Recessions are difficult times for designers. Less money is spent by business meaning that design studios close. Fewer design firms are hiring and those that are have their pick of experienced designers. It is not easy for the recent design graduate who lacks commercial experience. What can they do?
Can the job seeker relocate? Being flexible about the city they live in will open more job opportunities. Some people cannot relocate and they become restricted in their choices because they are limited to the opportunities available locally. Some cities and regions might not have many design jobs. Design jobs are typically found more in larger centers.
Consider finding any job to help cover the bills in the meantime (e.g. retail). Some work experience at anything establishes a track record of punctuality, reliability, professionalism and trust. A job might also provide networking opportunities where design ability can be shown. A job with limited hours leaves excess capacity that can be used to continue looking for design jobs.
Network with business people. Use social connections to let people know that this designer is looking for work. This might lead to freelance opportunities (which count as commercial experience) which might lead onto job leads. Other designers might be able to help out with freelance jobs and job leads but typically this will be limited to the crumbs that fall from their tables – and those crumbs become less during recessions. Therefore, spend more time networking with the non-designer contacts. Go to social events and occasions. Talk to people. Find the bars where businesses have their Friday drinks.
Use the Internet to help find a design job, but do not rely exclusively on the net because it is a supplemental tool only. Build an online presence that includes a portfolio. Use social networking sites to find jobs and leverage your networks. The internet is also a good source of tutorials for designers to expand their skillsets.
Build both commercial experience and portfolio: Studio work equals paid freelance which is better than charity work which is better than school work which is equal to hobby work. Build the portfolio via whatever means possible. Each piece should build commercial experience and/or improve the designer’s skillset.
Consider asking for internships in design studios. Friends who are designers might be able to help with leads for internship placements. Internships are usually unpaid but can be a networking opportunity and a chance to gain some real experience. Even a few days or a day or two a week around another job can be helpful.
Do not wait until conditions are perfect. Procrastination allows opportunities to slip past. It is not necessary to have the perfect portfolio or the perfect CV. Often these things are only finalized in response to a job lead.