Capryce Montford has landed her dream job at Bournemouth-based design agency St James Studio, after using her time during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown to revamp her portfolio and LinkedIn profile.
The BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate decided that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she’d focus on developing her professional networks over social media and LinkedIn, as well as taking on a raft of extra mini-projects to build out her CV and work experience.
Junior Designer Capryce said: “The start of the year in 2020 was so normal, and I was just cracking on with my final year work, like my dissertation, competitions and projects. But then in March, we went into lockdown.
“All of my work from March until May was done under that first lockdown last year, which was very weird. In a strange way, I feel like it was meant to be because it was quite a good opportunity for me to make my CV stand out, create a website and build on my portfolio. I took on lots of extra projects to bulk out my experience and work and prepare myself for a potential job, which I thought would be a little while away due to COVID-19.”
“Straight after finishing my projects, I knew I needed to get my LinkedIn updated and standing out from the crowd. I was getting a few messages, and I even did a few weeks work helping a start-up that I met online, but then St James Studio got in touch with a great opportunity as a junior designer and the offer of a Zoom portfolio discussion and interview.
“The Studio knew they wanted a designer because our creative director is much more centred around marketing. Although a good designer himself, he wanted someone immersed in the industry who could really push the business into design.
“So I came to check out the studio a few times, and after that, the rest was history really. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been approached for a role, but had I not done the prep work, I honestly wouldn’t have had the opportunity. I love the work and the team, and we’re growing very fast, which is so exciting.
“The business has actually grown because of the pandemic, with lots of companies investing in rebrands and marketing, and lots of work via start-ups from people who’re sat at home with great ideas and want to make them happen.”
Despite the powerful reputations of London-centric design agencies, Capryce appreciated the better work-life balance and picturesque surroundings of an agency local to the Bournemouth area.
There was also the exciting opportunity to join an emerging brand and help develop it further: “Good jobs can be anywhere now, and I always knew when I was at uni that there were really good agencies in London. But there are actually so many great companies around you locally too, they just aren’t spoken about as much.
“At St James Studio, we’re working on a lot of projects, including a re-brand for an international engineering company, hoarding designs for a local construction company working on a new Marriott hotel site, and a fundraising project for a charity called Boo, which saw us design fundraising postcards to help children in Africa.
“It was an easy decision to stay here, as I already felt really comfortable, and I’d learned the agency landscape of the town. I’d already made a home here and I still love it. They’re scattered far and wide now, but when I was studying at AUB, my friends lived only a few doors away. We had the beach, the nightlife was amazing, and it just felt so comfortable so quickly. Nowadays, I have a paddleboard, so I’m definitely going to stay!”
Speaking about her time at AUB and final year studies, Capryce says that Graphic Design took a little while to bed in as a career path: “I loved university, it was such a great experience, and I learnt so much – at work, I use all of the skills I learnt every day.
“My Final Major Project was about climate change, and my project Carbon Shelves was all about creating a supermarket wayfinding system to push people towards choosing greener products that are better for the environment.
“It wasn’t until my final year at AUB that my confidence grew so much that I felt I could pursue a career in Graphic Design after uni. Just the way that the course taught us, it was so different from college, and uni was all about the reasoning behind things, like user-centred design, so it held me in really good stead for idea generation and really thinking about reasoning.
“I feel like the course at AUB is quite well-known and appreciated by studios and agencies – people know about us and AUB’s very well-regarded. I still miss my time there too! Sometimes during Lockdown, I’ve even walked back to uni from my place to do a little circuit, which has been really nice. It’s such a modern campus, and it still looks great!”
And, for current and graduating students worried about the pandemic, Capryce offers some friendly words of advice: “Don’t resign yourself to thinking that there won’t be much work or opportunities. You’ll come out of uni with a degree that isn’t any less valuable because of the pandemic.
“Yes, there might only be one or two years of students who’re anomalies who’ve studied and graduated during the pandemic, but why not stand out against the crowd!?
“Make the most of the situation you’re in and do everything you possibly can to make sure you have the tools you need to go into work. You may now have some extra time, so make your CV more creative and magical, and work on your LinkedIn or social media presence.
“Learning online is definitely a big shift, but I think that if you want, you can still get a lot out of the situation through meetings online and lots of extra contact with lecturers. Even in interviews, we can use learning throughout a pandemic as a strength. We’ve gained better communication skills, and we’ve had to be more proactive to get our degrees.
“Above all else, stay open minded – I’ve been very lucky, but I think using your time productively really helps make positive things happen.”