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Graduation is as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. Once you have that diploma in hand, it’s completely normal for feelings of panic and anxiety to start creeping in. How can you get your first creative job after graduation? How many job applications should you send out? What should you include in your portfolio? Yes, landing your first job in the creative industry is challenging. However, there are steps you can take right now to boost your chances of securing a creative job after graduation. It’s all about finding opportunities to meet the right people, gain the right knowledge and make the most of your resources.

Get Real World Experience for Creative Jobs

If you’re fretting about how to get your first job out of college because you don’t have any real-world experience yet, know that there is a way to crack this unbreakable loop. You can get experience now, even if you don’t yet have a position lined up. Any expertise you gain that mirrors real-world creative careers — be it video game design, animation, audio or engineering — will be valuable.

how to get first creative job after graduation

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It all starts with the right mindset and how you view and market yourself for your future creative career. I’ve had students hand me business cards that label themselves as professionals in their chosen creative field, even if they were just starting out in their first semester. Once you’ve got this winning attitude, you need to make sure you have the skills to back it up.

Internships and college programs are great places to start, but you can go deeper. Activities that seem like hobbies can offer great experience for your future creative jobs. For example, Cogswell’s game development club is more than a leisure activity for its participants — they’re learning applicable skills for the video game industry. Even a personal blog, YouTube channel or streaming channel is a good starting place to get experience in the art of creating content. If you treat these projects like actual jobs, you’ll find you’ve learned the tools, techniques and attitude that the creative industries demand.

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Embrace Networking within Creative Industries

Your talent will be the key factor that gets you into any creative job. But as with any industry, knowing how to interact with people and work on a team will be vital. Take full advantage of networking opportunities provided to you this semester — and every semester. This means interacting with fellow students, your professors and especially creative industry professionals who visit your campus or connect with you online. Students had the opportunity to connect on campus recently with several of our Project X alumni who have gone on to work for companies like Zynga and DreamWorks. Having the right connections in the creative industries is absolutely essential for your job-hunting efforts. Every person you network with is someone who could potentially love your work — and who can vouch for your skills later down the road. Think of it as building a team to help you land creative jobs.

Own Your Education for a Successful Creative Career

If all you do is show up to class, you will not get a job after graduation. Success in creative careers will go to those students who take charge and develop their own tools and are willing to match their great creative passion with long work hours. I’ve known students at our Project X animation studio who stayed there till 3 a.m. working on a program they needed for a film. I’ve seen students regularly put in 16-hour days finishing a signature gaming or animation project because they take tremendous pride in their work. That’s the kind of ignited passion and dedication it takes to master the skills you need to land your first creative job out of college.

how to get first creative job after graduation

Bugi Kaigwa

Find the Right Mentor

You’re at the beginning of your overall creative career, whether you’re new to college or you’re one semester away from graduation. It stands to reason then that getting career advice and support from somebody who can guide you along the path toward a creative job is extraordinarily helpful. That’s a mentor. Cogswell alumnus Bugi Kaigwa found a mentor in academic dean Jerome Solomon, who helped guide him to a character rigger position on the NBA 2K series. Ideally, your mentor should be somebody who has worked in your desired creative field or is working in it now — they’ll know exactly what you need to bring to the table because they are living it, or have lived it.

Keep Applying to Creative Jobs

It needs to be said now — you will not get a job in the creative industries after filling out only one job application. Even if there’s a small chance you will land it, it’s better to tell yourself now that one application won’t cut it. Better yet, tell yourself now that 10 applications won’t cut it. We’ve seen alumni filling out 200 or more applications until they got a job in their desired creative field. But you don’t have to wait until graduation to get that process started. Consider applying the semester before your graduation — just to test the waters and see what kind of responses you get.

Start thinking about your first creative job and career path beyond college if you haven’t already. What these career tips highlight is that college shouldn’t just be a house of education — it should be a launching pad for creative careers. Figure out how to best utilize the resources available to you, and you’ll be one step closer to transitioning from graduate to creative employee.