A classic question you may be asked during an interview is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Having a career plan that projects your goals into the future and shows a clear path to achieving them is essential to success. While your plan does not necessarily have to project five years into the future, it is a good idea to identify general milestones you hope to accomplish on your way to achieving your goals.
Essential to any career plan is a thorough understanding of the opportunities available in the graphic design and related industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides a comprehensive overview of careers in most industries, including graphic design.
Study the BLS links below to learn more about graphic designers, art directors, desktop publishers, multimedia artists, and web designers. You may also explore many other similar occupations that relate to graphic design by following the link on each page titled “Similar Occupations.”
- Graphic Designers
- Art Directors
- Desktop Publishers
- Multimedia Artists and Animators
- Web Developers
Part 1: Chapters 11 and 12
in your textbook, AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design, for more information on developing a career plan.
The Typical Career Path
A degree in graphic design or advertising design will open the door of opportunity to the graphic design world. Typically, entry-level designers start in production, finishing the detail work of more senior designers by preparing files for printing and retouching images. Opportunities to advance into more senior-level positions are usually available after a year or two in production. Entry-level designers are given the opportunity to conceive and execute their own ideas as they learn to work faster and become familiar with the creative process. Senior-level designers may eventually become art directors or creative directors after they demonstrate the ability to manage people, projects, clients, and vendors. Of course, each advancement comes with an increase in salary.
Careers in graphic design may be divided into two categories, client side and creative side. The creative side includes work in design firms and advertising agencies that work directly with clients to help develop their marketing and communication materials. For example, a Fortune 500 company like Coca-Cola will usually work with a number of independent design firms, advertising agencies, and freelance designers to design and develop packaging, point-of-purchase displays, direct mail, all types of advertising, and multiple types of collateral (from brochures to publications). A designer who works for one of these firms works on the creative side.
At the same time, a company such as Coca-Cola may also have a number of in-house designers who also create packaging, collateral, and advertising materials as well as in-house communication materials. These in-house designers work on the client side. The work is similar; however, there are some differences.
Client-side designers work solely on the company’s products, while creative-side designers may work on a number of different accounts. As a rule, client-side designers work in a typical 9 to 5 environment and have more regular hours and holidays. Creative-side designers may have a more flexible schedule and may have to be available to work nights and weekends if necessary to meet a deadline. Job titles and career paths may also be very different. The usual creative-side job titles are graphic designer, senior graphic designer, art director, senior art director, and creative director. On the client side, the job titles may be similar to those on the creative side but may also include variable titles such as “marketing specialist” and “communication designer.”
Creating a Career Plan
You begin with an ultimate goal. What do you consider to be the pinnacle of personal success? For some of you, this might mean landing a steady job as a graphic designer on the client side where you have good hours, a good salary and benefits, and a good working environment. For others among you, this might mean owning your own multimillion-dollar creative-side advertising agency working for Fortune 500 companies. No one direction is right or wrong. It is a matter of individual preferences and needs.
Once you know where you want to go, you will take a good look at where you are now in order to fully understand and map out the steps you need to take.
For most of you, completing your current degree plan is the logical next step. For some of you, more education may be necessary. When you study the careers on the BLS website, you will see whether the education you are pursuing matches your career plans and decide whether you need more education. You will also need to analyze whether your geographic area supports the type of career path you desire. For example, large metropolitan areas tend to be a fertile ground for design firms and advertising agencies. Areas such as New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago offer many design opportunities. However, there are usually a lot of opportunities in smaller cities as well.
The last stage of career planning is for you to map out the number of steps you think it will take you to get to your ultimate goal. For example, if you want to own your own business, you may return to school for training in entrepreneurship or business management. You will need experience managing projects and dealing with clients.
You will also need to estimate how much time it will take for you to gain the necessary experience at each step before you can move on to the next step. Remember, the plan is only an estimate of the steps and the amount of time you need to move toward your goal. The key is to stay flexible. You never know when the right opportunity may come along to help you move toward your goal faster or pivot toward a new ultimate goal you may have never considered.
Assignment 2: Career Plan
Your career plan not only describes your plan for success in your profession but also details a code of ethics that will govern your career and work decisions. This assignment requires you to demonstrate an understanding of the lecture and reading materials by applying what you have learned to create a personal career plan and code of ethics for your success.
- Study the lecture and reading assignments related to a code of ethics and career plans.
- Using the standards of professional practice from your textbook, AIGA Professional Practices in Graphic Design, create a list of the top five ethics you will follow while conducting a career search. The standards in the textbook are not specifically related to a career search—your assignment is to read and understand the standards and determine how they might be repurposed specifically for a career search.
- Title the list “My Code of Ethics” and number the standards from 1 through 5.
Using what you learned in the lecture, create a career plan that includes the following:
- Your ultimate goal. This will include (1) your job title or description, (2) the type of business you will work for, and (3) where you will work.
- The logical steps you will take to achieve your goal. Number each step. You should include how long you estimate you will spend to accomplish each step.
- Title the career plan “My Career Plan.”
- Combine the code of ethics and your career plan into a single Microsoft Word document.
- Check the spelling and grammar of the document and correct any errors.
- In a Microsoft Word document, write the career plan in about 150–250 words.
- Save the document as AI_GWDA308_W1_A2_lastname_firstinitial.docx.
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