Advice for any student can be convoluted at times. So many people have so many different opinions and a ton of advice from all different points of view. Well here are my two cents. I've been in the advertising business for a while now and had the pleasure of working with some amazing graphic designers. I've also been in charge of running internship programs at ad agencies across Canada. The thing I love about "fresh" talent is their passion. They see things in new ways and have a fresh approach to solving problems. What does that really mean? Well sometimes people that have worked in the industry for a while discover that clients rarely want to push the envelope in terms of ideation. They have a comfort zone. It usually is the safe area that the client knows won't get them in trouble or alienate their target market too much. This is our battle, whether you are a graphic designer, art director, writer, creative director, it is our job to nudge them out of their comfort zone and provide them with some creative solutions that push the boundaries a little bit at a time.
Students right out of school are eager to push that boundary and do something that is creatively brilliant but may be too far too fast for the client to adopt. So my advice is never stop providing those amazing ideas but know that it's a process that takes time to get the client to adopt them. So don't get discouraged. Keep going and eventually you will get to a great place with a client and really be able to let your creativity go.
When you're approaching the end of your studies and looking for an internship or your first paid position know that there is a pecking order. You are coming in at ground level and you have to prove yourself. That is the fun part. Some people look at as a negative, they think they should be given a certain level of respect and seniority right off the bat. Although you should always be respected for the expertise you bring to the table, enjoy the fact that you are a junior. It's not a negative title. I tell all the juniors that I've worked with they are lucky. Being a junior means you have license to fuck up with little consequence. It's your time to make mistakes. So make them. That's how you learn. If you aren't making mistakes you aren't pushing yourself.
Know the shop you want to work in before you work in it. Do your home work not only on the shop but the people running it. Sure a place might be doing great work and everyone may want to get a job there but if your creative director is an ass or a jerk that doesn't really mentor you than is it really worth it?? Ask people who work there and who have left what they think of the people who run the place.
Keep a steady flow of personal projects going so you can find new avenues of inspiration. Design is influenced by life and all that effects or daily lives. So keep the inspiration channels open. Try to do something new everyday. Take a new route to work, go see a foreign film, create a daily photo blog of your everyday life. You never know where your next hit of inspiration will come from.
The last thing I will say is about your own personal style or flavour. The biggest curve that students have to learn is how to keep their own personal style and adapt it to fit into commercial design. Design is a craft, an art and as such the designer is an artist with a certain style that fits them and makes them unique. Hone that style.