You can become a designer in 9 months – without leaving your current job
by Tobias van Schneider
It wasn’t until recently you could even imagine pursuing a new career while working full-time in another one.
The standard university education required at least four years of in-person classes all day, every day to be qualified for most creative jobs. You moved across the country and suspended your current life while you worked on your future one.
As a self-taught designer, I used to be the exception to that rule. Now it’s not the rule at all. Design is so accessible these days, it’s actually counterproductive to enroll full-time in a traditional education. And teaching yourself, like I did, is not the only alternative option anymore either.
All you need to get your first design job is a solid portfolio.
"I spoke to a senior designer who said, 'You can always spot a Shillington portfolio a mile away.' which sealed the deal."
Jessica M., Shillington design graduate
No debt, no resume, no club memberships, no fraternity or sorority affiliations, no friend of a friend who can pull strings for you. No matter your background, location, age or career history, you can be a designer in 2021 if you want to. And you can achieve it in just nine months in your free time.
It’s a simple, almost obvious strategy: With a goal to create portfolio-worthy work, you are honing your design skills. You’re gaining a solid understanding of creative problem solving, design theory and software. You’re learning to collaborate with a team, generate ideas quickly and deliver great work on a deadline.
It’s the same strategy I followed when teaching myself all those years ago. I wasn’t concerned with any specific structure or milestones. I didn’t set a goal to “master Photoshop” or “understand what layers are.” I set out to make something, and I figured out how to make it. With my end product in mind, I picked up whatever tools and skills I needed to accomplish it. And what do you know, I learned to be a designer as I did so.
"Shillington was really the only course that I saw that was so targeted to creating a portfolio, that it felt super practical."
– Roshumba Llewellyn, Shillington design graduate
As someone who believes so much in portfolios I built my own career on it, I appreciate Shillington’s strategy. It’s one thing to graduate school pumped with theories, guidelines and best practices. It’s another to leave with a solid portfolio that gets you a job. Yes of course, it’s the theories and guidelines that enabled you to create the work in your portfolio – but you only learned them with your end goal in mind.
Shillington graduates come from all backgrounds (you don't need any design experience to enroll). Read the reviews and you’ll see people who worked in marketing, politics and other careers before signing up for Shillington with zero experience in design. A few months later, they’re already getting paid work as designers. Many go on to work freelance or start their own studio. Others say they received a job offer immediately after graduating.
This review from Shillington graduate, Mia D., sums it all up:
“I decided to change career in 2017 and in 2018 I enrolled for the full-time graphic design course at the Manchester campus of Shillington College. I started with no knowledge about graphic design, having studied languages and communication & marketing. I came out after 3 months as a graphic designer and immediately found my first job as such. I am now a happy graphic designer, running my own studio.”
Every designer objectively knows their portfolio is their most valuable currency. Yet few take full advantage of it. For many designers, it's because they don't feel confident enough in their work to put it out there – which is when an online course can be useful. It may feel like an investment, but the payoff can't be measured. It takes just a few great projects to build a solid portfolio. And it takes one person seeing your portfolio to get you the job you want to be doing. And it takes one job to change your life.
"The final portfolio still amazes me because it was beyond what I thought I could do.”
- Sydney S., Shillington design graduate
We're far enough along that many new designers are entering the industry this way. But we're early enough along that it still feels like a clever hack. Becoming qualified for a new job in nine months, without working day and night to do so? That would have seemed crazy just a couple decades ago. Creating a single website on your own that gets you your dream job? Even crazier.
The internet has made it possible for anyone to become a designer. With teachers to guide you and a community of designers around you, it can happen this year. Thanks to courses like Shillington's, you can from anywhere, whether you take an online course or attend a course at one of their campuses in New York, London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. And – armed with a strong portfolio – you can go anywhere from there.
Shillington's next online design coursestarts September 20, 2021, meaning you could finish your portfolio and start looking for a design job by this coming Spring. (Many designers who already have the skills still won't have their portfolios ready by then, I can promise you.) If September is too soon for you, Shillington also has another course starting in February 2022.
Whether you're just starting out, or you're looking for a complete career change, or you just want to improve your skills, or you've been putting off your portfolio because you're not proud of what would go in it, everything can change in less than a year. Whatever you decide and however you do it, I can't wait to see your portfolio.