As an art school graduate myself I found finding a job in my field extremely competitive. I was fortunate to land a job at a small marketing firm right out of college by showing a rag-tag portfolio of illustrations and a couple of graphic design examples. Looking back, I think my portfolio was laughable at my current standards. It didn't have a specific focus. I wanted to do everything. Graphic design, illustration, video, and animation, I consider a large majority of my work a compilation of beautiful failures. That isn't without a margin of success. This was due to honing my skills within all of the fields I was interested in. The more you try, study, and produce new work the more you will grab a small portion of success. Hone in your skills by continuously trying and finding the time to do so. Here is a list of 5 different things I have done in my career to become the multi-faceted designer I am today.
1. Sketch your heart out at restaurants
Carry a small sketchbook. Even a small lined notebook the size of your pocket and a pen. If you are out to coffee with a friend or out and about by yourself you can sketch a piece of life. I have tons of sketches of coffee cups, discarded creamer containers, forks and plates of eaten food. Pens help you decide more closely how precise you have to draw.
Being able to draw has been an essential tool I have used for project planning.
2. Buy physical books for visual inspiration (or if you're short on cash, head to a library!)
I have constantly looked at books for inspiration. Seeing what other artists, not just in the field of graphic design, can spur inspiration. Lately, I just purchased a book called “Amano” a compilation of Yoshitaka Amano illustrations. If you don't know who Amano is, he was the illustrator behind a majority of the artwork for the Final Fantasy video games. This book has various interviews with Amano describing how he uses several different styles and techniques to create his work. I have personally adopted similar techniques to create my own illustrative graphic design works for posters. I like to see when other people I admire are similar or dissimilar to myself. I may pick up new ways to work.
3. Seek other artists to draw inspiration from
I have met quite a few artists through gallery showings and music events. You can also reach out through social media. For a while I also had an art/food blog in which I used artist interviews for posts. Some of these interviews gave me inspiration for my own work. Spreading the word also inspired others.
4. Create a social media presence
Every year I rehash my online portfolio. Because I'm a multi-media artist sometimes I find it hard to separate my work in an easy to digest viewing experience. Some artists will hone in on one specific area. I have never done this with my website because I apply for various jobs and gallery showings with different aspects of my work. I just try to make it easy for the viewer to find something specific. For example, if a prospective client wants to check out my video work, I make it easy to find that specific part.
Instagram, Linkedin, and Facebook are also places where I place updates to my main website or places I like to post my current events. If I'm visiting an art gallery or if I'm working on a new piece. The blog I'm currently writing can also be shared on social media.
5. Create work, constantly
I am fortunate to work at a creative agency where I am consistently working on something new from day to day. However, I do not share the work I do for my current agency.
If you may be in a situation where you cannot use that work for your own personal portfolio or you are working a 9 to 5 (or more!) in a non-creative job where you cannot pick up clients, work on some pieces of your own. You can create fonts, artwork for t-shirts, artwork for gallery showings, zines, you name it! The more you create, the more pieces you can use in your portfolio. Employers want to see your work. Even if you haven't had as much experience with clients, you can express how you could use the skills you've obtained.