Reflections on Transitioning from University to Professional Life: A Year at Oyster

Moving on from the structured environment of university life to the dynamic world of the design industry is a journey filled with challenges and discoveries, one that most junior designers will undertake. Fortunately, my entry into the industry with Oyster was incredibly welcoming and encouraging.

After graduating from Arts University Bournemouth with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design, I travelled to and volunteered in Croatia doing design work for local charities and then interned at a local marketing agency in Southampton. These experiences not only kick-started my career but also helped me land my current job. In February I finished my first year working at Oyster and have taken time to reflect on what I’ve learned and how I got here. 

From University to professional graphic design

Adapting from university to working as a full time graphic designer brought quite a lot of changes. The pace of work accelerated, highlighting to me how valuable good time management skills and prioritisation are. Client interactions became daily occurrences, understanding and meeting their specific needs, refining my communication skills. Also the constant change of being assigned new briefs weekly fuels creativity and keeps me engaged in my work. While all of these things were an important part of university and working on modules – it’s definitely been a step up. 

2 photos in the office

Translating University skills: what's been key in the professional world

During university I gained both knowledge and skills in graphic design as I went through the 3 years of the course. Some key things that have helped me transition smoothly into my job include developing my adobe suite skills through different projects. My InDesign skills were non-existent before university so it was a valuable skill to learn and develop while studying as I now use InDesign daily. Doing presentations and sharing my work to an audience regularly benefited me as now I feel confident when sharing my ideas and my work with the team as well as talking to clients. The most valuable part of university however is the ability to make mistakes and learn from them, try different styles and different methods of doing things just because you can. It helped me find what I was passionate about as a designer and what I wanted to work on in my future. 

I’ve learned so many invaluable things while working at Oyster that you wouldn’t get from university.

Learning on the job

I’ve learned so many invaluable things while working at Oyster that you wouldn’t get from university. Working on such a range of projects and with different clients makes you have to be adaptable and tackle each brief differently. But by having such a supportive team I can ask questions and learn from has helped me grow as a designer. It gives me learning opportunities that University couldn't provide – small things like learning new keyboard shortcuts and InDesign hacks that wouldn’t be on a syllabus. These small details you pick up from a quick question to a colleague builds up a huge tool kit that is only from doing graphic design as a job. 

My tips for graduates 

If I were to go back to being a graduate looking for my first job I would focus on a few things to make sure that I end up in the best job for me. 

  • Firstly I would take any opportunity to grow my portfolio and skill set – this being a freelance job, an internship or starting a passion project just so I keep designing and developing as a designer. 
  • When looking at agencies/jobs I would look for a good culture fit; would I fit in well with the team? Am I interested in the work that they do? Does my work feel inline with theirs? 
  • And finally be ready to learn. Your first job in the design industry is where you learn so much. Be ready to ask questions, try new things and be creative.