Pursuing a design career: 3 reflections from the first 5 years

by Aug 9, 2021

Whether you are a designer focusing on UX/UI, fashion, visual, graphic, product, interior or the ever-growing list of evolving industries, considering a career in design may not be as clear-cut as it may seem from the outset.

For me, pursuing a career in design was a no-brainer. There was a pool of possibilities I saw in the industry and knew it was a great way to showcase my natural ability along with the skills I had learnt throughout my degree.

During the second year of my studies an industry professional asked our lecture hall, “Do you consider yourselves graphic designers?”

Hesitantly, I resisted, unsure of what exactly I was.

“You must all see yourselves as graphic designers, you are graphic designers”, they said assertively. This was fantastic news to me! I now had a clear expectation coming out of my studies that I was a graphic designer and that’s all I’d ever do.

Since graduating – and after five years of professional experience – my outlook of the projection of my career has changed more times than I could ever imagine.

Here are three major reflections about my career and the industry I gained in my first five years.


1. Change your mindset from the get go

I made the mistake of pigeon-holing myself into a profession instead of looking at the bigger picture. Thinking of your career in this way puts immense pressure on your decision making in the early stages of your career journey.

Over the first five years, my work evolved naturally many times. Viewing your design career as a series of transitions over time will alleviate this pressure.

In design, these transitions may come about for a number of reasons: the release of new design software, developments in technology, social and environmental awareness, and disciplines in demand.

Or, on a more personal level, your passions change, your personal life is impacted or you are looking for greater work-life balance.

View your career as a work in progress, giving yourself a chance to learn and evolve overtime. Avoid feeling like a decision you make now will define the rest of your career.


2. Upskill with every opportunity you can

Coming out of my studies I was a jack of all trades. I had graduated with a wide range of surface level skills in:

  1. Design research
  2. Print
  3. Web
  4. Digital
  5. Illustration
  6. Animation
  7. Packaging
  8. Photography
  9. UX/UI
  10. Interactive
  11. And the list goes on

Your studies are a good start to your career, leaving you malleable and with a level of knowledge across multiple disciplines. However, sometimes it is not enough to land you any job you wish. It is important to build experience using these skills, but you should also be slowly focusing in on a speciality and expanding on that.  

Upskilling and professional development happens over time and can come in many forms, from short courses, training workshops, conferences or projects.

It is important to keep pushing yourself to evolve technically, both in your general abilities and toward a truer passion, which may be ever-changing throughout your career journey.

Here are a few places to get you started:

  1. com
  2. com/learning
  3. ly
  4. uts.edu.au
  5. org


3. Network, network, network!

Whilst my technical skill and portfolio was important in helping to get my foot in the door, I underestimated the power of building a network in a design career.

During university I never would have considered my peers would become my future networks. Your peers are an amazing starting point to building your network. As you progress through your career the bonds and relationships formed both professionally and socially with the colleagues you have worked closely with will help accelerate your career.

Benefits in sharing knowledge mutually and keeping up to date with the hidden market of job opportunities lies within your professional network. Placing value on these relationships can be as simple as enjoying a coffee with a friend whilst consolidating a connection over time.


UTS Careers can help you get started networking and chatting to industry professionals at mentoring.uts.edu.au.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

By Katerina Costa

By Katerina Costa

Graphic Designer

Katerina Costa is a Sydney based designer and creative. She graduated from a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication at the University of Technology Sydney and is currently a graphic designer for UTS Careers. Katerina is a thinker, tinkerer, and maker, her adaptability allows her to fulfill the client/user briefs with creative flair and a youthful outlook.