7. Get on the Market

‍Learn how to apply a job hunting strategy

Overview

Once you reach a minimum level of proficiency in each skill, you should go on the job market and start applying.

Applying for jobs is a way to get feedback on how well you’re doing. It’ll test to see if you have market signal to hiring managers who want to hire entry-level designers.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you first enter the job market. You will likely face a lot of rejection - this is normal. Try not to take it to personally, but do think about what it means for your action plan.

Whether you get no responses, some interviews, or even get to final steps but don’t get the job, think about why you're not moving forward. What's still lacking? What do you need to work on? Do you have what you need, but you just aren't articulating it? What will increase your chances of getting an interview or getting hired? Let those questions objectively guide you in picking which skills to master or what areas to improve in.

Let’s get you started on this process with the steps below.

Your Portfolio Should Be Ready

Make sure your design portfolio is up and running. Your portfolio should be online, ideally at a clean URL.

The basic design should be in place and your best case studies should be completed and on display. Like we mentioned before, remove any very outdated work that doesn’t reflect your current skill, or redesign them.

Prep Your Resume - All Versions of It

You should have a paper resume and an online resume (typically LinkedIn).

You should prepare both so that they reflect your portfolio, background/education, and interests. Remember that you should be emphasizing experience - such as projects you’ve done as part of freelance work or a personal project. Make sure to include a link to your portfolio.

Have a Basic Cover Letter Template Ready

Take the time to write a cover letter for the companies where you think there is high fit. As you write more and more cover letters, you may notice you are repeating certain things. You can abstract those repetitive aspects into a cover letter template that you can use for other companies.

Read each company’s website and take note of how they talk about their product. If possible, use the product and take note of how you think it solves the user problem. Put together a cover letter that describes your interest, your background, how you understand their problem, and the things you liked about the product, and how you fit into the picture - what you can contribute with your skills/experiences/interests.

You want to connect your experience, education, interests, and skills with the company - its culture, the problems it needs to solve, the role it’s trying to fill.

For companies that are low fit, it may not be worth your time to write a fully customized cover letter. At a certain point, exposure will be more helpful to your job hunting process. A well thought-out cover letter is ideal, but time consuming. A poorly written and generic cover letter is worse than not sending one, so use your best judgment when applying.


Prepare for Interviews

You’ll also need to prepare for the typical design interview process.

  • Behavioral interview - answer general questions about design, yourself, and your background
  • Portfolio review - give a presentation on 1-3 of your best case studies/work
  • Design exercise - a take-home design assignment based on a prompt; time given to complete the design can be 1 day to a few weeks
  • App critique (more rare; doesn’t always occur) - you are asked to critique a product, app, or design
  • White board exercise/onsite design challenge - an in-person session where you asked to design in front of a person or group based on a prompt
  • Onsite interview - typically, a full work day in which you give a portfolio presentation to a panel, do a white board exercise, and do one-on-one interviews with different roles (may include app critique and other exercises)

Track Your Progress

Keep track of your progress and note how many companies you applied to in each category. Track progress through the recruiting funnel. Update it as you get results and take stock after some data points.

Was your impression correct? Did you actually make it further with high fit companies? If not, it may be a sign that something is off. For example, perhaps the competition is too high in that category or you don’t have strong enough proof of your capabilities. List some hypotheses, make the changes, and try testing again.

Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

The job hunt can be long and stressful. The average runway to find a new job is 6 months, even for an experienced individual. Don’t be discouraged by rejections (recruiting is first a process of elimination) but do try to get feedback to inform how you can improve your chances. Think of yourself as a product and keep iterating to find the right opportunity.

Checklist

  • Make sure your portfolio is up and running at a basic level
  • Prep your resume and cover letters
  • Practice the common components that make up a design interview
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