@studiocatherine Not in the slightest! Our printers just require a little extra time.
Everyone has a city they dream of living in when they leave university. For me, as clichéd as it sounds, that place was London. English speaking? Tick. East Enders? Tick. Salad cream? Tick. The Geldof sisters and a ginger Prince? Tick, tick.
The icing on the Victoria sponge is that it was (and still is) considered the home of one of the most exciting and diverse design scenes in the world – what’s not to love? Yet there was one small problem, with no prior London employment history, let alone any Australian industry experience, the dream was just that, and let’s be honest, my university job at ‘Muffin Break’ just wasn’t going to cut it in the design world.
The biggest challenge I experienced when I arrived in London was finding a way into the design world. It was difficult, and will probably be your greatest hurdle. After spending a few months answering phones to pay the rent, I landed a job as a creative assistant in a design consultancy and worked my way ‘up’ from there. That’s not the only way into the industry of course, but it did work for me.
If you are planning to tackle the Northern hemisphere, do as much research as possible on this side of the globe before you head off. Make a list of your top 20 dream studios to work for, in your city of choice, then give them a call. Yes, it is as scary as it sounds, but after the first few, it will get easier. Contact everyone and anyone you may know in that city, as obscure as they may be. In my case, London is big, the industry is big, and chances were a friend of a friend would know someone who knows someone who could be a potential ‘in’. All contacts are good, as is any experience.
Competition for positions is also very strong. Yes there are more jobs, but then more people apply for them, so standing out and making yourself known is imperative and vital.
Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio – make it unique, plan the order and flow and make it look like you’ve spent time thinking about it. In your CV, find your angle, how you want to present yourself and what sets you apart from the others and makes you interesting. As leading creative recruitment consultancy Periscope puts it: ‘Reading, travel and food could mean that you like an Egg McMuffin while reading The Sun on the train in the morning. Let them know what you’re like, what interests you, what you’re passionate about’.
Joining a recruitment agency that specialises in your area of skill is a must, as the majority of positions will be advertised through agencies. They are the people that know the industry back-to-front and will be able to give you the best advice, motivation and support. Find one that you feel comfortable with and that has a good grasp on your specific field, and don’t be afraid to join more than one. Hell, join them all! They make money if you get the job, so they are on your side and can offer you invaluable assistance. With that said, don’t be afraid to speak to them as much as you need to (obviously, without heading into stalker territory). Remember, they’ll have several candidates on their books, so it won’t hurt to have you fresh, eager and in the forefront of their minds.
Unfortunately, without any local experience, it’s still difficult for an agency to get you noticed by the design gods that be. Most design studios offer internships and work experience opportunities, and while the pay is not great (and you may find yourself working at a bar on the weekends to make ends meet) an internship will put you in contact with the right people, give you an insight into studio life and give you experience of industry based project work. Not only will you have valuable experience, your knowledge base will increase 10-fold.
Although the cringe factor is high, remember to work on your connections, name drop like there is no tomorrow and use any relevant experiences you’ve had – anything – then build on it!
The design industry is huge in London, and indeed the world, and there is almost literally a creative studio on every corner. There’s everything from new, boutique start-ups, to the massive big boys – so all angles are covered and are yours for the taking. Get out there – get yourself known and get talking. Make it happen.
My last piece of advice would be to check well in advance if you are eligible for any kind of ancestry citizenship/visa. For example, if you are heading to London being of European descent can be a real bonus passport and visa wise. These truly are a golden ticket, not only for employment opportunities, but also for travel. If this is not a possibility there’s no need to worry, we’ve almost washed off our ‘Crocodile Hunter’ and ‘Alf Stewart’ reputations and are well known and respected for our confidence, grounded, well-rounded and effective work/life attitudes. It is amazing how many Australians are in high-powered creative jobs in the UK – something The Times recently dubbed as the ‘Australian Invasion’. Though don’t expect that people will find your accent quaint or cute – Aussies in London are as common as a potato salad at a barbecue. Expect to get grief over the way you pronounce words. Always remember that crisps are chips, chips are hot-chips, pants are underwear and trousers are always trousers. I learned that the hard way.