From Apprentice to Graphic Designer – Meet Amy

Meet Amy. A Graphic Designer at Be Smart Design. She has completed her level 3 content creator apprenticeship with a distinction! We asked Amy a few questions about her journey and advice she would share.

Amy Wain

Who are you? What do you do? And who do you work for?

I’m Amy Wain, a Graphic Design Apprentice with Be Smart Design in Staffordshire. I have recently completed the Level 3 Content Creator through Creative Alliance.

Could you give us a timeline of what you did before your apprenticeship?

I’ve done it all really! Finished Sixth Form at 18, completed a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at College at 19, and graduated with a First in Fine Art & Art History BA (Hons) in 2018. Then I was employed in education, pastoral care and mental health support for 6 years for university students and secondary school children.

What led you to do an Apprenticeship?

After job hunting for a role in a creative industry, it seemed that despite having a relevant degree and lots of work experience, I didn’t have experience working in an employed creative job. Most vacancies were asking for a minimum of 3 years of work experience in that field. I felt an apprenticeship was the best way to get my foot in the door and learn new skills at the same time.

Why did you change careers?

I loved my role in supporting others but I really missed being creative and wished for a way I could do it everyday as a career path. After years of helping others, I had been neglecting myself.

Was it a hard decision to make and go through with it?

Incredibly difficult. It was a leap into the unknown – and there was a fear it would all go awfully wrong and that I would regret it. But if I didn’t try then I would never know. My students were very supportive and happy for me, and I am so glad that I trusted my gut on this – being in this role now just feels right.

Did you find there was any stigma attached to doing an apprenticeship?

Yes – mainly because I was a little older and had a degree.

Whereas most apprentices are fresh out of education aged 16-21, I was 26 with a degree. I don’t regret my degree at all – it gave me a lot of skills and connections, and I really enjoyed it. However most people think that a degree will give you all the skills and knowledge you need to jump straight into a successful role, but most degrees don’t offer you the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience.

How does an apprenticeship differ from a ‘regular’ job?

For me, my apprenticeship allowed me to start from the basics. It taught me everything from scratch and I saw that development progress further. Some tasks were given to me to build on my skills, some were internal tasks for Be smart and some were actual client work. It felt like I was working at a steady pace, but my learning and development were always a priority.

How supportive have Be Smart and Creative Alliance been with your apprenticeship?

Everyone has been great! The team at Be Smart Design have given me lots of guidance and support, highlighting my strengths, celebrating all my victories and teaching me so much in addition to my seminars. From day one they gave me a mix of real client work, internal work, practise work and skill development.

My learning coach, Jim, has always been really supportive – encouraging me to prioritise my well-being whilst studying, suggesting goals and challenges, praising my work and pushing my design skills further.

What are you currently doing at Be Smart?

I am currently working on a variety of tasks – internal work for the agency, such as social media management and marketing, client work that involves branding and print design, and a few practice briefs to challenge myself.

I have also brought new roles with me, including illustration, research and presentation creation.

Can you describe your first client work? Who was it and what did you do?

The first client work I did at Be Smart was a site map layout for a housing development, for a new estate. It was a fairly big task with lots of considerations, intricate and precise details, and strict guidelines to follow.

How was your first client work? How did it compare to previous client work?

It was terrifying at first! I had only been there for two weeks, with a fairly big task to do. Once I learnt how to do it I found it really enjoyable and therapeutic. Now I really look forward to site maps and always put myself forward for them.

Are there any tips or advice you would give about doing client work for the first time?

It’s always going to be a little scary – that’s because you care and want to do a good job. Being honest with your employers about your capability, strengths and weaknesses will help them to support you through the process and explain what it is you need to do. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to look over it every now and then, or ask others how they would approach the task. Once you’ve done it, celebrate that victory – no matter how small.

Are you glad you decided to pursue an apprenticeship / career change?

100% yes! I get to be creative every day for a job! I have seen my progress, skills, knowledge and confidence improve considerably. I really struggled with my trust in my own skills and abilities, had major imposter syndrome and my anxiety around showing my own work was awful. Now I love trying new things, pushing myself more and showing others what I can do. I look forward to seeing what each task brings and I am very hopeful for my future career path as a Graphic Designer.

Now that you have finished your apprenticeship, what has been your biggest improvement?

I think my confidence is probably my most noticeable improvement – before I was extremely nervous, and had very low confidence in my abilities and would often shy away from challenges or client work – but now I am stepping forward, sharing my ideas, and showing off my work. My overall skill and knowledge in Adobe software has greatly improved, and now I even show my team how to do some things in different programs.

What has been your biggest achievement?

My first achievement was volunteering myself to put some logo design ideas forward in my first few weeks in the role and having the client choose my logo over the other designs we put forward. After this, I gained the confidence to keep putting ideas forward, and have had many of my logo and brand designs chosen for client work, or even completed an entire rebrand by myself.

However, I personally feel my best achievement from the apprenticeship was my overall exam results – gaining a Distinction and 98% overall in my final grade. This just proved to myself what I am capable of and that I have developed a lot since I first began this apprenticeship.

What advice would you give to someone who is part way through their apprenticeship?

Stay committed and passionate about your career path and future – challenge yourself, apply for more opportunities and create things that make you proud. Keep practising outside of work and the assignments as well. For me, I developed practice briefs to push my skills and challenge myself – and out of this, I gained some strong portfolio work that I am really proud of.

But whilst studying, make sure that you are also giving yourself breaks and looking after yourself – burning out from over-studying can be less productive when recovering from it than taking a break or giving yourself a day off.