Industry professionals share thoughts on job-hunting, networking and interviewing
As designers make the transition from student to professional, the learning experience continues with lessons in the real-world. Especially important starting out is knowing how to present your personality, skills and experience in a workplace setting to impress potential employers.


RGDs on the other side of the table share advice for job seekers on the following key areas:


1. Why Networking is So Important

2. How to Get an Informational Interview

3. How to Maintain Your New Contacts


Tony Jurgilas RGD, Partner/Design Director, 50 Carleton, Sudbury

Karen Satok RGD, Owner, Sputnik Design Partners, Toronto

Stussy Tschudin RGD, Managing Partner at Forge Media + Design, Toronto

Patryck Adamczyk RGD, Senior Mobile User Experience Designer, Mozilla, Toronto

Barry Quinn, Creative Director of Design, Juniper Park, Toronto

Diego Casco RGD, Creative Director, CASCO Agency, Toronto

Robin Honey RGD, President, Honey Design, London


1. Network

The old adage “It’s who you know will get you an interview and your skills will get you the job” rings true for new grads and young professionals. One of the many opportunities to network can be at many of the RGD sponsored events, especially those like “HeadStart” that has interaction between industry professionals and students happening throughout the duration.

“The best is to be involved in the industry”, says Barry Quinn RGD. “Get out to events, talk to speakers, hand out cards, keep in touch (on Twitter and Facebook). Have a good digital portfolio ready that can be emailed out.”

There are many networking options for students and new grads to help grow their contact lists; RGD offers many events throughout the year to link potential employers to employees, portfolio reviews and support exhibit showcases and design awards to help facilitate communication between all members of the design industry.

"It is important to begin establishing industry contacts while still enrolled in a design program," says Tony Jurgilas RGD. "Networking opportunities between students and professionals are varied and many. College programs may include portfolio review sessions with industry professionals. These events provide excellent opportunities for graduating students to introduce their creativity to prospective employers."

2. Informational Interviews

One effective way to network is the informational interview. The option of taking an informational interview with a designer you respect in the industry is always a welcome alternative to traditional networking.  

Keep in mind that some organizations are busier than others and have different policies on this approach. Some will walk through your portfolio and give you feedback, some take phone calls and others will invite you in for a tour of the offices.

“We are VERY open being an open source company, so if grads are interested, they can easily arrange to visit the office and see how the company functions," says Patryck Adamczyk RGD.

But don't be discouraged if this isn't the case. During peak times, scheduling issues can make this kind of meeting difficult, so don't be upset if your dream agency is unable to accommodate.

Make sure to draft a personal e-mail as an icebreaker addressed specifically to the person you’d like to meet with.

“First and foremost, the candidate must have made the effort to discover my name, position and a bit of company history. If someone drops in and leaves a resumé at the front desk with the words, 'To whom it may concern,' it’s swiftly disposed of before ever reaching my eyes," says Tony.

As busy and demanding as creative professionals are, they were all once in the same position as a new graduate and all recognize how difficult it can be to get started in the industry.

“We will always try to make time to see recent grads - it’s part of us giving back," says Karen Satok RGD. "We were all there once – and it’s harder now than it’s ever been. Showing your portfolio around is incredibly valuable. Even if the firm isn’t hiring – someone is. We’ve been asked for recommendations countless times. If you have made an impression on us, we are going to forward your name on.”

You can never know the impact networking will have. “Sometimes, if there is a great candidate, I end up creating a position because I really want that person on my team,” says Stussy Tschudin RGD.

3. Maintain your New Contacts

How you conduct yourself during an interview, informational or otherwise, goes a long way. Be prepared to back up your thought and design processes when asked and "never say ' because I liked it' as a reason," says Stussy. "Other than that, be honest and be yourself." Don't be afraid to show interest in the agency or ask your interviewees questions about what decisions they made to get where they are today.

It may not seem like a big deal to you, but the people hiring are looking as much for a fit in character as they are in talent. "If there is [an] attitude, there is no fit. We are all here to work and to learn together. Have respect for your peers and most importantly, appreciate experience," Says Diego Casco RGD

Robin Honey RGD explains this further: "Fit is the most important element. Skills can often be taught but attitude can't." Sometimes you never know what can greet you on the other side of the door. "Having my dog greet them is often a great way to see how they manage themselves, too."

Industry professionals agree that hard work, honesty and the ability to convey your personality in a way that is genuine are all important steps to starting your career on the right foot. Engaging in informational interviews can help showcase your skills and personality and also put you on the radar of of employers in the industry. Along with a great attitude and a strong portfolio, you will land that dream job!

At some point later in your career, it will be time to pay-back to the industry and become a portfolio reviewer, peer mentor or speaker later on in your career to help usher in the new generation of design professionals.