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Find an Entry-Level Job or Internship in Graphic Design or Desktop Publishing


Learn while working as a design intern or get an entry-level desktop publishing job.

Learn while working as a design intern or get an entry-level desktop publishing job.

Image source: dave at morguefile.com
Whether you are looking for a first design job or a paid or unpaid internship, the basic process is the same. You need to be able to demonstrate what you can offer and you need to make contacts that will help you find that job opening or that internship.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: As long as it take to find the design job or internship that is right for you.

Here's How:

  1. Know What You Want.
    No one can tell you which path is best. You have to honestly evaluate your own wants and needs to determine what it is you want and need from this job or internship. Knowing specifically what type of job or internship you want can help you find that position faster than if you just jump right into the job listings or start creating a generic resumé.

    • Do you need an immediate income of a certain level? If so, an unpaid internship is probably not the way to go. Even a paid internship might not help because they generally don't pay a lot.

    • Are you looking to expand your skill set? Then you're going to want to look for jobs or intern positions that will allow you to learn the skills that you feel you are weakest in — whether that's working at a print shop or helping to design fliers for a non-profit.

    • Do you currently have a job but want to get into another field? Instead of quitting, could you fit in a part-time job?

    • Are you a learn-as-you-go entrepreneurial type? Consider starting a freelance design business.
  2. Know What You Can Offer.
    While you are most concerned with what you will get out of a particular job or internship, your employer is most interested in what you can do for them. Evaluate your skills. What do you know?

    • Are you software-proficient? Write down the software programs you've learned and honestly evaluate how well you know each one. Are you certified in any of the Adobe, Corel, Microsoft, or Quark programs? Proficiency in software that is not considered industry-standard may be both a blessing and a curse. Jobs may be fewer but you also have less competition. It's up to you whether you want to broaden your options by getting training in multiple applications.

    • Do you have formal training? List the specific classes you've taken related to the design field and how well you did in each one. Do you have a degree? Do you need a degree? Some employers insist on them, others don't.

    • Do you have related job experience? Look at all the jobs you've had to date. Even if they weren't in the design field, did you develop skills that you will need whether it's keyboard skills, customer service skills, or computer tech experience? Even a great knowledge of the town you're in because you worked as a pizza delivery driver is a skill that might get you in the door.
  3. Tell What You Can Offer.
    Now that you know what you want and what you can offer, put it in a resumé or a curriculum vitae (CV). Create multiple resumés tailored to different situations and different potential employers.

  4. Show What You Can Offer.
    Graphic design is a visual medium. You'll almost always need a resumé for a job or internship but you'll often need to supplement that with a portfolio. Even if all you have is student work, you can still create a great beginner's graphic design portfolio.

    Some jobs, even in a design-related field, might not require a portfolio. However, it's a good idea to have one on hand and just putting together a portfolio is a good exercise to help you find your current strengths and weaknesses. Explore all these tutorials and advice from other designers on creating a graphic design portfolio.

    "Graphic design portfolios are graphical resumés. They show real examples of the type of work you have done in the past. It is an indication of the type of work you can do in the future."Graphic Design Portfolios for Desktop Publishing

  5. Find Out What Jobs / Internships Are Out There.
    Once you have an idea of what you want and need and what you can offer, it's time to find out what jobs or internships are out there. You're going to need to start checking out job listings anywhere you find them. Weed out the ones that don't fit your needs and for which you are obviously not qualified for. But also use those job listings to find out what employers are looking for. You might find design-related jobs that you hadn't considered before.

    Don't just browse, study the various job listings. Start sending out resumés or emails or making phone calls when you find listings that interest you. Go in-depth on finding desktop publishing and graphic design jobs.

  6. Network, Network, Network.
    Don't skip the job listings step because it can help you learn what employers are looking for. But, one of the best ways to actually find a position is through networking. Learn How to Network.

    • Fresh out of school? Talk to your professors and others in the design department at your school. They often have leads on jobs and internships within or outside the department.

    • Talk to your friends and your family. Don't just say "Hey Dan, I'm in the job market, keep me in mind." As good a friend as Dan might be, he's probably not going to go out of his way to find you a job. Ask for names of people Dan knows who are hiring or who work in the field in which you're interested. Make the contacts yourself, using Dan's name if necessary to get in the door.

    • Join local organizations or associations related to the design field including computer user groups. They can often provide leads or have valuable contacts with local employers.
  7. Develop a Professional Brand.
    Corporations have brands and engage in active branding of the company and its products or services. Individuals can do so as well. Your professional brand can help you get a job or advance further in your design career. Professional branding combines networking and show off what you have to offer. Put your best, most professional foot forward on Facebook or through a LinkedIn profile. Create an online portfolio.
    "It's important to create a personal brand that portrays you in a professional light and which provides employers and contacts with a strong positive impression of you as a high-caliber individual who would be an asset to their organization."Professional Branding, Alison Doyle, About.com Job Searching
  8. Be Persistent.
    The previous six steps might not work immediately. You'll need to keep at it. And don't confine yourself to just looking at the want ads and networking with friends. Keep re-evaluating what kind of position you want. Keep working on building up that design portfolio and refining that resumé. If your research is showing that most employers are looking for people with a different skill set (perhaps experts in a specific piece of software), consider taking a class to add those skills.


  1. Get Certified (or Not)
    Certification in Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, or other desktop publishing / graphic design software might give you an edge with some employers. Find out if certification is right for you.

  2. Add More Skills
    You can expand your options by expanding your skills. Writing is important in almost any design-related job these days. Few employers want only print designers so it can help to know some Web design too. Even if illustration isn't your area of expertise, it can be helpful to learn to draw just a little.

  3. Develop Your USP
    Freelance designers often get business by identifying their own unique selling point (USP) or unique selling proposition. It works for being an employee or intern too. Learn how to develop your USP and incorporate it into your resumé or your portfolio or in your next job interview when the employer says Tell me about yourself.

What You Need

  • Resumé or CV
  • Graphic Design Portfolio and/or Online Portfolio
  • Online Resumé / CV or Professional Profile
  • Contacts

Readers Respond: How to Get Started in a Design Career

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