How to Go the Distance Between Graduation & Career

How to Go the Distance Between Graduation & Career

To hear more about Dustin’s journey from graduation to his first job as a graphic designer, listen to episode 42 of The Deeply Graphic DesignCast.

Job Search Marathon

In the fall of 2012 I graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a BFA in graphic design. Eight-months after graduation 50% of my class was still unemployed. By the middle of summer I had applied to hundreds of jobs and received an equal amount of rejections. Nothing I did was working—I was devastated. “Did I just go to four-years of school and get in thousands of dollars of debt for this?”

Your Foundation: Money and Purpose

When I entered the job market I seriously misjudged the time it would take me to find a full-time job. After five months without work, and my student loan payments lurking around the corner, I realized that I needed to start making money, fast.

Having a part-time job/internship not only allowed me to pay bills and have a little money to go out with friends, it also gave my day-to-day a little more purpose and feeling of accomplishment.

It was also during this time that I started reading Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey (thanks to my uncle’s constant nagging) and began working a financial plan. Though I wasn’t making a lot of money, I was learning to manage it extremely well. This discipline has served me incredibly well now that I’m on my own and working full-time.

Take Away: A Part-time job/internship equals money and purpose. Read Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey and do everything it says.

Your Fuel: Distraction and Hope

While at my internship, more than a few people I worked with half-jokingly mentioned from time to time how they wished they had become pharmacists. Having no luck finding a job as a graphic designer, I decided to apply to pharmacy school. So after my internship ended I started working full-time as a pharmacy technician to test the waters (I was surprised that I was even qualified).

Around the same time I started reading a biography about Walt Disney out of a bet with my uncle that I wouldn’t be able to finish it (which I won five-months later). So everyday when I would come home from work, instead of fall asleep searching job boards, I would read a little bit more about the life of Walt Disney. I didn’t plan on it, but as I entered his story and read about his struggles I began to leave my own. Over time, I not only began to see the world beyond the perspective of my own circumstances, I began to draw hope when he would persevere and succeed.

I learned that I am not strong enough to live in a constant state of struggle. I need healthy distraction; I need hope. Reading about Walt Disney’s life (and then life of Steve Jobs) provided a practical way for me to see the world beyond the perspective of my own struggles and to get hope.

Take Away: Read a biography of someone in your field whom you respect. Entering their struggles will help take you out of your own and give you hope.

Your Engine: Proven Plan and Discipline

What I found out while working at the pharmacy was that even recent pharmacy graduates were having a hard time finding full-time placement—pharmacy was not the security I was looking for. On top of that, I did not have the extra cash in my newly working financial plan to gamble the enrollment fee. And even though I had to go back to searching for a job in graphic design I knew I needed a new plan.

I remembered hearing about a designer in the class before me who didn’t find his first job until six-months after graduation and I knew that if anyone could understand what I was going through and be able to offer useful advice it would be him. So I sent him a message and asked him for help and if he would share his story with me.

Paul’s Proven Plan

1. Revamp your portfolio
2. Revamp your website
3. Blog
(These are constants)
4. Update Behance
5. Update Linkedin
6. Update all other social media networks
(Make yourself sound like a designer)
7. Apply to three jobs a day until you get a call
8. Keep applying to three jobs a day until you get an offer
9. It’s easier to get a job when you’re actively working in an internship/freelancing

—see Erin Killinger’s Blog for more on freelancing after graduation
—Use this pdf for tracking applications

Extra Comments

  • ”Have a “Concept” and “Description” for every portfolio piece”—Paul Weber
  • ”Have hierarchy on website instead of modular layout”—Paul Weber
  • ”HR people are looking for impressive things—my resume is mostly bragging” —Paul Weber
  • “Try, try again”—Paul Weber
  • Get a professional picture of yourself to use across ALL social networks—see article by Andy Crestodina
  • Don’t limit your search to a geographical location

Take Away: Ask someone who graduated in the class before you how they got their first job. Just make sure their plan is simple, repeatable, and most of all believable (a.k.a. proven).

Defining Moments

Along my journey I remember writing in my journal one night and being both angry and depressed about still not having found a job eight-months after graduation. As I slipped into darkness a thought came to my mind: “If I don’t calm down, I’m not going to last.” It as an answer to a prayer and I immediately closed my journal and went to bed. The next morning I got up and diligently began to work Paul’s Proven Plan (nothing more) and then get ready for work.

Within a month of updating my website and finishing my demo reel (being a multi-skilled designer is highly valuable starting out) I received TWO offers! Everything turned around for me and nothing made sense—but it was great!

While I may not have a ton of life experience, if you’re a entering the job market for the first time, what I do have is a head start on the journey you’re about to make (or already on). So, let my story be your guide; with a solid financial foundation, healthy distraction an hope, and a proven plan, you can go the distance and you will cross the finish line. Discipline will catch up to hope.

I love you more than you know,
Dustin Pearce

discuss this post

(2) responses


August 9, 2013

Hey Guys, nice article. I really like the advise about reading or listening to something that helps keep you inspired. Although I’m not job searching I still spend a huge amount of my time listening to podcasts or audio books to keep me fired up about my latest ventures and dreams.

Take care,



Shane Mikus

August 27, 2013

Great Article, I am just graduating college in with B.A. in Graphic Design. I started with an Associates degree thinking it was enough and 5 years later decided to take it a step further. Now, with Student Loans looming I am hopefully taking the hard and determined trail of job searching. Thank You for the advice Dustin!


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