Put yourself out there

[Hey students! is a multi-part series. Read the rest.]

For most of us, landing a job in design didn’t just happen. In our field, there is an abundance of applicants and a minimal number of openings. This means that you’re going to have to do everything you can to even get noticed. If you’re getting ready to take the plunge into the frigid waters of the design job market, following these guidelines will help you to get noticed.

Visit studios.

One of the best pieces of advice we can give you; never call a studio to ask if they’re hiring. It’s far too easy for them to say no, which immediately closes the door. The key to getting your foot in the door is asking for a studio tour. There’s usually someone at an office that can take a few minutes to show you around. This gives you an opportunity to not only meet people, but see if it’s actually a place you would want to work. Just because there isn’t a open position posted doesn’t mean there’s nothing available. Visiting a studio is an opportunity to show that you have the talent, personality, and passion to succeed as a designer.

Ask for feedback.

When you call a studio to set up a tour, make sure you ask if they have time to give you some portfolio feedback. If there’s time in their schedule, odds are they’ll be happy to look at your book. Designers appreciate it when you make it clear that you’re looking for feedback and not just praise. Getting feedback allows you to revisit the studio with suggested corrections made to your portfolio. This shows a potential employer that you are willing to learn from them and that you trust their judgment as a design professional. You may not agree with everything they say, but let’s face it, they’re probably right. If you’re really concerned with a suggestion, get a second opinion or ask one of your design professors.

Create an online presence.

Leave behinds are an outdated way of keeping your work in the hands of a potential employers. The Internet is by far the best way to share your work. An online portfolio can be viewed by potential employers and shared around the community, creating opportunities you may not have even known existed. It would be ideal if you designed and developed your own website to showcase your work, but it’s ok if you don’t know code. There are several online resources that allow you to create a clean web presence.

Go to events.

Attending events is a great way to meet potential employers. It shows everyone that you’re interested in what’s going on in the design community. AIGA Nebraska has several events every year including Me, Myself & Design (the annual student event) and internationally-recognized speakers. AIGA isn’t the only show in town. Art shows, PechaKucha night and daOMA events are also great opportunities to meet designers in the area.


Hey students! Live! presented by Joe Sparano and Adam Torpin will be making stops at UNO and Metro this spring!

1 Comment

8 Nov 2013


This is great advice. I’m a senior at UNO and this is a fresh reminder of what I need to do before graduating. I’m building my site right now, but its so hard while still a full time student. Thanks!

22 Sep 2019

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The design student’s dilemma

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Your online portfolio

Here at Oxide, we review student portfolios on a fairly regular basis, and I have some thoughts to share. First of all, when you are not showing your work in person, you need to have your portfolio online. (This isn’t just because I’m a developer.) An online portfolio shows so much better than flipping through a bunch of pages on a PDF. And I would highly recommend against sending a potential employer or internship several individual files of your projects.…

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Sketching is good

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This is a sequel to the first post in this series: Care about your work – which continues to be the most important lesson we have for you. But caring is more complicated than that. When you start caring, you lose the ability to evaluate your work independently of your personal investment in it.

Awards don’t matter

At Oxide, we have a love/hate relationship with design awards. We have a good number of accolades laying around at this point, but I’m not sure what they’ve ever really gotten us, save for a quickly fleeting ego boost. In the local (and probably national) design schools, it seems like there’s a great deal of importance placed on the winning of awards. Students are encouraged (and sometimes required) to enter competitions held by local organizations and national publications. But a…

You’ve got competition

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Start with the problem

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Let go of the leave-behinds

When you’re in the classroom, you imagine that life as a professional is just like life as a student. Or, at least, you prefer to imagine it that way. Even though, buried deep inside your thoughtful designer brain, you know you’re kidding yourself. Some of your classroom experiences translate into the real world and others don’t. Every moment that you spend designing is worthwhile, but each finished piece isn’t necessarily going to help you outside the classroom. One particular project,…

Yeah, really, you

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Design is not a job

We listen to a lot of internet radio at Oxide, which means we hear a lot of internet radio ads. One of these ads features a list of college degrees that, I assume, people listening to internet radio during the day may be interested in. They’re they kinds of degrees that are often listed together in these kinds of isn’t it about time you did something with your life kinds of ads: nursing, criminal justice, business, technology, management, and graphic…

Care about your work

It’s portfolio review season, so if you’re showing your portfolio around this year, there’s a chance you’ll see one of us. Personally, I’m returning from a portfolio-review-hiatus. You’re probably thinking: “Mr. Sparano, Professional Designer at Oxide Design Co., why in the world would you need to take a break from student portfolio reviews? It’s totally fun!”