Saturday, 25 July 2015

Time to Get Out

It has been over a year since my last post and I thought I'd give a little update.

After Christmas I left my last job. In the previous post you can see how frustrated I was there. By the time Christmas came, I was at the end of my tether and after hearing that a company I really admired were looking, I jumped at the chance.

I stayed in my last job, despite my frustrations, because I didn't think I was good enough to get a job anywhere else. The place I applied for, I thought, was completely out of my league. I created a portfolio pretty quickly in time for an interview;  I was on my way out of there, and onto pastures new. It had gotten so bad for me that I didn't see any other option but the reality is I probably could have left a good few months before. I just had to give myself that confidence and that kick up the backside.

I started my new job earlier in the year and have recently passed my probation. From my previous job to this job was a massive jump, but I made it - I've been doing well in my new job and I am so happy.
The management and the type of projects have led me to be more fulfilled and challenged and I wouldn't dream of working any where else. Finally I feel like I got the job I was looking for back in 2011. It's only taken 4 years; 12 placements, 2 freelance jobs and 1 permanent job to get there...

A lot of my friends and ex colleagues do moan about their jobs, and I can completely relate to it. I hated my previous job too. But it wasn't a prison sentence; no one was forcing me to stay. What was keeping me there was my lack of confidence and laziness. All I want to say to these friends is just Jump. It will be amazing.

Saturday, 17 May 2014


I have to say I never thought it would come to this.

I feel degraded and deflated after a tough week at work, but I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I know it is only going to get worse.

As a junior designer I expected to have to wade through a lot of mess to get to the next level, but after 18 months of wading and digging through admin and unchallenging tasks, I am losing the will to keep going. After expressing my concerns over my development within the company, especially my design skills and creative development I was assured that things would get better - but I feel like I am at the end of my tether. I feel like I am being pushed out of the company. Having hired a junior freelancer to "help me out" I'm being sidelined and forgotten under my pile of undesirable jobs.

To put this in perspective, I was on placement at this design studio 2 years ago. I feel like I have barely developed in my design and creativity since then due to a sheer lack of opportunity. I don't understand why our company doesn't reward its permanent staff. If you read my post: Freelance Envy, you'll know that unusually for our industry, our company saves all the interesting, creatively challenging and rewarding work for the freelancers - who also get showered with money due to their extortionate day rates. When the freelancer goes, they leave the project with us and we are there to pick up the pieces. I am tired of not being rewarded for my hard work. I don't understand the logic. If you don't train your staff and allow them to creatively develop how can they move up to the next level? If you employ above them and prioritise freelancers, how can they respect you? What is my reward for working hard? How can I develop?

I understand that every junior has to do jobs they don't want to do, but I don't feel like I am anything more than the placement I was 2 years ago. I am not getting any job satisfaction and if I am not careful I will leave this job with nothing to show for my time there. It will have been a waste of 2 years and after all this hard work I really hope things get better. My enthusiasm for this career is at an all time low.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

From the Other Side

Having worked at my company for a year now, I have had plenty of opportunity to see internships from the other side; gaining a new perspective. We don't get many interns in (I am ashamed to say) but when we do we have had a variety of people. We have seen everything from new graduates and students to young teenagers, with all varieties of experience. As the least experienced member of staff (and near enough the youngest) - the Junior, I guess the interns (especially graduates) see me as their next step, their confidante and I love getting to know the graduates and their stories. These are some things I have noticed from the other side:

We recently had one guy in who started on time but left dead on clocking off time. Those of you who know my blog will know that when on placement I had a big problem with the whole concept of this. I have not worked in a single design studio where the majority of people have left on time; there are always stragglers and late workers, it is (to some extent) the nature of the job. I didn't mind that he left on time because I knew his work was deadline-free but it was the whole awkwardness of him leaving. I think it would really show dedication and kindness to offer once in a while to help out of it is clear people are in need of it. But essentially, when he left the office he never said "Good bye" of "Have a nice evening" or "Thanks for today" and that really bothered me; he just snuck out. This bothered me especially because he left on time. It felt a bit like his attitude was wrong: his intentions were self-centred and he didn't want to become part of the team. I would never expect someone to stay late whilst they were on placement - but if they did, it would show true dedication and selflessness - even to offer. It shows that you have the right attitude, especially if staying later (even by 10 minutes!) is an occupational hazard in this industry and it shows you understand that.

Air of Desperation 
We had one placement in who pretty much jumped on me straight away; asking me if I was the Junior, and was I a placement and did they offer me the job whilst I was on placement... 
I was keen to get to know her and where she'd been, as was she with me, but it soon became clear that she wanted to know if their was a job in this for her. I completely don't blame her for wanting to establish this early on but understand that the Junior is not the person to ask. Also, once this has been established, it is key to not mention that you would like to be paid more or offered permanent work at every available opportunity. It is off-putting, awkward and frankly - rude. Jobs are earned by hard work and dedication. You cannot start asking within minutes of being on your first placement, if there's a chance of a job. It is different if you have the skills after maybe a year's experience as you would be useful to a company so it would be good to highlight your experience, but it is important to channel this message of your availability to the higher powers. It just annoys everyone else. Especially if we all know you are not ready yet; like this girl. She just seemed kind of desperate and a little like she thought she was ready and so wasn't willing to learn any more. Not a good attitude.

Get Involved
Having been the intern many times (and twice in the company I am in, with the people I now work with) I know how important it is to get to know everyone. Your time there will be much easier and productive if you are not afraid to get stuck in and get to know everyone. It really bugs me when interns (who are there to absorb the environment they are in and learn as much as possible) are sat there with their earphones in. This closes a lot of doors for them - for example they don't overhear interesting issues/company politics/company banter and there is no way they can learn anything either about the process in our industry or our people if they are sat there in their own world. Now if we are busy, we can sometimes be very quiet and almost stand-offish - we don't always have enough time to sit down and chat with interns, but regardless of how busy we are - there is always lunch time. It is the perfect time to get to know people personally and more about the work place in an informal setting. If you are sat with your headphones in all day and eat lunch at your desk when you are here to learn from us, then you will walk away with a fraction of what you could have learned. 

We have had interns that just don't stop moaning! It seems obvious but Please and Thank-you's do not go unnoticed - and their absence even more so. At the end of the day, our company is doing you a favour, so at least pretend to be grateful. The company I work at now, is the company that while on placement I felt I gained the most experience so I know a bad placement when I see one, but when interns moan to me about the work they are given - I just think - it could be worse, and that they don't know how lucky they are. It annoys me a bit but they will realise. I appreciate that not all placements are enjoyable, but if you want to be invited back, you need to have the right attitude, and no P's and Q's and a whole lot of negativity means you have a funny way of showing that you want to work here.

Seeing internships from the other side has given me an alternative insight. I think I was guilty of doing a few of these things, which is why I have felt the need to mention them. It is important to understand that the Junior is your best friend - in that they have the most recent account of your experience so it is more likely they will understand you and your needs - they understand how difficult it is to find work in graphic design at the moment and they will probably be the least patronising, so use them. Get involved, get to know everyone and give off the right attitude and you are on to a winner. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Perfect Placement

In a regularly held company catch up meeting we were talking about a potential work placement coming in and what they might be tasked with doing. This is unusual for us - we haven't had a graduate placement in since I was there on placement over a year ago now, so having students in is a habit we have gotten out of (which by the way I completely disagree with). What I found interesting about this meeting was that considering I was the placement there not so long ago, they didn't ask me what a graduate placement might like to do, which troubled me.

Suggestions that went round included "the Christmas card" (very funny)... "Birthday cards"(...) "Making tea.." all very funny suggestions. When serious ideas came up they were laced with phrases like - "placement job" - That's the perfect job for a placement. By this phrase what they meant was - that is a job suited to a placement because it is not a job for us (high and mighty designers).

To be honest, to some extent they are right. A new graduate wants to integrate into the agency. I always wanted to be useful. I hated it when I found out that the job they had given me was a made up one. I preferred doing "placement jobs" like cutting up, popping to the shops for samples, photographing products/places - bits and bobs (much like I do now) because it not only gives the graduate a realistic impression of what they are capable of and would be doing within the company full-time should they stay on, but also proves to the company that they are capable of being useful and financially viable. Of course a design internship consisting only of these tasks is a disappointing one. So it is good to be involved in briefings and some form of mac work, so that you do come out with some experience and a few more illustrator shortcuts under your belt. Better still, if you are there for some time, design work is important.  Useful for both the graduate to show their development during that internship and for the company to ascertain the graduate's creative potential. It would be foolish (or impossible) for them to hire you without some idea of your creative capabilities.

So my suggestions to my company would be: integration (bits and bobs) as well as creative work - but the more live the project the better and to work with some one is also important because it is imperative you have someone to ask questions, a mentor or a benchmark who can show you what sort of level a design needs to be at to present to a client. The important aspect of an internship as well is its length. Having had many week long internships, I can definitely say that a week is not a long enough period for you to either gain anything or be remembered. A month is a much better time scale to fit in all aspects of a good internship.

I would love to hear your ideas on the perfect tasks for interns. I know many junior designers end up managing the placement schemes, so it would be good to hear what sort of tasks are handed out to your graduates and which you find most successful and well received. Or as an intern, what do you find works best for you? Also, if you have any under graduate interns in (degree students, foundation students, or gcse students) how does the scheme cater for their very different needs?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The First Job Trap

I have spent the last week trying to convince my friend to leave his job. He got the job a year or so ago after a long drawn out placement, but was so relieved and happy; it was the job he always wanted. It is a good job in the sense that as a junior designer he has alot of responsibility, which I have found to be quite rare. As one of only three designers (one of which is a graduate placement), designing is a daily occurrence. By contrast, my role within a larger company (in a different design sector) restricts me to few design projects, with a lot of time being dedicated to the bits and bobs that lead and support the design work (the boring stuff) - so I have always been a little bit jealous of his job. He engages with clients, supervises placements and is generally well respected and liked in the company. They would miss him if he left.

The issue he has with his job - and there is always one niggle in every job - is a big one; his problem is his workload. It is rare for him to leave work on time, and when his managing director insists he stay until 2am to finish a project for the next day, he says no problem. It is a problem. With regular requests like this and many unpaid overtime hours worked, it is affecting my friends well being. I have told him it is time to say no. When you work late consistently you are not only risking your health and happiness, not to mention sacrificing your free time, but you are making things worse for yourself. What they clearly need at his company is a new member of staff. The trouble is if he keeps staying late, they won't realise they need one, they will keep scheduling work into unrealistic deadlines, and the cycle will continue. I am not saying you should never stay late. I am all for pulling together with the team to meet a pitch deadline - but in his job there is no team effort - his boss leaves at 5 on the dot every day - now that's not fair.

He insists it will be okay if he gets a pay rise but I don't think money is the answer. Clearly the attitudes of this company needs to change. The only way to make them see his worth, I think, is to leave.
My friend is too scared to leave. He is trapped in his first job because he doesn't think he can get another job. In a way, I think a lot of people do this. A colleague at my current job was there on tiny wages for 4 years because it was his first proper job and he didn't realise his worth. By belittling people you can make them work with the experience and responsibility of a mid-weight for the pennies of a junior. The less money you are paid perpetuates your fear because it is more important that you stay in work; the rent can't pay itself - and you are probably living in your overdraft anyway.
I have tried convincing my friend that he will be appreciated and paid more elsewhere but I can't make him look for a job elsewhere - he has to want it himself. The trouble is he won't realise how bad his situation is until he is in the better job.

Don't be trapped by your first job. First jobs are the stepping stone for the next - a means to an end. After waiting so long for "the perfect job" it is sometimes hard to admit that it is time to move on and let go. You can climb the career ladder by design agency hopping - and the best wage increases come from jumping ship (or going freelance) - you will find something else - keep your portfolio up to date and be confident. All those long hours and responsibility my friend has done will earn him respect in a new job, even if it doesn't earn him any respect where he is now.

To be honest that is what annoys me most: when people don't respect your hard work. They clearly don't deserve your time (and quite frankly they are not paying you enough for it, either).

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Lending a hand

As a recent graduate who does not feel completely secure in their own job, I feel like a bit of an idiot right now.

When I was looking for a job I kept my contacts close. I didn't let any of my fellow design graduates know any name or email address that I had worked hard to get. Getting a job in design is often about the people you know, so I always felt that by giving away my contacts, I was giving away my job opportunities.

When I started to feel more secure, I allowed myself to help others. I shared email addresses, names of "easy to get" placements, I blacklisted placements not worth bothering with, I shared recruitment agency details, useful websites and blogs. I gave away all of my secrets. I was trying to help others avoid some of the pains that I went through in my long hunt for a job.

I didn't really realise how much I was "helping", until one friend called me to tell me about placements he had secured (all my contacts) and eventually a job he had secured, thanks to me. And whilst I understand that I wasn't at the interview and I didn't fill his portfolio with his work. I still feel as if I did too much to help him get that job, and I wonder if he feels that way too.

I worked hard for a solid year - I feel like I fought to get my job: I had dull placements, long placements, unpaid placements - I endured good and bad, learning a lot in my year's struggle. But by helping my friend I have potentially spared him of these pains, but I have also starved him of these experiences: and perhaps I have prevented him from becoming the junior designer he could have been.

Of course, I feel relieved for my friend, but at the same time, I hope I don't appear selfish when I say I hope they remember me when I need a helping hand. I might need it after this month.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Job Insecurity

When I was offered a job as a junior designer, I was given a 6 month probation period. Until this is over, I have no job security. I can be dismissed with a weeks' notice - chucked out onto the street as a failed designer and back in the dole office before you can say "useless graduate."

To be honest, it was going so well, I had almost forgotten that I had a probation period. I am literally spitting distance from the finish line. I was almost out of the tunnel - when I made a big mistake. 

The mistake is massive: I have created hours more work for my colleagues; I have screwed up.
My head is full of excuses: "I was rushed", "nobody told me not to", "I didn't know" -but I made a mistake and I can't do much about it now.
I didn't know any better and nobody else noticed - but I am frightened that this is the end for me at this company. I have messed up big time - and I didn't even realise...

Whilst I don't want to indulge in the dramatics of this, it has brought up some valid points. 
As a junior designer, I am still learning, and the reason I am paid less is because I know much less and I have less experience. Mistakes are bound to be made. But for one of this scale to happen shows that perhaps the problem is a much deeper one. Many people had seen my mistake before it was announced to be a mistake, but nobody noticed it so I do feel as though I am not solely responsible. But at what point do I become responsible for my own actions? 
- I have to ask questions and make sure I am clear about what I am doing and why, so gaps in my knowledge can be cemented over. I have to ask when I am unsure. Which is why every thing I do I get "signed off" before it leaves the studio.
So as far as I am concerned by consulting my seniors with the work, and trusting them to notice any mistakes, I have relinquished responsibility. But at the end of the day it was my mistake and I am going to have to take responsibility. It is my fault.

At least it has been a learning curve. I won't make the same mistake again. 
I just hope my colleagues still respect me and don't blame me for the hours of extra work they have been lumbered with.