BA (Hon)est: Graduate advice #2 – Options

After attending the private view of this year’s University of Lincoln degree show (Show Fourteen), I was reminded about the situation that I found myself in this time last year. I spoke to a few students about what happened after I graduated and I think I surprised them: I didn’t know if I wanted to be a Graphic Designer anymore. Did I really want to sit at a desk 9-5 everyday? I’ve got lots of other skills that I could use too – I wanted a job that doesn’t exist, yet.

I remember asking my tutors for advice about where they could see me going but they couldn’t put their fingers on it either. I have spoken about ‘the traditional route’ before – go to University, graduate and then get a job as a graphic designer. It doesn’t always happen like that though and I think that in this entrepreneurial world it’s important to know your options – you don’t have to follow the crowd these days, make your own path!

If you find yourself in the same position as I was, my advice is that the only way to find out is it to try it. You’ve stuck at it for 3 years for a reason, so you must a) have passion for it and b) have skills! It’s always good to consider your options, so I’ve looked into a few routes which you could help you decide your next moves. Here I talk about Graphic Design specifically but I’m pretty sure the logic could be applied to most creative careers (advertising,fashion,product design?):

So you still want to be a Graphic Designer? Just so you know, being in industry is quite different to being a student! Internships are brilliant – if you’re pro-active you can be a sponge and soak up knowledge from industry professionals who have been in the same position as you. Just watch out for studios that have a constant conveyor belt of interns because they’re cheap labour. Oh and that’s another thing – every internship should be paid these days! Don’t work for free because you are talented and therefore deserve to be paid minimum wage.

Ok so it usually works out that you have to intern before you can get a job as a Graphic Designer, but not necessarily! Gaining as much experience as you can is really important but if you have potential, initiative and a great team around you, you’ll be able to learn on the job. If you see an advert for a job that doesn’t specify a certain amount of experience (although you might notice they often say 1-2 years for a Junior designer) go for it – what have you got to lose? Also read my first BA(Hon)est post about the dreaded job search.

MA study?
Are you really passionate about a specific area/issue in design? Are you thinking about possibly going into teaching at a later point in your career? Undertaking post graduate studies might be the best route for you. You don’t have to do an MA straight after a BA, but I know that Lincoln offer a discount for BA students who then continue to study for their MA at Lincoln. I don’t know if this is a common occurrence or if there’s a time limit on the discount, but I’m sure you’ll agree that any help is good. On the other hand, when I have spoken to MA grads before they advised that a couple of years in between the BA and MA would be ideal to help decide what you want to get out of the post grad. Just don’t choose to do an MA because you’re scared to get a job and it’s safer to stay in education – if your hearts not 100% in it to win it it will be a waste of £7,000! Further study isn’t for everyone anyway….

Keen to get out into the big wide world fast? Great at networking and have lots of contacts? Want to keep busy whilst looking for a job at the same time? Super organised and want to be your own boss? Maybe you could try freelancing. It all sounds sweet and rosy but freelancing is hard – you have to keep a steady flow of work, manage your work/life balance and take full responsibility for anything that might go wrong. Eeek – that’s a lot of pressure and if you’re straight out of University you won’t have a lot of experience in sending things to print etc If something goes wrong it’s coming straight out of your pocket AND you have to pay your own taxes – grown up stuff! I wouldn’t personally advise going freelance straight from University but it does work out for some people…

A.k.a Make your own job. Think outside of the box – you don’t have to take the ‘traditional route’ and go into a ready made role. You’re a creative so use some of that brain power you’ve got, develop some cool ideas and be an entrepreneur! Could you start up your own magazine/blog or maybe a creative festival/talks series/workshops/events? Have you ever thought about something that would have been helpful/interesting/fun but doesn’t exist yet? Find a gap in the market, be prepared to work really REALLY hard and enjoy the rewarding feeling at the end when (hopefully) you become a success!

Career change?
So you might decide that Graphic Design isn’t what you want to do. That’s fine – you should do whatever makes you happy, but where do you go now? Rather than being totally lost, try to think about the skills that you have learnt in the past 3 years (and I’m not talking about downing pints).

What skills do you have as a Graphic Designer?
– Critical and analytical thinking
– Writing – Journalism
– Strategy planning
– Opinon – Graphic Designers ALWAYS have an opinion!

Explore the world?
As a designer you need to be able to understand lots of different people – it won’t come as a surprise that these kinds of things can’t be learnt via textbooks. So get out into the world, meet people and experience things! Travelling is scary and expensive so it will take planning and working in a rubbish job to gain the funds but will lead to an amazing adventure which you will remember for the rest of your life. Just don’t forget that at some point you’ll have to come home and get back to reality… unless you get a job abroad?

Do nothing?
Yes, you read correctly – do nothing. You’ve just spent 3 years on a very intense course so maybe you just need to take some time to chill and recuperate so that when you do head out into the big wide world you’ll be 100% healthy and ready for any challenge thrown at you! Don’t feel bad about it, just keep motivated and focused on getting back into things when you’re feeling better. (I had a bit of a break – I needed it!)

I hope this helps any graduates that are feeling a little bit lost in the world. I don’t claim to be a career guru but any help I can give I will try my best so don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions!



  • Lauren

    04/06/2014 at 10:03 pm

    I have to admit, really glad that you’ve written this post! I may not be finishing from a BA this year but I’m graduating from college with a HND. Although I have accepted a place at University for a BA I’m not sure that’s what I want to do and where I want to go. I had originally (and since I was kid) planned to go to Gray’s in Aberdeen but I was only offered 1year and I really felt that wasn’t the right way to go for me. I’m going to try and look for a job or internship but I’m really not sure what I want to do. I would love to just be creating and making stuff even if it was on the side with slightly less pressure. But I would also to do a bit of travelling. I just don’t know! Sorry I’m rambling now! But anyway, awesome post!
    Lauren | OhHay Blogs!

    • graphiquefantastique

      09/06/2014 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks Lauren, I’m really glad it helped you! It’s really hard to know where to go/what to do next in the creative industries which is why I wanted to write this post to help – I hope that my mistakes/journeys can help other graduates and students 🙂 It’s good to be generally creative but really hard to narrow down what you want to do – hopefully you can find a job that allows you to continue with other aspects of creativity in your spare time! 🙂

  • charlottegracewoodfield

    08/06/2014 at 2:21 pm

    This is truly inspirational. I have recently (two days ago) taken part in my BA hons Art Practice degree show and am in the same position as you were!After reading your blog and looking at your website, I am completely inspired to pursue my creative career!

    Thank you.


    • graphiquefantastique

      09/06/2014 at 10:00 pm

      That is great news Charlotte – if it’s something you’re passionate about you should totally go for it! I’m really glad that my post helped you and look forward to reading about your future creative adventures on your blog 🙂

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