First Hand — Recent grad and graphic designer Lauren Goodland on balancing a job, social life and business on the side
Having landed a job at Newport-based studio Parade Design before she’d even graduated – all while running a successful card business – it would be fair to say that University of South Wales graduate Lauren Goodland has had it pretty good in her first 12 months out. But she’ll be the first to admit that there have been struggles and regrets along the way. Here she fills us in on the things she might do differently the second time around, and her tips to current students.
When I left uni, I was very much under the impression that I had to do a million things at once. It was as if I thought life was so short that I had to do everything in a year. But if you try and do too much, you’ll get burned out and end up half-assing things. Since I graduated I’ve been working full-time as a graphic designer at Parade Design – a job I got after I posted a tweet when I was in second year looking for work experience (saying I could make a great cup of tea!) But I may not be in a job right now if I didn’t actively search for work, so this is something I’d massively recommend doing. Be a little bit playful and ballsy, show that you’re a human being and avoid the usual boring emails that start: ‘To whom it may concern.’
When I’m not at work designing, post-5pm I come home and try my best to run my own business. In 2015 I started making greeting cards. As it developed, a publisher called Whale and Bird got in touch asking if I’d like to be represented by them. A year and a bit later, my cards are on sale in Paperchase, Scribbler and loads of other independent businesses across the UK. To say it’s a dream come true is an understatement! I’ve got lots of ideas about how I want the business to progress, but – ironically – one of the hardest things I’ve found so far is branding myself.
Get connected at your grad show
Sadly, grad shows come at a time when everyone is knackered. It’s easy to feel like you’re done and dusted, but it’s an important part of your degree and it’s a great opportunity to meet members of the industry. As useful as Twitter and Instagram are, it’s always better to meet people in person, especially when your work is involved too. At the time of my grad show I was already working at Parade, so I wasn’t too worried about landing myself my big break, but it was still important to make connections.
You’ll always be broke if you’re bad at budgeting
While I was studying, my attitude towards finances was naïve. I thought that finances would be easy when I graduated, but they’re actually very difficult, especially on top of running my own business. It’s probably the reason I’m so broke every month. While I’m glad I’ve found my way onto a career path that I love, I understand the importance of money much better now.
It’s hard putting money into the business not knowing whether I’ll make it back. And although I have more ideas, I can’t actually afford to produce them. I’ve considered getting a business loan but the paperwork is full of jargon that I don’t understand. It would have been good to get a better understanding of things like this at uni. I’m sure the help was available, but this was my last thought when trying to balance a workload and meet deadlines.
Life is a social balancing act
People live in different places and work different hours, so seeing friends has been so much harder post-graduation. Outside of work hours, any extra time goes into the business, seeing family, spending time with my boyfriend, and mundane adult tasks. Make the most of the time you have together in uni. As important as getting the degree is at the end, it’s the experience and the people you meet which will shape you as a person.
“If you try and do too much, you’ll get burned out and end up half-assing things.”
University doesn’t teach you everything
There’s no way lecturers can cram everything into those three years. Don’t expect to come out of uni and be the Steve Jobs of graphic design. University is just a stepping-stone. Although it feels like you’re at the top, you’re actually right at the bottom of the pile. Don’t forget that you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. It doesn’t matter what degree you do, creative or not. You will come out of university with core skills.
Experience really is the best way of learning. There are things I’m still finding out about a year into my job that only work and errors can teach. Look to people that have years of experience under their belt and be willing to learn from them. If you’re hungry to learn more, do an MA. Want less debt? There are a number of free ways to learn like YouTube, Skillshare, Briefbox or you know, those paper things collecting dust on your bookshelf.
I’ve also been pretty active on social media for the past five years and I can’t count the amount of opportunities that have arisen for me through that. We’re really lucky to be the generation that’s getting the equivalent of a front page newspaper ad saying “Hey look at me” so make the most of that!
A fear of failure will cause failure
Grades don’t mean anything, as long as you pass. I still to this day hate that throughout education everything I did was to please an examiner, to fit into the guidelines and the marking schemes. Sadly, as necessary as they are, I found that grades hindered my creativity; they stopped me from being as creative as possible and experimenting. In my second year I fell a victim to fearing failure, I was getting so worried about my sketchbook work that I lost focus on what was important, which was enjoying the work I was creating. I live for the day when whoever creates education rules realises that every individual learns and thinks differently.
There’s more to life than work
When you’re at uni, a career seems like the most important thing. You’re wrapped up in getting good grades and freaking out about your deadlines – all to get a good position. I’m happy in my job, but I’ve come to realise there’s more to life than work.
I wish I’d improved on and finished all of my projects. A year on, I’m still in the process of completing my website and there are still university projects that haven’t seen the light of day. Projects like this become extremely hard when you’re working full time, and it’s easy to lose motivation for something you started 12 months ago.
From internships to launching startups and everything in between, we’re looking to showcase a variety of experiences across the creative industries. So whether you’re a recent graduate or creative with a lesson learned or story to share from your first 12 months, get in touch at [email protected]