From a workshop on professional development that took place recently on the Vehicle Design course, this advice from senior tutor Sam Livingstone applies not only to vehicle designers, but also other design disciplines.
There are broadly three stages to go through when you're developing from excelling as a student within your discipline, to excelling in that same discipline as a professional.
Establishing your unique qualities as a car designer and the brands or design directors this might be most relevant to, who you would like to work with.
- What makes you unique as a vehicle designer, different to your peers?
- What is your particular interest, angle or focus as a designer?
- Which companies, brands, design directors, designs or corporate cultures appeal to you and are a good fit for you?
Once you've worked out some of the professional contexts that would suit you, get in touch with the people who already work there, and establish dialogue with your potential future employers. You can meet these people in many ways: face to face, emailing, social networks, telephoning.
Often you can get contact information from the college, the department, colleagues, internships, exhibitions – or you can just guess. Email addresses are often in standard forms, for example.
Once you're in touch, make sure you maintain the relationship. For example, it's a good idea to notify relevant people of your shows or self-organised projects.
Through your dialogue with the right people, you'll hopefully get an interview or meeting. Make sure you're ready for this with a portfolio and a grasp of the correct interview technique. This involves being clear about how you want to come across in meetings beyond your work (e.g. as a team player, focusing on your time management skills, etc).
This sets out some different structures and ingredients that sit in the gap between student and professional designer. It makes sense for you to consciously develop up this from the beginning of your MA time, so that you can maximise your success when you graduate.