Learnings from being a Junior Interaction Designer

My tips for making your way into your first ‘real’ design job

In April this year I started my new job as being a junior interaction designer at Mirabeau: freshly graduated and with hardly any experience. I remember feeling very intimidated by all of my colleagues and all the great work they were doing. With this article I want to share the most important lessons I learned over the past few months. Hopefully this will help some of you new ‘dummies’ out there to make your way into your first ‘real’ job as a designer.

Talk with everyone

I remember getting introduced to tons of new colleagues during the first period of my new job. Art directors, creative consultants: job titles I had never heard of before. During the first weeks I spend a lot of time talking with these people: about what they were doing, what projects they were working on and about what their vision was.

‘Get yourself to talk to everyone: about what they’re doing, what drives them. At the end they might be the ones coding your designs or coming up with the concept you’ll be designing.’

Talking with all kinds of people will also help you to become visible in the company. By sharing what your passion is and who you are as a designer, will make you pop up in the heads of colleagues. It might even give you some nice projects or opportunities.

Get yourself a coach

Especially with your first project it’s good to get yourself assigned to a coach or mentor. This coach (preferably someone with the same profession as you) can help you review the quality of work and improve your skills as a designer.

When I got my first project I got myself assigned to a creative lead who used to be a senior interaction designer. He helped me out, reviewed my work and he also did the final check on all of my deliverables. He also taught me a lot about my company’s way of working and his favourite deliverables. I even ended up adding one of his favourite deliverables, service blueprints, to my personal deliverable-set and we even wrote an article about it (which was also a nice way to record my learnings).

Value all feedback

Apart from getting feedback on your actual work, it’s also good to get feedback on things like progress, communication and business hygiene. I found that asking team members, colleagues and clients can really help with this. Team members can e.g. give you feedback on working together, whereas the client can give you good feedback on presenting your ideas.

What I really like about my company, Mirabeau, is that we work with so called support groups. These support groups consist of about 4 people with the same profession as you, but with different levels of experience. Within the biweekly support groups there’s room for discussing feedback, tracking progress and sharing things you’re struggling with (e.g. ‘How do I convince my product owner?’). This really helped me a lot over the last few months.

Stay inspired & be curious

When you start working it will sometimes seem like you hardly learned anything in school. Although you definitely do know a lot (if not they wouldn’t have hired you), it’s good to get as much knowledge as possible. Get yourself to go to conferences, meetups and workshops to learn new things and stay inspired. Also get yourself some interesting books and subscribe to nice blogs on interaction design. By doing this I stumbled upon a lot of different subjects, tools and research. 8 months later, I’m now starting to sort of specialise in one subject in particular: Cross-cultural design (read about it here).

Show what you’ve got

Writing articles, attending meetups, giving presentations.. it’s all a very nice way to share your knowledge and become more visible for others. People will start to approach you and the sharing of your knowledge will in return help you to think about your work in a much more deeper level.

Just do it

A lot of things may seem scary at the start. Think of presenting your work at a client or starting a discussion with a colleague about a design. The only advice I can give on this is: just do it!. Experiment with lots of things and step out of your comfort zone: one of the perks of being a junior is that you can make mistakes and learn from them. And such things will definitely boost your confidence: I ended up giving a presentation to 100 designers about Cross-cultural design, which initially almost made me faint, but ended up going really well :)

All of the tips above really helped me to develop and get to know myself as a designer. Now, only 8 months later, I got promoted to a medior interaction designer. I hope all of the tips above might help some of you ‘new kids on the block’ by becoming great, confident junior designers!