9 Struggles All Recent Design Students Are Facing Post-Graduation

Published: Jun 08, 2018

Graduation day is a time students strive toward, thinking about the day they can officially start their professional lives. However, it’s after graduation that the real work begins. New design graduates have some big decisions to make and some real struggles to overcome.

About 66 percent of college graduates struggle in the attempt to launch their new careers and design professionals are no exception. Although some challenges are ones every type of college grad faces, others are specific to the design industry. The following are nine of the most common.

1. Finding a Job

After graduation, it isn’t easy to land the perfect job. Many companies seek someone with on-the-job experience of at least a few years. Instead of offering paying positions, some companies provide internships for college students and recent grads, but these positions pay little to nothing — certainly not a livable wage.

Design Students - finding a job

If you can’t locate a job in the area you’d like to live, consider moving home for a year or two while you build up your resume.

2. Securing Healthcare

Many students are still on their parents’ health plans and can stay there until the age of 26. However, 26 is right around the corner for most graduates, so it’s important to find a job with decent health benefits or at least enough pay to get your own healthcare plan. While you may not need to see the doctor a lot in your 20s, if you get sick, you’ll want the care to be covered.

3. Finding a Place to Live

One issue many college grads face is figuring out where they’ll live. Those who’ve scrimped to make ends meet during college may not have a lot of money saved for a deposit on an apartment.

Keep in mind that if you’d like to have a dog, you’ll want an apartment that is pet friendly and near a dog park. Austin is one city to consider because of its young city vibe and the diversity of the city itself. You’ll find things to do outdoors as well as plenty of restaurants and nightlife.

4. Paying off Student Loans

The average graduate for the class of 2017 owed $39,400 in debt — an increase of six percent from 2016. Figuring out how to live on a starting salary while making student loan payments is quite stressful.

Design Students - loans

You have a few options, such as seeking an employer who will pay all or part of your student loans off, refinancing at a lower interest rate or taking a second job to pay off the debt as quickly as possible.

5. Adulting Alone

Although you may have taken those first steps into adulthood while living on campus, you still had a safe environment where a lot of decisions were made for you. Post-graduation, you’ll be responsible for every aspect of your life. While that might sound amazing, the reality is difficult. Ask for help when you need it. You’ll adjust quickly, just as you did when you went away to school.

6. Making New Friends

Making friends in high school and college is easy. You’re surrounded by people with the same interests and goals. But when you get into the workforce, things are different. Co-workers are sometimes more competitive than friendly, or you may not have a lot in common with your fellow employees. In addition, many of your friends are likely moving across the country to jobs all over the place.

The best way to find new friendships is to get involved in activities you love, volunteer or join an organization.

7. Deciding Whether to Pursue Higher Degrees

You’re likely faced with a decision about pursuing a master’s degree. But with student loans hanging over your head and entry-level jobs not paying much, it might seem like a pipe dream.

Design Students - higher degrees

First, assess how much a higher degree will enhance your job prospects or promotional opportunities. Is the payoff worth the cost and effort right now? Second, talk to your employer about paying all or some of your education expenses. They may want a commitment that you’ll stay with them for a set amount of time, but you gaining more knowledge benefits them.

Also interesting: Reasons why you don’t need a Degree in Web Design.

8. Overcoming Competition

You’re also competing with a job pool of people without college degrees, as many designers are self-taught. With the economy becoming more global, designers all over the world freelance with big companies, which creates a lack of job opportunities and makes employers feel they can offer low wages because they can just hire out the work.

The way to set yourself apart is to create a niche for yourself that makes your work stand out. Push the fact that you’re a native speaker, and understand the customs of the country.

9. Dealing With the College Graduate Blues

School is a thing of the past, and you aren’t 100 percent sure what your next goals should be. On top of that, friends have moved across the country, you’re trying to become acclimated to a new job and the stress is unbelievable.

Many graduates experience a slight depression as they adapt to life as a college grad. Overcome the blues by inviting friends to visit, asking a co-worker to lunch and making a plan for the next five years.

Design Students After Graduation

College is a time of self-discovery and intent learning. The time after those four years (or more) can be a bit of a letdown as you struggle to adjust to all the changes. The good news is that once you adapt, you’re going to love the freedom of all the choices you have.

You’ve already finished the difficult work of becoming the person you want to be with the design skills necessary to succeed. Now, it’s time to put those skills to work and rise to the top of your field.

Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She constantly researches trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.