Week 3’s Baseline Shift marked the return of Alumni talks this year. We welcomed back past Graphic Communication graduates George Bevan, Racheal Paris and Sacha Harding to talk to us about what their life after graduation has been like.
George graduated 9 years ago, and is now a Senior Product Designer based in London. He reached out to us with interest in talking to students about his reflections after graduation, and how his experience of being an undergraduate has shaped him into the designer he is today. Similarly, Racheal and Sacha also wanted to share the insights they’ve gained after entering the world of work and changing career paths. They graduated just over a year ago in 2019.
George began by saying that he felt the course had good grounding in typography; its detailed approach to how we read enabled him to understand the power of written words, and how we as designers can provoke emotions and thought on a global scale. This is something which he values.
‘Dealing with words at a fundamental level was essential for my career.’ – George
Looking back on his years at university, George remembers the sense of imposter syndrome he felt whilst completing his projects at university.
‘Actually a lot of the work I did at university was surprisingly good, and at the time I didn’t really believe that.’ – George
Having the imposter syndrome is something that can often be quite prevalent on our course. We may feel that because we are not practising designers and are still learning, that our work isn’t to the standard that is enough to be a professional in our industry. George was keen to explain that feeling such a way is very common; as he looks back at his old work, he now feels that his projects were of a good standard and not as bad as he had remembered. He mentioned how as students on the course we may feel that we lack the creative abilities to become great designers. We must understand that learning is a continuous process that goes beyond university; it is through pushing and working hard that we will get to wherever we want to be. This is in fact what George would call his ‘message from the future’: you will be fine. If you are feeling this way, take a step back and consider empathising with yourself and your work.
On this notion of not feeling good enough for such a career path, we are incredibly lucky that our industry is so wide and offers many routes; it is an exciting world to be a part of and valuing ourselves and our work is becoming more and more crucial to help it thrive. George says that being grounded and believing in the value that you offer people will take you far. Since university, he has taken on many interesting projects and worked with clients from all over the world; keeping up the effort to learn constantly has been very beneficial to his career.
‘No one has asked about my degree… ever.’ – George
Valuing our work remains crucial on a professional level as well; what Real Jobs and our projects during the duration of our course teach us is to hold our ground. If you don’t value your work, you won’t be able to sell it to the client. Once we get employed or take on Real Jobs, it may become easier to sense our value.
This industry that we are striving towards, is one of creative problem solvers, and COVID-19 has highlighted how lucky we are to live in a digitally globalised world. Being creative and constantly learning is a must to be able to feel good about our work. At the moment, George is working with a German company whilst based in the UK. This is more and more commonplace for designers and there is a better chance to share your talent without leaving the country. There are so many opportunities that open up to us during our university years that it can be exciting and intimidating; so developing a more holistic view will enable lots of opportunities.
‘Back yourselves a little bit more and believe. You have to believe that you’re adding value to value yourself.’ – George
George highlighted that the world needs people like us to solve crucial issues, as we communicate information issues like global warming, the way companies share our data, fake news, etc. We can deliver messages on an international scale. No matter the method of creation, our place is crucial and valuing ourselves impacts not only our self esteem but also how we also impact our environment as well.
‘As designers we can form conversations and design things to deliver messages that cut through the noise of millions of people through the internet.’ – George
Through his skills learnt on our course, George has been leading illustrators for chronic kidney disease, worked on data visualisation and typefaces across different languages. His story is an inspiring one that encourages us to feel better about ourselves and push ourselves to keep going.
Racheal Paris and Sacha Harding
Despite having degrees in Graphic Communication, both Racheal and Sacha are now not working as designers. During Part 2, they began to come to the realisation that graphic design might not be the occupation for them. However, they both recognise and value the skills which they learnt on the course.
Racheal took on a design role after graduation, consisting primarily of marketing and packaging design work. She later realised that it wasn’t the best fit for her. Currently working as an IT professional, the skillset which she established from her time here remains fundamental. She still utilises what she has learnt, just in a different environment. And she hasn’t lost passion for graphics, as she still designs logos and packaging alongside. Evidently, whether you end up wanting to be a designer or not, the skills which we learn can be applied to a wide variety of things.
‘It’s so important to remember that whatever you go into might not be your dream job.’ – Racheal
Sacha leant towards digital work on the course as she knew that she wanted to work in a digital space, but didn’t know where her dream job lied. After applying to about 50 different graduate schemes, she went to work at Vodafone in technology.
‘Whilst I wasn’t working as a designer, I was still able to bring many of my design skills to the role.’ – Sacha
For responding to client briefs, criticism, and putting together presentations, Sacha said that the skills she had learned from our course were ‘instrumental’. It is not just design skills that you learn, but a lot of equally essential soft skills. You are not only learning to design, but to communicate. And you will grow every year both as a designer and a problem solver.
Take on Real Jobs. You will get the opportunity to work with real clients, and really boost your skill set; Racheal and Sacha value their experience of them greatly.
‘It taught me so much. It’s so fulfilling.’ – Racheal
Racheal and Sacha also highlighted how their ability to be resilient was strengthened by their degree. It sucks to get rejections and bad feedback, but don’t let it get to you. If your attention to detail is not optimal, or you lack confidence when doing presentations, you will improve.
Advice for finding your first job
When applying for jobs or to graduate schemes, use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of your applications; this is something which Sacha did herself. Add your CV to LinkedIn and make the most of your profile and social media. You can also upload your CV to libraries online to increase the chances of recruiters discovering you.
Racheal got 2 interviews and secured her first job via Instagram. This highlights the importance of having a good Instagram page or portfolio of work. The more platforms you are on, the accessible you are, and the more likely you are to be noticed. Crucially, just put yourself out there. Racheal stressed that if you reach out and show interest yourself, you are more likely to be remembered.
George was lucky enough to get a paid internship and then get recruited for a job placement. If you need advice and guidance on how to find a job or career that suits you, he recommends visiting 80000hours.org.
George, Racheal and Sacha all encourage us to keep pushing, and remind us that our importance in the world comes from the value we hold of our work and ourselves, and that we will find our way forwards. You should consider opening up your social networks and connections throughout your studies by applying to internships, doing multiple Real Jobs and gaining real life insight into the industry. This will enable you to build a good portfolio and prepare for full time work.
You may not know exactly what you want to do when you graduate, and that’s fine. If you have strong interests, you could aim to tailor your project work towards them during your time on the course. However, no one expects you to realise your future for certain. Even Racheal and Sacha don’t know where exactly they are heading next.
‘Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.’ – Racheal
‘I mostly valued hearing that all three guests felt imposter syndrome a lot of the time as well – it was comforting to know that other people feel like that and that everyone is just winging it!’ – Robin Smith, Part 3
‘The charisma of the speakers was engaging as an audience member and their passion is inspiring and reassuring as they have been in the same position as my fellow Part 1 members.’ – Adam, Part 1
‘It was really interesting, thanks to all the speakers. It gave me an insight into what the future could look like for me post uni.’ – Megan Hancox, Part 1