Knowing how to transition from a student to a professional is essential but not something our schools often prepare us for. During my last semester of college, I often felt anxious when it came to finding a job, so I wanted to share some tips that helped me navigate this phase of life.
Research and apply to as many opportunities as you can. Whether it’s internships, jobs, classes, or boot camps and conferences, the most important part is as long as they are virtual, you can try to attend and learn something new. There is no reason to limit yourself in your geographic area anymore. I would highly recommend sites like LinkedIn for you to stay informed of current opportunities. One of my work colleagues, Landre, said, “I spent April-June applying to jobs on LinkedIn. If it had not been for keeping my resume updated and randomly finding the job posting on LinkedIn, I wouldn't have landed a job at my company after graduating college." If you’re looking for exposure to the advertising industry, the MAIP
program was extremely helpful for me when getting started. We Are Next
is also a good resource built for students and junior talent in advertising and marketing.
Stay curious and ask lots of questions. If there is something you want to learn, there are tons of free online courses where you can pick up new skills and tools. I personally used sites like Medium
, UX Planet
, and Coursera
to pick up new skills that were related to my career path and to get inspired. I would also recommend reaching out to peers who are currently working in your interested field to learn more about their transition.
Always make sure your portfolio and resume are up to date, polished, and ready to be sent off. Quality is also better than quantity. Don’t stress if you don’t have big name client work on your portfolio or resume. Oftentimes, recruiters understand that as students, most of our work is from projects we did in school. They are more focused on the way you problem solve, your potential for growth, and personality. Passion projects and hobbies are also a great way to demonstrate how you can flex as a creative.
Build your Network
Getting your foot in the door is key and one of your main goals. Networking is extremely important in understanding what opportunities are currently available and helping get your name out there. Make the most out of the opportunities you have whether that’s in school, internships, or career fairs. I would highly recommend starting to build your profile on LinkedIn as early as you can and start connecting and maintaining those relationships with the people you meet. You can also use the ‘follow’ feature to help you learn about other industry professionals before you request a connection. One of my work colleagues, Melissa, said “when I first entered the advertising industry, I was blown away by how eager professionals were to uplift others. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because you’d be surprised by how many people are willing to build connections with you and support your career growth.”
Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor who wants to support your growth and help you become a better person and professional is one of the best things you can do. Their experience and expertise is invaluable and it’s a great feeling to know you have a support system who is invested in your career and wants to see you succeed. You can look within your alumni network, senior classmates, or ask someone from your previous internship that is a few years more experienced than you.
Keep an open mind
Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t land your dream job or internship. Good things can come out of these opportunities as well. By taking on opportunities that weren't part of my initial plan, I was able to learn more about myself and what I liked versus didn’t like. You also pick up transferable skills that are useful for your next job and make you a well-rounded candidate for the future.
Throughout my internship with R/GA, I was able to be hands-on in projects and learn about the different processes of what it means to work in an agency, as well as better understand how my role played in the collective success of our projects. The way the internship program was set up also allowed us to have plenty of opportunities to speak with key leaders in the office and attend department workshops, even while we were all virtual. As interns, we were also paired with mentors and their one-on-one support and guidance was essential when it came to getting integrated into company culture as well as connecting with a wide variety of people. I would realise later that this exposure to R/GA’s people, projects, and resources, as well as having the support of my mentor, Bayyina Black, during my internship was extremely valuable and helped make the transition to a full-time designer much more seamless and comfortable.
Joy Lu is an associate experience designer at R/GA Austin