7 Tips to Get Hired: Designer Edition
Updated: Feb 2
As Featured on AIGA Indy
New Year, New You Does the new you include a new job? Are you looking for tips on how to find your first job, climb a new ladder, or even switch careers? Look no further, my friend. You found us. The first quarter is the time to search because yearly budgets are primed and ready to take on new employees (just like you). Below, we have consolidated 7 tips that make a grueling job hunt successful.
1. Do the Prep Work
Resume First thing’s first: dust off that resume of yours and give it an update. List all of the relevant work experience and skills that make you an appealing candidate for the job you want. Depending on your experience, you may need to make a long form and short form version of your resume. A resume, especially for designers, should be meticulously and consciously designed well. Show a clear layout with careful design decisions that prove you have a strong eye for detail.
Be sure you use impactful verbs when describing how you’ve been an asset to your previous employers and organizations. If you’re applying for your first job or even if it’s just been awhile since you’ve looked for another job, reach out to trusted peers to workshop your resume. Think of it like a collaborative critique, and the client is your next employer. Make them want you!
Remember that even after you’ve update your resume, it can still be adjusted to fit the jobs you find. If you have a wide range of skills and expertise, you can refocus your resume depending on the job.
Cover Letter A cover letter should make a good first impression. It should be concise as you introduce yourself, address your intent with the company, and summarize your experience. These cover letters should be tailored to each company. Don’t be shy about your admiration for the company; employers recognize and appreciate genuine interest and passion.
References Some companies may require a list of 3-5 references. You should have this reference sheet ready to send in the event a potential employer requests it. Ideally, your references should be people who know you and your work capabilities. Make sure your references are aware that you are job searching so they can expect a call from a potential employer and answer their questions appropriately.
2. Branding + Portfolio
A portfolio is a visual resume. It is your way of showing exactly what you can do. The resume should do the talking, and the portfolio should do the walking. Your own personal branding is also important here. As a designer, you should have some sort of visual identity. If you can create a brand for yourself, employers will understand that you can create a brand for others, too.
For your portfolio, show your best work and create a space for an outside viewer to get a sense of your style and skills. Portfolios should exhibit your final product as well as your process. It’s helpful to show how you work creatively to get from Point A to Point B. Be sure to describe the scope of the project and clearly point out where you were involved.
Not a web designer? Pick up and learn WordPress, it’s free and easy to use (bonus: add it to your skills on that killer resume). You can also use platforms like SquareSpace and Wix for an even quicker website build. We won’t judge.
3. Social Media
We live in the social media era. Use this incredible platform to display more of your work! Share doodles and work in progress shots on Instagram, post your latest blog to LinkedIn, and/or beg one of your colleagues for a Dribbble invite.
LinkedIn A great way to digitally network, LinkedIn offers the ability to turn on settings that allow recruiters to know you’re interested in looking for a job. They also have a job board, but more on that later (see Tip #4). You can also try Premium for free for 30 days (it’s $29.99 a month after the free trial) to get insights on job postings as well as InMail capabilities that allow you to contact more companies and their hiring managers.
Instagram Show off your work! Create a design specific profile. Curate the perfect feed and engage with other creatives across the globe. Follow your favorite companies and get the latest updates directly from them. Test yourself and experiment with various hashtags like #HueVember and #30DayLogoChallenge.
Dribbble It’s the Instagram for designers. If you don’t already have an invite, you can still sign up to be on Dribbble as a “prospect.” You can post work and other invited members already drafted can extend an invite to you to become a “player,” which gives you a full range of features on Dribbble. You can also pay to go “pro,” meaning you don’t need an invite.
Post any and every kind of design here as well as get inspiration from others exclusively in the design industry. Show work in progress shots and get feedback from your followers. You can also post rebounds and link final products to previous work in progress posts. Like LinkedIn, they also offer a job board.
4. Job Boards
Job boards are a wonderful resource that perfectly outline exactly what companies are looking for in a future employee. Use the keywords in the job description to shape your cover letter and resume so your skills are evident.
If you’re an AIGA member, you have access to AIGA’s national job board, where employers can pay to promote their job openings. The local job board is set up and run locally by AIGA Indy. It’s free to post to and see listings. Both the local and national job boards are specific to design opportunities, and they can serve as a great starting point as you scour the web for job postings. Check it out here.
As previously mentioned, LinkedIn and Dribbble also have job boards. LinkedIn has a fairly robust data base for open positions, and they can also connect you with recruiters.
Speaking of recruiters…
5. Staffing Agencies
Staffing agencies and recruiters can be a great source in job hunt. A proud AIGA sponsor, Artisan Talent is a creative staffing guru. Create a profile with them to better your chances of having opportunities sent directly to your inbox. They offer career advice and write some seriously helpful articles about hiring trends and resume tune-ups. Check them out here, and be sure to check out their Instagram as well. Artisan Talent has a delightful, inspiring feed for job hunters. They post advice as well as letter board quotes that speak to the job hunter’s weary soul.
Before you mutter angrily under your breath, hear me out. This is by far the most recommended means of getting a job, especially in the design industry. You’ve been bombarded with this advice since day one, right? Networking is emphasized and repeated often because the success rate is the highest, most effective job hunting tip. A quick Google search will tell you that most new jobs acquired are by way of networking, experts estimate between 70-85%. Don’t believe me? Go check. I’ll wait.
Networking can take place in person or online. Connect with creatives in Indy by attending any of AIGA’s community events. Check out Creative Mornings for the chance to meet new industry professionals as well as be inspired by one of their monthly guest speakers. Follow companies and contacts on LinkedIn and engage with their content. Check in with professors or previous coworkers- they may be able to point you in the right direction. Whether digital or in person, networking is the ultimate means of finding job prospects. No one likes networking, but the data doesn’t lie—it’s truly the gateway to job opportunities.
So this one isn’t much of a tip; it’s more like a ray of hope or a comforting note, depending where you are in your search. It should be noted that some jobs are found through just plain luck. Timing is never perfect, and a job search can ultimately come down to being in the right place at the right time. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else as they search. There are people who get lucky and find employment early.
If you’re just starting your job search, remember to have a solid foundation and be prepared for anything! Sometimes it takes a month, sometimes a year to find your next big break. If you feel frustrated or stuck, remember that some things are out of your control. But you are in control of your career and the direction you choose to pursue. Prepare yourself using all of the tips as a starting points. Do your prep work, hustle on social media, and network, network, network. Companies are always looking for incredible talent; get out there and show them what you’ve got! #HappyHunting