You've Got the Degree. Now What? Try on Shoes

Obtaining a degree in a selected field of study is a huge investment of time and money. It requires a commitment to attending classes, participating in group projects, studies and fitting all of it into a busy schedule. Most of the time there is a job or family or both being fit into that schedule and finishing the required courses is the only goal afforded outside of the normal responsibilities life heaps on us.
However, once the degree is in hand and all has settled down, then what? Most educational establisments, universities, colleges,etc. have a career center to assist the graduate with transitioning to the next phase and that is a great place to start. If the student has had time available during their years of study, they would have some internships completed by the time they graduated. It seems though that many are doing internships after they receive their degree and many of those internships are unpaid. That is a difficult choice to make and not everyone has the funds available to take an unpaid internship. I have heard some success stories of students that finished an unpaid internship and they were offered a paid position. These are good examples, however it is a gamble as no promises are made to the intern. The good news is that an internship provides experience in the field and is useful to find your next job.  
While getting a formal education is important in this job market, it does not guarantee employment right out of school. There has to be an investment of gaining experience within the field. That is a pretty broad statement but I will narrow it down. Your degree gets you the interview but your knowledge and your skills will be more important. Get in on the ground level and learn about yourself.
Here are a few tips for those just graduating:
  1. Follow the advice of the career center - i.e. get your portfolio, blog or documents honed to perfection
  2. Join networking groups - talk to people, make connections. It's who you know
  3. Very important - What are you best at? This is the time to hone in on those skills
  4. Be willing to try different jobs (I call it "try on shoes") - i.e. large firms, startups, small studios, sole proprietors - get to know where you fit best
  5. Find a mentor(s) not to teach you 'how to be an Interior Designer' but to help you transition into the field
  6. Define what you want.  Many leave college and are vague on what they want.  That is ok but don't wait too long. Dial that down in the first year or two.  Say out loud what it is you are seeking as the end result. Don't feel like you are locking yourself into anything. You must be clear in order to set your sights on achieving the job you want.
The main point is to hone your skill set. Figure out what you do best and point yourself in the direction of utilizing your best skills will grow and shine.
Real Life Example:  
I had a client who was newly graduated frrom a very accomplished program/University, honors, internships, etc.  She was a bit unclear as to what she wanted to do.  Of course, she knew the general field she wanted but there was so much witin that field she could do.  She took a paying job with a start-up while some of her colleagues took unpaid internships. It was hard because their internships were with really promising companies and she worried about her choice. However, her job paid well and she was expected to learn fast and on her feet it was a bit outside of her comfort zone. It was a stressful year for her and she worked very hard but she learned many things:
  1. What she liked in a work environment
  2. Gained many skills that are highly marketable going forward
  3. Now knows that she doesnt want to own her own business for awhile
  4. Clarified her direction and helped her to land a job in exactly what she decided she wanted to do - good salary and benefits
Take the time to "try on shoes". Work as an intern if you can afford it or take starting level positions in jobs that are within your field and gain experience and knowledge about what you really want for yourself.
More details on how to start your interios design career in my course.