Post written by Caroline Hanson, Employability Adviser, Art and Design
Last month saw the first ever “Employability Week” aimed at Product and Furniture Design students, organised by senior lecturer Dean, in collaboration with industry experts and the Careers and Employability Service. The first day included three graduates from product and furniture design courses at Sheffield Hallam sharing about their current roles and career path since completing the course. Tom was using his creative skills to work as a marketing manager for Harris Brushes. He shared from his own experience about the negativity that can be faced after graduation which he called the hope/doom seesaw, to him, listening to the hopeful and aspirational voice was important to persevere through initial rejections. He encouraged students to go the extra mile at interviewing order to be memorable, for instance he designed and showed different elements of his design and marketing skills in his portfolio. Since beginning the role, it has developed greatly into a hybrid of marketing and design, he emphasised “Don’t be confined but the boundaries that are given when you secure a role.” Approaching people directly had paid off for him in the past and he even used LinkedIn to contact staff members within an organisation before the interview.
Abby had worked in a number of product design positions before her current role at W’innovate, which is a company based locally in Worksop and designs products for Wilkinsons. She has worked for in house design teams, in consultancy roles and also on a freelance basis, even having the opportunity to visit the production factories in China and gain an understanding of how her designs are manufactured. She emphasised the importance of commercial awareness, especially in consultancy roles, including being aware of the cost of the materials, the target market of your product and the selling price. Her advice for students was “Know yourself and the things you are good at and like working on, then you can sell yourself more effectively.” Her organisation is a graduate centre of excellence, offers short placements and is currently recruiting for a graduate positions of Assistant Product designer, so do take a look if you think this could be the role for you.
The afternoon session focused on portfolio development and every student had the unique opportunity to receive portfolio feedback from a professional in industry. Speaker Nick, reminded listeners that a portfolio should “Sell you, not just your products” and include broad a range of skills. As a recruiter he wanted to see your best work in your portfolio, not everything you’ve ever done, include rough sketches to show development of ideas and ensure a visual impact, by getting rid of any large blocks of text. Key advice was to “Build your personal brand and be thick skinned,” he also recommended entering design competitions open to recent graduates.
Students spoke positively about the day and went away with practical feedback on how to improve their portfolio and CVs. The remainder of the week included input from a top branding agency, practical workshops from the careers team and a boot camp for students to develop their enterprising skills, a number of students took up the offer of one to one appointments or enterprise advice to develop their plans further. Keep an eye on https://careerservice.shu.ac.uk/ to find out about other events coming up!