It is a very difficult time for our profession and especially for young designers who are graduating into this industry. This is from Career Services found in LinkedIn.com. Members were asked to share their insights and even "secrets" as to how to succeed in this industry.
Networking. It is a huge advantage to know someone, to have worked with them in the past and to have done a good job while working with them.
If a strong-willed client comes to you with a lot of terrible ideas for the design project you are working on for them, don't waste your time and energy trying to talk them out of it. It takes much less time and effort to make a quick comp giving them exactly what they think they want, and then present it side-by-side with the piece that they actually need. 98% of the time they will immediately see the error of their ways and start treating you like the expert they hired you to be.
We are creative and have flexible brains. I think one of the most important things a young designer can do is learn the vocabulary of the people you work with. If you call it a pen and they call it a stylo, start calling it a stylo when you talk with them. If they call it a marketing strategy and you call it a direct mail piece, call it a marketing strategy. Once you speak their vocabulary and have a mutual space in which to talk together, you can begin to educate them and help expand their definitions. It's about them all the time. Meet them where they are.
The thinking is correct. Give them what they want, give them what they need and give them a combination of the two (almost like you're picking the battle to fight). Most of the time they pick the combo. So, I've reduced the number of concepts down to only 2. What they want and what I want them to select. I still give it my all on both concepts though.
Not every piece of work will be portfolio-worthy but everyone should be as profitable as possible.
One important piece of advice that will take you a long way: learn how to write. Learn how to articulate your point impressively and like an adult. So many people in my age group (most of whom are coming out of school right now) can't even put a proper sentence together or spell correctly. When you have to describe yourself on paper, write a cover letter, write copy, or write a proposal, your writing ability WILL say something to its reader about your level of professionalism and education.
I'm also a recent graduate and by no means really experienced. But! I would like to strongly suggest that anyone still in school, take an internship if you get the opportunity. Even if it's unpaid! If you like the agency's work, then go and learn and get experience. While I was in school, I was also working full time (not in the industry) and I refused to take on an unpaid internship because I already had a full time paying job. But now my biggest problem in finding a job in the industry is my lack of experience. I have two bachelors (one in business and one in design), as well as lot of experience in customer service, but without agency experience, I'm hitting a wall.
Good design is about translating communication or marketing objectives effectively and without having an understanding of how companies do business most designer will unfortunately fail. My advice to any designer would be to take marketing and communication courses in addition to design and world applications.
Young designers should embrace the practice of creating design briefs that uses universal language that the business community will understand... do not talk in design speak while addressing clients with design solutions. Sharpen your listening, intuitive, and verbal and non-verbal skills to better understand the client and their initial reaction(s) to your design ideas. Cultivate a life long curiosity of learning from clients, design, etc.
Relationships are the most important thing in your career. Call it networking, call it friendship, but people will make the difference in your career: Mentors, co-workers and clients. Find those kindred spirits and build those relationships.
One thing that hasn't really been mentioned here is that recent graduates should not be too proud to have to pay their dues. It doesn't have to be for the rest of your career. Your first 'design' position might be working on the client side, doing production art for packaging labels or daily updates to the company's web site via a template.