Getting a design job is tough - many people will be able to say they worked hard to get their first job. Essentially, it is tough because you have to balance three things: work, life (you know the fun bit where you go out, see your friends) and looking for work. But being on placement often means you are too exhausted to look for work - especially if you are holding down a weekend job as well. Seeing friends, shopping trips and cinema excursions become a thing of the past as you try to sleep and eat amongst all the work, homework, sending emails and getting ready for interviews. It is unsurprising then, that many graduates leave looking for work for later and enjoy their weekends and evenings instead.
Whilst I don't blame any hard working graduate that choses to prioritise their life over their future, my choice was made simple by one key factor: I didn't have any money. I was, as many graduates are, using my ever-expanding student overdraft as a buoy. I was keeping afloat working a 6 day week, living in a awful area, in an awful (but cheap) house, living off frozen food, and prepacked lunches. I spent most of my free time looking for work because I had this constant pressure of having to pay the rent. I knew my parents couldn't save me and failing to get a job before I hit the bottom of my overdraft would win me a one-way ticket home. This was my chance - my only chance and I was not going to let London beat me, and I couldn't let myself, or my family down.
I was never complacent and settled in a placement and I think this is key, too. If you become accustomed to life in a placement which is seemingly going well, but they aren't paying you (or not paying you enough), you could feel pressure to stay especially knowing you don't have anything else lined up. It is important in this case to plan ahead - Line placements up - know that you can stay afloat a little bit longer.
I know graduates that complain that they are not doing so well to succeed, but I have noticed that they aren't putting in enough effort. As with any job, the harder you work the better the results, and this counts for looking for work, too. You have to arrange the interviews to get the placement, and that placement is one step closer to you getting a job. It is not about the amount of placements or the length but about the amount of experience you will have gained by the end - but at the same time, you need to stay afloat financially and keep your eyes open for job opportunities. Don't let a placement get in the way of the job offer. Similarly, the job will not come to you - you have to go and find it.
I went to every placement assuming that it was a dead end. Whilst I have been criticised by my peers for my negativity and pessimism, I think it helped me engage future job opportunities through constant emailing and attending interviews - I was never complacent. If you are enjoying your placement: perfect - If they are paying you: even better -- but if you aren't learning anything it is time to move on - stop sitting on your laurels and get that job!