and gain insights into professional environments. Start by checking your university’s career services and job boards like Indeed or Internwise. Or do what I did which was contact the agency by knocking on their doors. Or locating the company headoffice and seeing there internal marketing team would like some help. The worst they can say is no.

2. Freelancing

Freelancing offers flexibility and the chance to work on a variety of projects. Websites like Upwork and Freelancer connect you with clients looking for design work. Even small projects can add significant value to your portfolio and provide practical experience.

3. University Projects and Competitions

Take full advantage of your university projects by treating them as professional briefs. Participate in design competitions and challenges which often come with real-world problems to solve. Websites like D&AD New Blood Awards offer prestigious competitions for students. I was lucky to win a national award as this doing this or be nominated is nice recognition on your CV

4. Network with Professionals

Building a professional network while still in university can open doors to industry opportunities. Attend industry events, seminars, and workshops. Join professional organisations like the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD). LinkedIn is also a valuable tool; connect with professionals, join relevant groups, and participate in discussions. You can start by connecting with me on LinkedIn! My LinkedIn Profile.

5. Collaborate with Peers

Collaborating with other students on side projects can simulate real-world teamwork and help you learn new skills. Start a design club or join existing student groups focused on creative projects. Collaborative work can lead to portfolio pieces that stand out to potential employers.

6. Seek Mentorship

Finding a mentor can provide guidance and industry insights. Many universities have alumni networks where you can find experienced professionals willing to mentor students. Platforms like Design Trust also offer mentorship opportunities for young designers.

7. Online Courses and Workshops

Enhance your skills by taking online courses and workshops that focus on industry-relevant tools and techniques. Websites like Skillshare and Coursera offer courses taught by industry professionals. This can give you an edge by staying updated with the latest trends and technologies.

8. Build an Impressive Portfolio

A strong portfolio is your gateway to industry opportunities. Include your best work from internships, freelance projects, and university assignments. Showcase a variety of skills and styles to demonstrate your versatility. Websites like Behance and Dribbble are great platforms to display your portfolio and attract potential clients or employers.

Final Thoughts

Gaining industry experience while studying graphic design requires effort and dedication, but the rewards are well worth it. By pursuing internships, freelancing, participating in competitions, networking, collaborating with peers, seeking mentorship, and continuously enhancing your skills, you’ll be well-prepared for a successful career in graphic design.

Remember, every project and connection brings you one step closer to your career goals. Embrace these opportunities with enthusiasm and confidence. Good luck on your journey to becoming a successful graphic designer!


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