Uni didn’t give me the skills, portfolio & confidence to be a graphic designer

I have a degree in graphic design from one of the country's best universities, but in the two years since graduating I have found no meaningful employment and am forced to work in retail.

I feel my portfolio is the problem, combined with a lack of skills and confidence I should have attained at university. 

My question is, how can I go about renewing my portfolio at this stage? Where can I go to gain the skills I am missing? Should I do a masters? I have tried engaging with personal projects in my spare time but with a full-time job this is difficult.

I have practically given up on the idea of ever being a professional graphic designer but any advice you can give me will be very much appriciated. 

— Ross

Expert answers

Lorraine Wood's reply:


The design industry is very competitive. You need to be dedicated and passionate in order to succeed. Getting some experience and showcasing a diverse portfolio is essential.

One of the best ways to update your portfolio is, to do as you say, personal projects, but also looking to support local charities, clubs, festivals in your area by offering your design services to them would also be beneficial. Using these projects in your portfolio shows great imagination and initiative to potential employers.

In terms of updating your skills, it all depends on what you feel you are missing. Local colleges offer a range of courses and there are hundreds of great tutorials and blog sites online, where you can gain knowledge, skills and support.

Have you thought of contacting agencies that offer internships or work experience placements? I appreciate you work full time but taking a week, two weeks holiday and spending it in an agency will be invaluable. Any experience will look great on your CV and will give you a chance to get professional hands-on experience. 

Also look into apprenticeships; there are lots of agencies taking on apprentices and you can get paid.

If you feel that doing a masters degree will help you fill your skills gap and boost your confidence then certainly go ahead. It is as a “nice to have” but not a necessary qualification to help you gain employment in the industry.

Good luck and I hope this helps

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