Creative Chronicles: How Do You Land Your Dream Design Job?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #7: How Do You Land A Job?

This post is a little different today. Instead of offering advice, I need your help!

The premise is simple:

You’re learning how to be a designer.

But who’s teaching you how to take your design degree and actually get a job?

Like many of you, I went to school for design with the goal of getting hired once I graduated. After spending years in school, I was anxious to get going with my career and earn a decent living. Even though I was creative and very driven, I constantly questioned myself.

I wondered:

• Was my portfolio good enough?

• Did I have the right mix of work?

• Did my resume convey the right experience?

• Would I answer the interview questions right?

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #7: How Do You Land A Job?

Landing your dream job takes much more than just having a compelling visual style. But, what else is there? What’s the strategy to make it happen? I asked myself that same thing. After landing a bunch of industry jobs and working at a half dozen studios before starting my own (where I am now on the side of interviewing), I have a pretty good idea of what it takes. And, if you’re interested in finding a job in the design industry, I want to share that knowledge with you.

Business strategist Ellen Fondiler has joined me to build a course that helps you land your dream job in the design industry. We have a content outline but I want to make sure we haven’t overlooked anything. After all, the goal of this whole project is to help people like YOU find a job.

To ensure that we’ve made the content as well-rounded and helpful as possible, I need your help.

Please copy, paste and answer the below questions into the comments section and include your email address. As a thank you, I’ll draw one person at random next Wednesday and you’ll win a prize pack loaded with Nubby Twiglet and Branch goodies, some of which are super rare!

Nubby Twiglet | Creative Chronicles #7: How Do You Land A Job?

Please answer the following:

1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer? 

2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you wish someone would create?

3. What are you sick of seeing and reading about? 

4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

A. How to build a compelling portfolio
B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
C. How to ace your job interview
D. How to work your connections to find a great job

Thanks in advance! —Shauna


Photos: Made U Look.

14 Responses to Creative Chronicles: How Do You Land Your Dream Design Job?

  1. I can’t wait for this course! It sounds absolutely perfect!!!

    Here are my answers.

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    Not having enough experience and wanting to work for myself. I plan to get my degree and go straight to freelance but feel like I should slug it out for years to get “industry experience” before I have enough knowledge to go it alone.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?

    Something to help newbie designers navigate the minefield of being self employed. Advice on pricing, what services to offer etc. Mentors are hard to come by so some help would be great. I think a lot of designers chose to do this for a living because we’re creative. I’ve worked for other designers and working in the wrong niche can dull that creativity and that spark we have when we leave school. Thats why so many chose to work freelance/self employed. But with it being so competitive, I feel that guidance on how to find your niche, create a stunning portfolio and stand out would be amazing. There are so many courses and help out there for entrepreneurs and “life coaches” etc. Something that caters specifically to designers would be absolutely amazing. I’ve found that very little is taught in uni about working for yourself.

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?

    Mainly in Uni at the moment, there is a lot of emphasis on getting work in the industry. Entering competitions to gain recognition from agencies so that they’ll employ you. Sometimes I feel that the term “self employed” to a lecturer is a dirty word.

    For those looking to get work after school I think ideas to make them stand out from other graduates would be great.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    For me, personally, A and D. Building a great portfolio and also making connections in the design industry.

    Thank you so much Shauna. You’ve been a huge inspiration to me on my journey to becoming a designer and I can’t wait to see what you and Ellen come up with. Miracle worker was amazing so I’m exited to see what you both do.

    Steff xxx

  2. Hanna says:

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?
    Knowing where to look! There are so many great firms out there, sometimes I feel like all I do is dig and dig trying to find a place that I vibe with, and then it’s hit or miss on if they really need anyone. Beyond that, knowing what people are looking for in my portfolio. Should I show my personality or should I act as a blank slate? Do I put in my side projects? Does anyone actually care that I was in choir freshman year? Etc etc. Sometimes I feel like each and every brand is looking for an entirely different kind of designer, but they’re not telling what kind of designer it is that they want.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?
    Something that tells me what parts of my portfolio aren’t quite up to snuff! One area in particular is photos. I feel like there are some kind of standards for editing/taking photos that studios look for but that I’m not aware of.
    Beyond that, I’m not sure. That’s a tricky question.

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?
    How it’ll all work out in the end. I mean, I hope so, but that’s not really very helpful in getting there.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
    C. How to ace your job interview
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job
    (All of the above!)

  3. 1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    I’m currently struggling with (at least) two things. One is that I can’t seem to find companies that are willing to hire entry level designers (and I can’t afford to take any unpaid internships at this time). The second is that I am a designer who is more illustration/fine art focused, but with all the technological skills (and the Bachelor’s degree) that I would need for a job in graphic design. I guess I am struggling with finding a way to stay true to myself and my interests in art and design in my job search.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?

    I wish I had a scanner of high enough quality to not lose the fine detail of my line illustrations when I scan them, OR a more accommodating Live Trace feature in Illustrator that wouldn’t make me lose half of my detail.

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?

    I’m sick of seeing + reading about designers and artists who jump onto any bandwagon or adjust their own aesthetic to reflect current trends, just for some bit of recognition while the trend is popular. People who change who they are and what they do based on what is popular annoy me, and it’s frustrating that they’re often the ones that gain success.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
    C. How to ace your job interview
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job

    All of the above! I am wanting any and all help you can give. I’m ready to finally do this thing.

  4. 1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    In this age of digital rule, and partial print decline, I just don’t have enough web work shown in my portfolio. As a print designer, I’ve forced myself to get comfortable with digital design, however, I struggle gathering the experience that is worth showing in my portfolio. Help growing into that digital realm so that I can really show my multitude of understand would really help!

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?

    My husband is a lumberjack – not literally – but, beard-wise. After a yummy lunch, I was poking fun that almost everything he ate, he ended up wearing in his beard… thus, the BeardBib was born. No idea how to actually create this, but we’re totally thinking of making this a thing.

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?

    Donald Trump – I apologize for those out there who legitimately appreciate him. I just feel that nothing that comes from his mouth seems to be of use.

    Also – anything containing Papyrus or Comic Sans… or any mixture thereof.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply: Everything below! Even though I’ve learned these things before, refreshers are ALWAYS helpful and beneficial. Learning rules.

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
    C. How to ace your job interview
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job

    PS – Please pick me (even though I know it’s random) for your giveaway – you, you’re work, and your personality are amazing <3

  5. Danielle says:

    Hi Shauna,

    I am currently attending NYU for their graphic design certificate. I live in Brooklyn, NY and am so excited that you are doing this!

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    I come from a finance back round where I spent ten years on that career path and am making a huge career change to graphic design. I am struggling with figuring out what to put in my portfolio and how to go about finding agencies and work once I finish my certificate. Because I am new to the industry, I need all the help I can get!

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?

    A chat feature where we can have our portfolios reviewed in real time. Or a meeting where we can review each others portfolio work. A reference list of websites, tutorials and list of design sites. I have some of these but one centralized location would help where everyone could add their own and share. There is so much information out there, it gets overwhelming. I keep going back to your list of books and what has helped you along the way.

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?

    I am sick of seeing how supposedly you can’t make a decent living with a graphic design career or that the industry is so diluted. It’s discouraging at times to read those comments.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
    C. How to ace your job interview
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job

    All of the above!

    Thank you so much. I have been following you for a while and you have been my inspiration for so long. You have given me the courage to make a move that I have been wanting to do for a while now!

  6. Sasha-Shae says:

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    Putting myself out there, learning how to get clients and also maintain a level of retainer clients and referrals. I also struggle with the process, how to get from point A to Z when doing a project without being lost in overwhelm and despair as newbie.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?

    I wish someone would create a real freelancer’s guidebook that walks me from literal beginning to end of working on a client branding+website design project. How did you get the client, what was the questionnaire sent, how about responding to emails? What steps do you take from client agreeing to actual completion of project, the whole entire shebang! ALL of it!

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?
    Hmm, I think I am over seeing/reading about how to freelance but with no substance. That is, tons of articles and such talk about freelancing, but they really don’t help the newbie at all. They are always mostly geared to the person who’s been doing it for ages and already cemented in their process and know the pitfalls to avoid, nothing of true guidance for a person who really has no idea of how to start their business or work effectively in an existing design workplace etc.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    ALL of them: A, B, C, D

    Thanks Shauna!

  7. C. Wilson says:

    Hey Shauna! Sounds like a SUPER thing you’ve got brewing. Here are my answers—I hope they help!

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    I’m a career-changer (much like you were before you moved into the design field), so I’m mostly struggling with the idea of finding a job as a junior designer, even though I have years of other work experience under my belt (some of which is transferrable, some of which is not).

    Also, my other main issue is that, despite getting lots of little projects here and there, it’s been a challenge finding anything “meaty.” I’m still at the beginning phases of even marketing myself, but I’m concerned about getting stuck in a rut with lots of tiny (low-paying) projects rather than a reasonable number of substantive, higher-paying ones.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you just WISH someone would create?

    I’m a niche perfume nerd and am dying to have an industrial designer create an attractive organizer for my billion tiny perfume sample vials!

    In terms of design/online offerings, I’m dying for an all-in-one, super-streamlined, supremely useful guide to branding oneself and navigating the design biz. Think Blogcademy meets How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul.

    3. What are you sick of seeing + reading about?

    Anything wishy-washy where the answer is “it depends.” I am a hardcore pragmatist when it comes to my career, and I don’t want anything fluffy. (Inspirational = good, fluffy = bad.)

    That, and Donald Trump :)

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    In order of how helpful the topics would be to me:

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job
    C. How to ace your job interview
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume

    Thanks for all of the awesome posts!

  8. Haley says:

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    Currently where to look for entry level jobs to get a foot in the door for design and communications so I can have a stable creative job where I can still do my front end developer learning in my free time. I moved to the Portland area about a month and a half ago and have been spending some time getting to find my footing and essentially where to go. I have contact quite a few creative agencies similar to those you have previously posted but just one has gotten back to me (we’re chatting this week actually!). I know my portfolio right now isn’t that organized or focused, which another issue I’m having getting new work too. I find I get easily distracted and having trouble finding the driving focus in my work and career.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you wish someone would create?

    I see in the comments many of the others are grouping around a clearer version of a “how to get clients, new work, grow my business” workbook. I have scoured the web and found many here and there but those are basic outlines. I’d like a “these are the points that worked super well for me and probably will work for you as a newbie designer.”

    3. What are you sick of seeing and reading about?

    I’d like to see a greater variety of designers at different stages in their careers when I search the web. After visiting some higher up designer’s portfolio sites, their CV makes it sound so simple or “happened across” their work. Maybe that is how it goes? Most success stories have been thrown on the web but where are the mistakes to show they are human?

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    All of them !

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
    C. How to ace your job interview
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job

    Thanks for the questionnaire, anything would be helpful :)

  9. Kaitlin says:

    Hi Shauna, my name is Kaitlin! I live in Iowa but take international trips fairly frequently and I love being outside. I graduated from Iowa State University in graphic design in May and have been a camp counselor and a self employed designer since.

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    I am struggling with finding clients and asking for how much I need for pay. I’m a new freelancer and right now I’m mainly working with a communications company doing user design with some coding, and I feel like I’m cut off from the design world and people who need some design help. What I really love to do is color work, illustration, and hand done designs. Since the jobs I’ve been working with are more digital and technical, I can’t work the natural stuff in and I’ve been trying to find a more creative outlet (Etsy hasn’t worked yet!) that still brings in money.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you wish someone would create?

    A fantastic way to transfer hand-drawn stuff to digital. I LOVE doing hand drawn and handmade stuff and I’ve tried a bunch of different ways but I’m still trying to find something that looks natural once transferred.

    3. What are you sick of seeing and reading about?

    I was going to say that I’m sick of people saying that it’s difficult to do this, but dang it just is sometimes. I am sick of clickbait articles, I am sick of seeing people tell me that I don’t have a real job, I’m sick of the short days and the lack of sunlight (ha!). This was probably the most difficult question for me to answer out of them, I’m not really sure what I’m sick of!

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    Really, all of them would be helpful. A, B, C, and D.

    Thank you Shauna!

  10. ALESSANDRAV. says:

    1) What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    The greatest difficulties I met looking for a job as a graphic designer are the following:
    – I did not know how and where to look for it.
    – I found it difficult to be noticed in the field without RELYING ON preexisting connections.
    – Internet does not provide any specific platform supporting designers in presenting their resume and portfolio to the companies.
    – I have been asked too often for years of experience in the field when I was interviewed.

    2) What is a product you’re pining for? What do you wish someone would create?

    I would really like to have some sort of counseling on the best strategies to present my skills to a potential employer or customer, how to keep my professional background up-to-date, how to make my resume and portfolio such that they will more likely be noticed among many OTHERS and, most importantly, how to enlarge the circle of people I know in the field.

    3) What are you sick of seeing and reading about?

    In my opinion THE NUMBER OF DESIGNERS IS TOO HIGH WITH RESPECT TO THE NUMBER OF RELATED JOBS.

    4) Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:

    The topics I am more interested in are: D, B, A. I sorted them STARTING from the most RELEVANT TO ME.

    Thank you so much.

  11. Rayna says:

    1. What are you currently struggling with when it comes to finding work as a designer?

    When I have work I get plenty of calls but then there are times when I can’t even get a bite.

    2. What is a product you’re pining for? What do you wish someone would create?
    I think it would be awesome if there was a clean & slick planner designed for designer with inspirational quotes, pictures and enough room to write daily to-dos as well as ideas & doodles.

    3. What are you sick of seeing and reading about?
    The Kardashians–all of them, sure there are interesting things about them but why do they have to be everywhere? There are other fashion/style plates that can be displayed. I do enjoy seeing bloggers fashion posts even if the pics aren’t perfectly polished like the magazines.

    4. Which of these course topics would be helpful to you? List the letters of any and all that apply:
    A: especially time-management with trying to cut-out time to build the portfolio while also balancing work & life.

    A. How to build a compelling portfolio
    B. How to write an attention-grabbing resume
    C. How to ace your job interview
    D. How to work your connections to find a great job

    Thanks! You are such an inspiration of mine.

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