Whether you are in high school, college, or a recent graduate, I am here to pass along a few lessons and motivation that will help you navigate your way into the incredible world of Graphic Communications. Buckle up and take notes, because this industry is moving fast as it reinvents itself! I encourage all of the readers to jump in and share their most valuable pieces of advice in the comment section below.
What you know + who you know = greater career success
I believe that optimal career success is achieved through a balance of professional skillsets along with the ability to successfully network and gain strategic exposure. You could be doing amazing work, but if the exposure is not there then you are stuck in the dark. On the flipside, you may be well connected and have an opportunity open. But if you are unable to perform, then your time will be limited. Identify which side of the equation needs further development, and know that your efforts will better position you for overall success.
Career mentors are critical
The path to success is rarely easy or direct. One of the best things you can do while in school is to seek out someone with experience who will listen to your aspirations and help navigate toward the right path. A great place to start would be identifying people who are established in the areas in which you are interested. It can be intimidating reaching out to someone you barely know to ask for help, but something as simple as setting up a phone call or meeting for coffee can be a great place to start. I encourage you to attend industry conferences and trade shows in your area of interest as these are great places to network with like-minded people within the industry. Mentorship is very much “pay-it-forward” based, so don’t forget to give back and return the favor one day when you have the chance to help someone early in their career.
Internships are your early investment
Your goal early on should be obtaining as much diverse experience as possible to determine what you are truly passionate about. Knowing what you do not like is progress towards finding where your true interests are. Think of internships as an early investment that will help you in the long run. Be proactive in searching for companies that offer rotational internships and do not be afraid to contact companies that do not have formal internship programs. The industry desperately needs younger talent, and you bring a fresh perspective that companies are looking to capture.
Always keep an open mind
Blink an eye, and I guarantee you will miss something; because this industry moves extremely fast. With rapid transformation comes a lot of new opportunity which is why it is important to be open-minded. Recognize that early in your career is a unique time to easily pivot and take on new experiences. Stepping outside your comfort zone and conquering new challenges allows you to walk away with higher confidence, an expanded skillset and a great opportunity to grow your network.
Take advantage of print scholarships
If you were not already aware, there are many incredible organizations dedicated to helping promote and financially support students in the printing industry. I suggest you apply for scholarships and build a relationship with the incredible people behind each organization. They work tirelessly to advocate for the future generation and we are lucky to have them! Here are a few to check out:
The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) www.pgsf.org
Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation (EDSF) www.edsf.org
Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI) www.tlmi.com
Flexographic Technical Association (FFTA) www.flexography.org
Printing Industry Midwest (PIM) www.pimw.org
Knowing that you have an interest in Graphic Communications is a great step forward. Keep working hard and know that you’re entering into an industry that is full of opportunity. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance at [email protected]