2020 has definitely, as they say, been a year for the history books. The world—and our lives—has been overwhelmed by the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. While we continue to navigate these remarkably tumultuous times, Shillington graduates around the world continue to produce incredible for their portfolios. Many of these students transitioned into online learning with us when “Stay Home” orders were given in our campus countries. On top of this, there is a silver lining—our amazingly talented graduates are still finding jobs in the design industry.
In this second blog post of the series, we spoke to two of our recent New York graduates, Liam Sperenza and Zita Walker, about navigating the job market in these unprecedented times. They told us how they found their jobs, what their interviews were like and for some advice for people in the same position. Read on to find out more.
Introducing Zita Walker and Liam Sperenza—our amazing Shillington New York graduates! Both Zita and Liam studied full-time with us. They started their course in January 2020 so graduated three months later in April 2020 after the pandemic has been declared and the course had moved to online teaching.
Zita and Liam have two very different stories of what they were up to before they came to study with us at Shillington. Zita was working as an Assistant Art Director for a Event Design company and freelancing as an illustrator.
She already had a degree in Architecture under her belt—and had also worked as an architectural assistant. She hadn’t worked in graphic design directly but was exposed to a lot of it in her work, and was grabbed by “the diversity and inventiveness of it”.
Since she graduated, Zita has moved back to her native Sydney and landed herself a freelance position at Sketch Collective, an independent marketing agency founded in 2019.
Meanwhile Liam was working in the world of science and research. They had studied Biochemistry at college and was working in communications at a behavioral science research firm. Their job lead to them becoming fascinated in how science and design could intertwine.
On the side, they’re also the visual editor for a publication called The Behavioral Scientist so, despite being heavily involved in science, had started to play with design before starting at Shillington.
Post-Shillington, Liam is now working as Associate Design Manager at the brilliantly named TUSHY—whose tag line is “For People Who Poop”. TUSHY is a fast-growing lifestyle brand that’s revolutionizing, modernizing and improving the American bathroom.
Fortunately, as a large majority of job searching is done online these days, the actual process of looking for a job hasn’t changed drastically. Don’t forget to check out Shillington’s Jobs Board for roles across the world. We also have an blog post on the Best Design Jobs Boards if you wanted to look further.
The thing that has changed about the Job Hunt is the amount of jobs out there. We can’t say that a global pandemic hasn’t had an effect on the amount of jobs out there, but these graduates are proof that there is still jobs for you to apply for. It took Zita around three months to find her job after she graduated:
“I landed my job with Sketch Collective at the end of July, and up until then I was taking on small freelance projects.”
Freelancing is clearly common amongst this year’s grads, as Liam took on some freelance clients in the month and half before they started their job at TUSHY:
“However, almost a week after I graduated from Shillington, I started getting freelance clients who saw my work from Shillington’s Grad Showcase and have since been working freelance as well.”
Our Grad Showcase was a website dedicated to each of our graduating classes where we shared a project from each student, alongside a short bio, their website and Instagram handle. This was then shared to our 40,000+ Instagram followers and a link was emailed to 600+ industry contacts in each of our campus cities. There was a lot of eyes on there!
In a time where most offices were shut and people were advised to stay at home, a job interview was always going to look different to normal. Though, like with just about everything else, people found a way to work around this. Like a lot of things this year, Liam’s interview took place over video:
“The interview process was pretty standard. My first interview was with the Chief Creative Officer who assigned a creative brief for me. I then interviewed with the Marketing and Creative team — it all happened pretty quickly! I can safely say I’ve been to tons of interviews before, but it was strange interviewing via FaceTime and not being able to fully read my interviewers’ body language and facial expressions.”
On the other hand, Zita’s interview was pretty standard:
“I only had one interview with the Director of the agency in which I talked through my portfolio, my process and my experience with different areas of design.”
From Liam and Zita’s experiences, we can gauge that even the format of interviews might be looking a little different, the content is still looking very similar.
Don’t be put off by Liam’s thoughts on not being able to read body language or facial expressions. Remember, we’re all new to this remote way of doing things so it could potentially be a strange experience for everyone. Just try your best as you would in any interview! Interviews being on Zoom can also work in your favour—if you’re able to do a good job on there, they know you’ll be ready to work remotely.
Want to know what to expect in a graphic design interview? Check out our article on the kind of questions you can expect to be asked and the best ways to answer them.
With many people working from home, design studios are looking like very different places in 2020. In fact, some studios have made the decision to scrap a physical studio all together. Though, many still keep their traditional office space. Liam’s job at TUSHY sees them mainly working from home, but occasionally heading into the office for certain jobs:
“I mostly work remotely. Even though I’m a graphic and web designer for TUSHY, my role also entails video and photoshoot production. I have to be on set about once every 2-3 months to produce new marketing creative.”
They told us he initially found working from their bedroom, as many of us have done, was difficult but they quickly got themself into a routine:
“My work schedule really fluctuates, especially as I’ve been settling into the role. I’m not going to lie, the work/life balance was difficult when trying to work out of my bedroom!”
“However, I’ve since given myself ‘work hours’ I’ve achieved a much better work/life balance.”
As a freelancer, Zita’s work has also remained firmly remote:
“Yes, I work remotely for Sketch Collective on a freelance basis. For the projects I have worked on, I have answered directly to the agency Director who presents my work to the client.”
One of our favourite things is seeing the designs our graduates work on once they leave us and start their careers—and not even a pandemic could change that.
Freelancing with Sketch Collective, Zita has had the opportunity to design 2 brand identities. She was unable to share her work with us at this time, but we look forward to seeing it in the future. Though, she did tell us:
“I’ve worked on a rebrand for a fitwear company, and a brand identity for a business that offers individual career coaching. I’ve really enjoyed the process for both, playing around with colours, typefaces, and illustration to create the look of a brand is loads of fun.”
Liam’s experiences as an in-house designer have been a little different, but it seems like they’ve been having lots of fun designing:
“Because I’m an in-house designer for a direct-to-consumer company, most of my projects surround designing emails, social media assets, packaging, and webpages. But one larger project I just finished was designing the digital experience for Butt-Con; TUSHY’s first digital event that is all about digestive health and well-being.”
Nothing makes everyone at Shillington happier than seeing our graduates head off into the design world and forge their own careers. We make sure they leave with all the skills, technical know-how and confidence to be able to do this. And, both of our graduates agree with this. Liam said:
“Shillington taught me not only how to technically use graphic design programs better, but the course taught me how to think like a designer, and how to both receive feedback on my work, while also learning how to defend my vision and point-of-view.”
Zita agreed that the Shillington course armed her with the skills and confidence needed to succeed in her current role:
“What I have been doing at Sketch Collective has involved the same design processes that Shillington teaches, and the deadlines in the real world are rather short too, so having learned those time management skills through Shillington has helped immensely.”
Finally, we asked each of our graduates to share their number one piece of advice for anyone who is starting their design journey with Shillington. Zita offered:
“See every new brief and every new project as an opportunity to test the limits of your creativity! Don’t hold back! Try everything even if you don’t think it will work. Whenever I face a challenging project, I see it as an opportunity to surprise myself.”
And Liam shared this with us:
“My advice would be to experiment! I remember in the first few weeks of the course, I desperately wanted to do things “perfectly” and it stifled my creativity. It wasn’t until I really let go, trusted myself, and wasn’t afraid to try new things that I started making work I was really proud of.”
Big congratulations on their new roles to both our graduates, Zita and Liam, and big thanks to both of them for sharing their stories and advice with us.
Zita and Liam are just two of our New York graduates who have landed a job during the pandemic. We’d also like to say a big congratulations to:
We wanted to write this article to show that, despite the turbulent period the world is currently facing, there are jobs out there and Shillington graduates are getting hired! We hope this article shows you that there is hope.
Good luck in your job search! For more help, check out the Resources on our blog, there’s loads of amazing career tips and treats on there. And, don’t forget, we have an incredible Career Guide exclusive to Shillington graduates on The Guide.
Artwork by #ShilloLON Teacher Jack Trotman.