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A number of my TAFE teachers were designers who had 10-20 years of industry experience. They would constantly reiterate the importances of a portfolio and what employers would be looking for when hiring.
I attend the annual Adobe Roadshow, this showcases all the advancements in Adobes design software and also gives good insight into future design and technology trends. I subscribed to Desktop Magazine, I find this to be an excellent resource for keeping track of the Australian graphic design industry. I also attend (when I can) Creative Mornings a free seminar held at Tractor Design school Surry Hills once a month.
I actually found this transition really enjoyable. I was learning something new everyday day. I was able to put into practice all the skills I had learned while studying. I also manage to surround my self with good mentors who would give me good and helpful advice.
We would often perform peer reviews on assignments. This was good because it would prepare you when dealing with criticism or feedback. Teachers would ofter grade our work in an open forum scenario, this was also useful in terms of validating an idea or getting a sense check on a design.
Design is all about problem solving. I enjoy finding solutions to design problems. Wether that be creating branding for a product or service, designing a user friendly website or making an engaging piece of print. Good ideas and effective execution of those ideas is required when producing good quality work. I love the process once must take to achieve this.
Always be open to learn new skills. Find a mentor to guide you and give you good advice. Do something creative everyday.