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I completed a Bachelor of Graphic Design and in about three months, I hope to have a steady job that challenges me and keeps me learning. I believe I feel prepared for job hunting because in this last semester, I took on the role of student leader for the graphic design students in the Faculty of Arts and Design End of Year Exhibition.
In less than 16 weeks, we have gone from a group of 37 students to 25 exhibitors. Some chose not to exhibit due to already working in the industry or after realizing that graphic design is not their desired career path. Some chose not to exhibit due to life taking a few unexpected turns. I know I am exhibiting because I like the challenge of putting a group of people, hundreds of ideas and endless possibilities together. It is because of this exhibition, I feel more immersed, connected and ready to enter the design industry. Something I did not feel beforehand.
This feeling refers back to the university bubble. You focus on grades, you still feel young and insecure, you want to do well but is this the path for you? You're stressed with what seems like hundreds of assignments all at once and there is a running commentary that "Ps make degrees" (Ps = passes). You have older people with more life experience saying "take as many opportunities as you can" but in your current mindset, you see those opportunities as more stress, more workload that will affect your grades thus your future, thus future opportunities. So how do you break this mindset? How do you connect with an industry that you want to work with while feeling not up to that industry's standard?
By changing the student mantra of "in the future I'll be..."
I find that a lot of students put things on hold because "in the future" they'll have more time to do things, a stable job that gives them money to do what they want. By thinking this, they reflect negatively on themselves, that their skills aren't good enoughnow.They think that "in the future" they'll get better. I know several of my fellow graphic design students worry now about their value as a designer, as an employee, even as a person. They feel that once they gain tertiary qualifications, that things will seem clearer. That when they get older, they'll be better at public speaking and communicating, that they'll know more and once they get hired, it will all work out. It's true that when you get older you become wiser. You look back on your past self and see the mistakes you made, you see your insecurities and your skills that were a bit lackluster but when you're older, it's easier to reflect and think "I did all that to get to where I am right now". And that thought should always be there. Students need to realize that finishing a degree does not mean the journey is over, you are constantly evolving to be a better you. That no one knows everything, we are always learning.
We need to change this mentality of "I'm not good enough now", "in the future I'll be better" "I'll never be able to do this because of...". If we can change the students' mindset to "right now is the best opportunity", we'll have a stronger and more innovative workforce. We'll be creating foundations for future generations to explore more possibilities, to become more involved by generating their own opportunities. I know that some soon-to-graduate designers are embarrassed by certain skills they aren't an expert on, but what they need to know is that by being honest with themselves about that and being open to learning more, they're already ahead of the game.
With this exhibition, I aimed to make it more than a university unit that people need to pass to finish their degree. I wanted it to be an amazing opportunity that demonstrated creativity, that broke the rules that we had placed on ourselves as designers throughout our degrees. To put ourselves out there on social media and exposing our skills to designers we admire (@ucgraphicdesign if you want to check us out on Instagram). This exhibition allowed me to connect and converse with industry professionals in a way that felt I had no grounds to before ("Why would XYZ speak to me as a first year graphic design student? I'm not an experienced amazing designer!") and this is why I am writing this article.
Because of this exhibition, I realized that for soon-to-graduate designers to feel confident and excited about job prospects, designers should develop a a fierce determination that they are worthy of inclusion within the industry. Through more talks, more internships (hopefully with pay), more live briefs, more real life scenarios, more casual Q&As, more industry excursions and way more constructive criticism from a variety of people whose own personal experience can impact our mindsets, students (from any discipline) will start to remove the "the professionals vs. students" mindset and see themselves as a part of a growing industry.