A Few Sticky Notes of Deadlines And Plans From Last Year! 1px

The reality of finding a job after you graduate… and why I started my own studio.

Jacob Ham - 26/06/2020

A Few Sticky Notes of Deadlines And Plans From Last Year!

Just under a year ago (July 2019), I graduated with a First Class Honours in Design. Back then I was 21, with very little experience and was so confused. I was applying for every job I could find. Only landing two interviews. Dressing myself in a fancy suit and making the effort. Making myself uncomfortable. I've only ever worn suits for the big events. Graduation, weddings, funerals and the odd award show. Personally, I'm more of a casual person. Black joggers and my Nasa Jacket.

I was so obsessed with trying to get a job, that I started applying for positions outside of my field. Back then, there was a design job available at Ubisoft (Newcastle) which really became the turning point for me. I grew up playing their games and got excited around the thought of working there. Luckily, I didn't get the job, but I was heartbroken at first. I found that it happens with every application. If you apply, there's always a chance they'll email back. There's always a chance. And that's the hardest part.

You slowly start building up confidence that the next one, will be the one. Maybe next time. What you forget is that, there are thousands of people, just like you, searching for the exact same jobs.

Nobody can prepare you for how this feels. I'm sure most graduates can probably relate to how I felt back then. It's a scary feeling. Spending all that time working to obtain a degree. All that money. It's a lonely place. One that requires patience. I've learnt that.

The idea of working at a supermarket slowly started becoming a reality. One that I always tried to avoid. Not that there's anything wrong with working in a supermarket. I was just really caught up on doing what I love. I know some people have to make ends meet. Thankfully, I was in a position of freedom.

It felt like I was rushing my future. Every day consisted of scrolling on LinkedIn and trying to make a good first impression. I wasn't questioning my talents. I was questioning who I am and where I'm going. It was a deadly cycle that only became worse as each day went by.

The day after I graduated, I came home from a night out and the fact I didn't know, what my next move was, really scared me. This was the first time in years where I didn't have a grade or deadline to work towards. I was lost.

I spent that night thinking about what I really desire.

I came to the conclusion that I should take a year off. Not a gap year, but a year where I can focus on myself. I just spent 3–5 years obtaining my degree and I knew my next step would define my career. So, I was sitting there, with music blasting and jotting down my thoughts. Suddenly, it just hit me, that I should start my own agency.

It's something that I've always dreamed about. I wanted to be in control of my career. I wanted ownership of my hours. I wanted to build something from scratch.

The next day, I sat down and discussed my plan with my parents. I wanted a year. A year from September 2nd. A year where I'd build the foundation of my business. A year where I'd push myself to make decisions that kept me awake at night. A year of learning. A year to make my mark.

They made it clear, that I had their full support, but also made me understand that's it's a risk. A risk that could last 2 weeks or even 40 years.

I knew both sides of the story.

I've been designing since I was 13 and had my first paying client at the age of 16. I know the ups and downs of working in this industry. The north and south divide. Clients not paying on time. Clients stealing work. The list could keep going. The biggest thing was finding a job. I know how broken the industry is for younger designers.

I spent the next month or so (July 8th - August 20th 2019), getting things ready. Social content. Branding. Website. Registering the business. The basics.

The day of launch (September 2019), my gut feeling was that I would fail and lose. I knew it was a risk that might not work. I was aware of that. I reminded myself so many times that I could fail. This was only in the first 24 hours. My whole perspective was backwards. I was looking for the negatives in every situation. Overthinking everything. I lost a lot of sleep. I wasn't well, mentally or physically. I overworked myself to the point where I lost interest in everything. I had scheduled all the content for the first two months. If I'm honest, those first two months consisted of sitting at my desk.

I look back and remember writing something for my second book "The Middle Ground" that summarised how I felt perfectly:

"I will be honest. I am not coping well. I feel this constant pressure to be at my desk, or to have my phone beside me in case I miss a call. The studio has been open for almost two weeks. Two weeks that have dragged. I am lucky, if I have had at least 4 hours asleep at night. I expected too much. I expected things to fly and instantly succeed. Maybe that was confidence or maybe it was false hope.

I cannot afford to fail but cannot afford to keep attacking myself mentally. Hell, I cannot afford to buy this new game that releases next week. Shit is that bad. I hate to say it, but my parents were right. I should have waited. Waited until I had more experience, but I felt like the time was right. I mean, I put in loads of effort to create content prior to the launch, so I could be ahead of the curve. The problem is, I feel like I am forcing things to some extent. It is something I cannot explain fully. I wake up, post on the socials, then mope around all day, waiting for something. Waiting for anything. I know things will take time and I did not mean to sound big headed or whatever, I just want this to work out.

I am reading more books, taking online courses, the whole sha-bang. I am on my own and maybe that is the biggest problem. I am doing everything. Website maintenance, social media and even finances. I know I should just put my head down and keep at it, but it is really impacting my life. I look ill. I have not gotten a haircut since graduation. I look a mess. Everything seems to be stressing me out. Money, driving, family and even the poster that keeps falling off my wall. Christmas is the biggest thing. Right now, I have just short of £300 in my bank. That has to last me until something happens. Things seem to be getting to me more than ever."

November 6th 2019, was the day that changed everything. I don't know what clicked, but something changed. The way I viewed everything changed. I have had so many ambitions with design and have achieved quite a lot. A year ago, I hadn't even started my debut book, that somehow went Number #1 on Amazon for two days. I hadn't even started researching for my final major project called: HyperFocus. A project based on my personal experience of living with ADHD. A project that has gone on to win 3 awards, be featured on Behance and win Top Talent at the Adobe Awards. This was all before I graduated. I'm not trying to brag just explaining my mindset. I put all my energy into sharing my personal story and I figured if I applied myself in the same way, something would pay off. I need to be ambitious and give it my all.

Since then a lot has happened, not only in the way I think but how the business is ran. It sit here, a year later, during a global pandemic, knowing I made the best choice. I've learned from doing. I've tried and failed. I've also succeeded. I've learnt that both are part of running a business and there's so much for me to still learn. Thankfully I've had the blessing of being involved with Durham City Incubator and countless workshops which have changed my business for the better. It all has helped.

It hit me, the minute this pandemic started, how much I've done since registering the business. And as someone who failed business at GCSE, I now know that grades don't define what I'm capable of. I rushed my business and tried to force it, but over time, I've learned to give myself a bit of breathing space. Space that really makes me plan and think things through. The best thing I'd say to anyone who's finally graduated is to take your time and learn new things, especially with the way the world is right now!

If you're a student/graduate reading this and have any questions or want any support, please don't hesitate to email me!

Thank you for reading!

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By Jacob Ham - 26/06/2020