5 simple things to remember when starting your 1st graphic design job.

You graduated college and got a job, yay! The weight has been lifted. The pressure to have a job right after college can be fierce. Except, once you land that job, there is a whole new set of pressures to deal with. You are now the millennial, the youngster, the fresh meat. You are the newbie designer in the room.

Hopefully, you found yourself working with others who are kind, understanding, and encouraging like I have. But it can be easy to second guess yourself. Will what I create and say be dismissed because I’m new? Should I assume the work of my more experienced co-workers is better than mine?

No and no!

You were hired for a reason. A creative director is not going to choose to work with someone just to automatically dismiss what they have to say. A professional will want to hear your ideas and see your work because they liked you and, your portfolio. In our industry, collaboration is a beautiful thing. Don’t focus too much on whether your idea is the final product or not. If school taught you anything, it should be how to take criticism as a designer. In addition, revisions and collaboration produce better work. Focus on the process and the work. At the end of the day, you are a part of making something great, and that is all that matters.

You will make mistakes, and that will show you are a newb. But that’s ok! Everyone starts somewhere. When you make an error, learn from it instead!

Here are some things I have done, and anyone can do, to be more confident in their work.

1. Boost your confidence.

Remember why you’re here. Reminding yourself that you ARE qualified to be here is always helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Be prepared to back it up.

Having to back up why you designed something the way you did shouldn’t be a new experience. I at least had plenty of professors grill me, which I’m now grateful for. Now it’s the ‘real world’. Your process may have become intuitive, and you work with designers who don’t require an explanation. However, taking mental note of why you believe this design will work for the project, is a great way to feel prepared to present it.

If you do any freelance work, your clients may not understand your process or reasoning without you explaining it. It is always a good idea to be prepared for this conversation. “This layout leads the viewer from … to …”. The colors, font, etc. reflect…because…”.

Preparation can put the mind at ease.

2. Put in the extra time.

Period. Going the extra mile and pushing yourself until you can look at your own work and say you love it, is always worth it. If you want to get better than you need to push yourself. Take the time to do one more tweak, one more review, one more self-critique. If you know that you did the best you could, there’s no reason to worry about showing it off.

3. Stay on top of it!

Look around at what is going on in the wonderful world of design. There is no excuse for this. There are endless amounts of projects, graphics, and campaigns to browse online.

I subscribe to Communication Arts magazine, follow Ad Age and Adweek on social media, as well as other designers and agencies. I use Crayon to quick search for inspiration and have a Pinterest board filled with cool ideas I might want to see again later. This is called a swipe file, you can create your own library of them using whatever method you’d like.

Communication Arts magazine is available in print and PDF download.

Netflix has also come out with a documentary series called Abstract: The art of Design which features greats from many different aspects of the design world. I haven’t finished it yet, but have really been inspired by what I’ve seen. There are also actual hard cover books you can hold in your hand (or download) about design. For me, doing this is everything. Nothing makes me more excited to get up and do my best work more than checking out the amazing things fellow designers are doing.

When you feel motivated and on top of what’s going on, you won’t feel so unsure!

4. Google is your secret weapon.

Want to look like you know what you’re doing, but you don’t know how to do something? How lucky we are to have the internet. I have Googled how to create plenty of styles and learned many tricks through tutorials I found through a quick Google search. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone!

5. Refresh yourself.

While getting your head in the game is key, taking it out is just as important. Always make time to do things that are not related to work that make you happy. You might be surprised at how a little break from a project may be just what you needed to solve the problem.

From one newbie designer to another, I hope these thoughts make you more confident in your work.

About the Author Mike Lord