I have been spending the last couple of months relentlessly applying to jobs, networking, interviewing, taking online courses and watching design tool tutorials, working on projects, and continually growing from the process. One thing that I’ve learned from job interviews and casual meetings with mid to late-career Design/Engineering professionals is that the industry — both in companies and agencies — is leaning heavily towards the senior-level of the hiring spectrum, making it it difficult for junior designers to break into UX/UI and land that coveted first gig. But don’t fret!! Resilience and patience will pay off if you put in the time and effort!
For those new to design or still in early discovery phases, be sure to find inspiration and before diving into the job search deep end, and always stay inspired. This is why I have structured the guide with the following section first:
I get quite a bit of inspiration from exploring the urban and outdoor environments around me, but when it comes to online inspiration, there is no shortage of awesome places to get inspired. There are a plethora of amazing individual designers, agencies, organizations, and companies that are consistently active across all social media platforms sharing rad projects and useful insight. Start with some of the links below and you’ll find additional suggestions as you begin to follow the accounts/blogs/channels.
Individual Designers & Leaders (note - I am an active proponent of diversity and inclusivity in design/tech, so in this list I’m highlighting some of my favorite folks from underrepresented communities in the industry): Antoinette Carroll, Pablo Stanley, Kat Holmes, Jennifer Aldrich, Jenny Johannesson, Tim Allen , Jared Erondu, Enrique Allen
You’ll find that many of the links I’ve provided for other social media platforms are also active on Medium.
These are really good for tutorial videos on design tools, as well as career advice and general industry discussions.
The Designership and Freelance.tv Slack communities are incredible resources for all types of designers and creative professionals. They include everything from sharing resources to finding and posting job opportunities.
These have (in my opinion) the best interviews of creative leaders, providing some of the most inspiring and detailed insight that won’t be found in any of the previously listed platforms.
Picasso once said that great artists steal, so I’m gonna steal some excellent portfolio advice from Jenny Johannesson of Ueno:
Treat the landing page like the cover of a book. Not only does it need to be attractive, the user should also be able to tell at first glance who you are and what you do. If not, potential employers will swipe left right away. (That’s how the world works nowadays, right?)
Create thorough case studies. Keep in mind that whoever is looking at your site knows nothing about the project and challenges you had to tackle. Specify what the problem was, how you solved it, why you did it, how you did it and who you were working with.
Show work you’d like to be hired to do. If you want to design marketing sites, then show marketing sites. I wouldn’t hire an illustrator to design apps any more than I’d hire a butcher to fix my car “But I only have ‘fake’ projects to show!” We’ve all been there, and to be honest, I love when portfolios show side projects. It shows you have a passion for design outside of school or work. Just make sure that it’s realistic, even if it’s just a concept design.
(for Jenny’s full article, click here)
I will be adding insight from my own various interviewing experiences soon, but first I suggest you learn from (1) experts and (2) junior designers with deeper experience than myself…
- See this Medium series from 20 design leaders published by UX Planet
2. See Andrew Hwang’s guide to interviewing for Product Designer internships
Time for a cliché — NETWORKING IS VERY IMPORTANT.
This is part of Job Search 101 regardless of your field, and is often the most dreaded part. Many people, myself included, fear the thought of meeting complete strangers in both group and individual settings to help you make connections and land potential opportunities. However, I have found that I’m able to overcome social anxiety by knowing that the people I’m meeting have a shared passion for design and tech, and they’ve been some of the most welcoming, friendly people I’ve ever met! Fellow introverts, check out The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Design Industry Events
Now What!?! What if I still don’t have a job!?!
Again, fear not my friends! Even the best senior designers in the world (some of which I have featured in this guide) were in this exact spot, looking for their first job early in their careers. Aside from embracing patience and resilience, it may help to frame your job search as a DESIGN THINKING process! Continue to iterate through being inspired (doing your research from all the amazing resources out there), networking (also research by way of interviewing and asking questions), and updating your portfolio with new case studies and projects. Continue experimenting with different ways to improve your job search and always gain feedback from peers and mentors. Maybe even write a blog post as if it were a wireframe for your job search 😉
Before you know it, you’ll have your first “real” job and be on your way to a fulfilling career in design or wherever else life takes you! 🙌 🤘