After hearing about Dan's career path on Tuesday, I was really inspired by how flexible he was when trying to find a job. He really made it seem like it was completely normal (and more financially stable) to take on a variety of jobs that are of interest to you that still somehow relate to what you learned in school. I feel that a lot of what we are learning in our major tends to prepare us for a career at an advertising firm, design firm, or in-house department. Fortunately, there are many of other outlets for designers. Each of us must think about the price of pleasure and how we want to live of our lives, from uber-glam to sweet and simple, and consider what type of career will be financially able to support that lifestyle.
The beauty of learning graphic design is that we are trained to create imagery, learn how to work with type, and work in business settings with business-related goals in mind. Some related jobs that are more image-related include: photographer, illustrator, animator, floral designer, textile designer, and storefront window display designer. Some jobs that focus on type include: publication/layout artist, sign painter, letterpress entrepreneur and information graphics designer. Some more business-focused jobs include art director, marketing strategy and design manager. There are even jobs out there that haven't been created yet, so it is up to us to seek those in need of our unique experiences and talents.
Designing freelance is also another viable option, both full or part-time. I met with my mentor last weekend who is a freelance designer, and I was asking her all sorts of questions about the pros and cons of working independently. Similar to Dan's job-finding experience, she says that the work just comes to her from the connections she has made over the years. One thing that stood out is that there are cycles each year where she knows there will be more or less work. She is able to stay afloat financially by predicting timelines of different projects and how she bills them, and relying on the fact that there is little to no work to be found in January, and taking that as an opportunity for a vacation or break.
As far salaries and personal finances go, I was able to find a very vague statistic on a very vague group of designers. According to the AIGA salary calculator a Minneapolis designer working in an organization of 10-99 employees with a local and national client-base will make between $42,000 and $60,000/year, not considering the type of organization. As you can imagine, those numbers can change drastically depending on the organization, city, size of the firm and client-base. If you are interested in calculating your potential salary, you can find the calculator here.