TIPS TO GET HIRED FOR DESIGN
By the time I landed my first “real” job, I had put enough hours into job-hunting to earn a second degree. Over the course of five months, I had sent emails and applications to almost 300 companies. I was interviewing once a day (sometimes twice). I had completed three different “design tests”. The process was grueling, but looking back, I set myself up for success and learned a lot along the way.
Since then, I’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Tokyo, and now San Francisco, working at Amazon, AKQA, and Lyft.
Whether you’re a shiny, fresh grad just trying to leave your home state, a hipster designer with eyes set on Mother NY, or a pretentious son of a b*tch who thinks working at Apple will make you a god—I have some tips for you.*
*This is all based on the assumption that you have a portfolio ready to share. If not, check out my philosophies on that here.
Step 0. The Soul Search
In order to be successful in your job hunt, there will be a degree of soul searching involved. Embrace this process—it will help you immensely (take it from someone who skipped this step and paid for it later).
I emphasize the importance of this step because it helps you save time and energy by applying to places at which you truly would enjoy working. Honestly, this step will be on-going and forever. So just get used to it. 🙃
Ideally, you walk out of this process with a list of places that line up with your career goals—which helps a lot when you send out some applications. Keep a list of kickass companies you find on Dribbble, Instagram, or Behance. If you want to get to a specific city, check out this resource and see if you find something you like.
Step 1. Linkedin.com
Look over your profile—do you have all the basics filled out? Name, photo (save the selfies for Facebook), education, and any relevant experience. Don’t have any relevant experience? That’s okay. Just add something.
Networking via Linkedin is something that should come naturally over time. When you’re just started out, don’t worry about trying to comment on every post. In order to get your applications out the door (especially in the very beginning), just focus on getting the details set up.
Step 2. Cover Letter
The cover letter—the one input field in every application that stops you in your tracks.
I’ve gone ahead and mad-lib’d a cover letter as a head start. For best results, be sure to flavor it with your own personality. Of course, this part of the process is pretty minor, so don’t waste a lot of time on this (seriously).
I’m a [job title] and [optional secondary title] based out of [city]. I came across your listing for a(n) [open role] and wanted to reach out. My background is in [background] and for the last [x] years, I’ve been at [company] where I do [thing 1], [thing 2], and [thing 3]. I would love to hear more about the opportunity.
I’ve attached my resume for your convenience. You can also view my portfolio here.
Thanks so much! I hope to hear from you soon.
For example, here’s how I might write a cover letter for myself:
Once you have your skeleton cover letter, you’re ready to…
Step 3. Let the Emails Fly
This is the most time consuming and least interesting part of the process. Sit down, put on The Office, and get it over with.
Two important things to note:
DO NOT forget to fill in any mad lib slots (for example, the job you’re applying for or the company you are contacting). And, in case you’re wondering: yes have sent a few Hello [COMPANY]’s and yes, I somehow still heard back from them.
DO NOT send these emails Thursday–Saturday. You don’t want to be overlooked because you’re at the bottom of someone’s inbox. I would recommend Monday night, but honestly any weekday should be fine.
It’s likely that whatever email address you managed to find is full of emails exactly like yours. This is why you should keep your email short, with the most relevant points easy to scan.
Same goes for subject lines,
Visual Designer interested in [company]
Tokyo-based designer interested in [ROLE]
ILLUSTRATOR INTERESTED IN [ROLE]
DESIGNER + ILLUSTRATOR — RESPONDING TO POST
Step 4. Keep Track of your Progress (optional)
During my furious sprint, I kept a Google Sheets document of each company I tried to contact. Details like their name, location, speciality, and date I reached out. If I had a connection there already, I would list that person. I kept notes as well, so I could remember various things I liked—or didn’t like—about them (size of the team, clients, opportunities to relocate, etc.).
Ultimately, remember to stay positive. And don’t stop trying. It’s hardest when you’re fresh out of school—but it gets better once you have some experience.