Getting the most out of your Junior Graphic Design role

David Dinh
Dec 11, 2023

Getting that first role after graduating is a gruelling process, perhaps now more than ever. Dealing with application after application, getting ghosted in the final round of interviews, and having peers and family members asking how your job search is going can be mentally taxing.

When you finally land that role, it feels as though the stars are aligning and you’re on the path to reaching your dream design career. Whether that’s working your way up to a Creative/Art Director position, learning the skills to eventually run your own business, or positioning yourself to start taking on freelance work, here are things I’ve learned from working in the industry that might help you get there.

Lose your ego

As great as your portfolio may be coming out of school, the skills you’ll find most valuable when entering the workforce are interpersonal. No one wants to work with an asshole, someone who’s too good for a task or job, or someone who just wants to work without any collaboration. Being a great designer will only get you so far if you don’t realise that your ego can be a problem.

While you progress through your career, you’ll find that being a jack of all trades can be valuable (and make you feel unstoppable), but it may also give you too broad of a skillset. In turn, this might make it hard to land more specialised positions in the future. Understanding not only what you’re good at but also what you enjoy the most will help you find a branch of design that you can focus on in the long run.

Part of dropping your ego is the realisation that you don’t know and won’t know everything. Expect to always be picking up new skills, especially in a field that’s constantly changing. Learn to ask for help, especially when you’re out of your depth. Embrace ignorance and focus on skills that align with the goals you have for your future.

Capitalising on your experiences

Every job is different, but two common situations I’ve found are that you’ll either be in a position where a more senior designer is providing guidance or you'll be sent out alone to find out if you’ll sink or swim. When you’re in a mentorship position, make the most of it. Ask questions, understand how they work, and make sure to consider why you’re being asked to work the way you are. Not every mentor is going to have skills you’ll want to or should carry forward with you, so try your best to only adopt traits that you think will help you down the road.

If you’re in a sink or swim position, try to build processes for yourself, stay organised, and experiment knowing you’re the only one pushing yourself forward. Know that you’ll come out better in the end if you keep yourself in check.

With any job comes company hierarchy. You’ll find people in your team who have settled in and have no plans to leave. This can be an issue if your goal is to move up the ladder. A small team can only have so many Senior Designers and Creative Directors. The thought of job-hopping should come to mind in these scenarios. From my experience, changing jobs has been beneficial over the long term, but everyone’s situation is going to be different. The main question to ask yourself before leaving any job should be: Have I learned everything that I could?

Networking and community

Even just the idea of attending networking events may cause your body to tense up. But in this case, networking is more along the lines of forming connections and friendships with coworkers throughout your company. You never know who you’ll run into down the road. Stay connected, be a good teammate, and don’t burn bridges you’ll regret.

Design as a profession can sometimes feel pretty isolated. If you’re the only designer or have coworkers that don’t hold similar values to you, you may feel like an outsider. For situations like these, stay connected with alumni or design communities where you can share your experiences openly. Designers have pretty specific careers that people outside the industry won’t always understand. Sharing stories about your nightmare client and shitty internal feedback with other designers will help keep you sane.


A career in design is not for everyone, and the path for Junior Graphic Designers can be challenging but also extremely rewarding. Regardless of the direction you want to take your career, prioritising interpersonal skills over ego, making the most of every job you have, and finding a community of like-minded people you can turn to for support are crucial to your success. Start thinking about your future as soon as you land that first job to make sure you’re setting yourself up for a fulfilling and successful career.

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