Advice for Recent Undergraduates

It's been a month since most undergraduates walked across the stage and received their diplomas. The glow is still there as summer ramps up, but will soon wear off as August approaches and they realize they will not be moving back to the alma mater. With summer in high gear let's take a look at what recent undergraduates can do to make sure they are successful moving forward. 

Build Your Client List Now

If you were like myself, you may have gotten a little caught up in college. As someone once said, "better late than never." Reach out to those in your immediate friend circle, you'd be surprised at who they know and the creative work they are looking for. These are the people that are going to help you get jobs, they are your immediate network. 

It's All About You

I understand you have new clients to appease, and yes you do have to make them happy. However, when it comes to creativity it is all about you. There's an old saying "one for the meal and one for the reel." Use these clients to line your pockets with the money you need to stay afloat, but don't forget about those passion projects that you want to do deep down inside. These are the projects that will one day get you the work you want to do.

Plan Ahead

I'm not telling you that you know where you have to be in five years. However, if you have a shoot coming up put in the time to do the prep work. Any photographer and videographer worth their salt will tell you that pre-production is the first step to any successful shoot. Ask the clients as many questions as you can, better to ask questions upfront than to be sitting on your backend when it's time to deliver a finished product. This also means prepping your gear the day before a shoot, make sure everything is charged, organized, and ready to go.

Take Some Classes

Just because you are out of school doesn't mean you stop learning. There are plenty of online resources out there for you to take advantage of, not to mention workshops you can attend. Yes, they cost money, but as I stated before it's all about you. Take the time to invest in yourself. 

Check out some of these sites

Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate

Surround yourself with other creative people. I know you have heard this a million times but it's essential to your sanity as a creative. These people don't have to be videographers or photographers; they can be artists, designers, architects, etc etc. You get the picture. While you do want to utilize other creatives in your field, I found it good to go outside that bubble as well. The folks outside the bubble will give you honest feedback, they have no ties to the techniques used or the way you shot something. They are there to look at your work subjectively and give you good honest feedback. Again, those other friends you have in your field, utilize them for the technical aspects of feedback. 

Get a Job

The best thing I could recommend is for people right out of college is to get a job, and don't be discouraged if it's not doing what you want to be. As a millennial, I know all too much about that sense of entitlement and instant gratification we all hear about. It has gotten to me plenty of times. Even though you have a job, don't forget to put in the work to what you really want to do. In my position I know I had to do all of the above but I also needed the cash flow to do it. A job allowed for that, and it affected all of the above and opened more doors than I expected. 

By all means, take this with a grain of salt. It is not a road map to post graduate life, but rather a primer of things I have learned along the way. I understand that everyone has different experiences and their own way of doing things. However, I also understand that not all colleges prepare you to go into the real world as a creative. What advice can you give to recent graduates?

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Justin Haugen's picture

Patience above all. I spent 8 years in a job field I was accepting as my career path and that photography would be my secondary source of income and my creative outlet. It took losing my job to pursue my photography full-time, so it wasn't quite the bold leap I had envisioned it would be.

Some of you will be immensely talented and will leap ahead into the job market and be amazing, but a lot of us will be middling employees in uninspiring jobs while we accumulate the assets, training, and resources to be a full-fledged professional, even if it means it will take years to get there.

Enjoy the ride!

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Could not have said it better myself, Justin!

Justin Haugen's picture

Thanks Miles! I enjoyed reading your article.

Lauchlan Toal's picture

Great advice Miles. From photography graduates in my area that I've worked with, college isn't any better than the online resources for photography technique, and even business. However, the network it builds and collaboration opportunities are a fantastic resource.

Personally, I'm getting a degree in engineering with the possibility of pulling a "Von Wong," but for the risk-takers you can find good friends to achieve crazy shots in a photography program.

Anonymous's picture

...and avoid debt at virtually any cost. Use what you have for gear, master your craft, but do not take on debt to buy that crazy level camera with it's five or six figure price right out of school.

Miles Bergstrom's picture

Solid advice Patrick. I know everyone's financial situation tends to be different when it comes to exiting school, which is why I chose not to include it. Nonetheless is should be a thought for those who do have a large amount of loans.