How to Stay Engaged with Fellow Creatives After College
Design school is such a valuable experience not only for the content covered and the practice implementing that content, but also for the community with whom you learn and refine your craft.
The Way Things Are
Students, professors, and instructors collaborating together to create is an amazing resource that most students don't recognize the value of until they graduate and find themselves as a proud design school alum, out on their own in the 'real world'.
Some proactive graduates may stay in touch with classmates who became friends during their shared coursework, or others may join a professional design association like the AIGA - which we highly recommend - and receive a design mentor who they can connect with periodically for career advice. Of course, professors love to help former students when they can, but professors often have their hands full with current students.
Despite these potential resources for collaboration after college, many students face a stark contrast from their time a student to post-college life. While school represents a wonderful incubative experience where students are surrounded by peers with the technical expertise and incentivize to provide quality creative critiques, alumni find themselves largely on their own to continue creating after school - except the stakes are now higher when it's not just a class grade, but a livelihood on the line.
At Creative Critique, we don't think graduation should constitute a loss in resources for creatives - especially when it comes to community - if anything, students should transition from a small class community to a larger global community after school.
We believe that:
If school is meant to prepare students for life after school, then the tools we use in school should still be accessible to us after we graduate.
While self-evident to most creatives, research also validates that fellow creatives are the best source for providing creative feedback. So, how prepared are students for life after school if they're not equipped with community they can engage with in their professional careers?
How to Build Creative Community
Understanding the importance of community, here are a few ways for creative professionals to continue building community and refining their skills after school.
1. Network with Intentionality
There are lots of great Slack communities where you can introduce yourself, join in conversation with fellow designers, request feedback, and attend events. Here is a list of a few communities to start with.
But when engaging with communities, don't just introduce yourself and then sit back and be a passive onlooker to the conversations taking place. Engage with the community by asking questions, direct messaging people to share your appreciation for comments they wrote that you found value in, and setting up one-on-one conversations with other community members just to learn more of their story.
LinkedIn and Behance are also great resources to search for and reach out to fellow designers. Since this will likely be a cold outreach (without any pre-existing connection point or relationship), prepare a succinct purpose for connecting when you reach out. A short introduction saying that you are a fellow designer looking to learn from experts in your field and are seeking mentorship or just want to make a new friend is all it takes. The main goal in your messaging is to clarify your intentions - people want to know you're not trying to sell them anything. And once people connect, follow up to schedule a conversation and learn their story. You never know how that connection can come in handy down the road.
2. Make relationships symbiotic
Many designers are happy to help you just out of the goodness of their hearts, and because they want to build their network just like you do. However, showing your appreciation for time that anyone gives you is always appreciated, and helping others accomplish their goals will make them more willing to help you accomplish yours.
Sending a follow up message to any conversation you have expressing your gratitude for their time, as well as a few takeaways that you gained from the conversation, shows that you were engaged and the person's time was valuable to you.
In order to help others with their goals, you of course have to know what those goals are, so ask! During the conversation learn what they're working on and any roadblocks they're facing or what resources/connections would help them go further, faster. If you can recommend a connection or resource, even if you can't personally make an introduction or offer the resource for free, it again shows that you care about what they're trying to do and are willing to help however you can.
Most networking conversations end after the first meeting, but great networkers build relationships, and relationships require ongoing attention. You don't have to schedule a follow up conversation with someone during your first meeting, but you should mark in your calendar to reach back out in a month and check in on how whatever they were working on a month ago has progressed. This intentionality will set you apart, and will prompt them to ask what you have been working on as well. Even if neither of you could provide any resources/connections following a previous conversation, either/both of you could have met someone, learned something, or shifted goals in a way that can be valuable to the other person moving forward.
As with most things in life, excellence is in the details. Taking good notes and setting consistent follow up reminders for yourself will create an excellent network that you will benefit from for years to come.
3. Join Creative Critique
Facilitating quality creative critiques is what we're all about! Join our beta launch by submitting your email on our home page.