Looking for a few good Mules

So, client services work was supposed to be dead because everyone was building design teams in-house. I can tell you emphatically this is not the case. While a few high-profile designers did choose to go to product companies, there are many many good projects for great organizations out there in search of agencies to do them.

And now we are looking for a few new Mules to join us in our work solving problems for a wide variety of interesting clients.

Behold the power.

The trouble with posting ads on job boards or going through traditional channels is that they demand immediately that you label and enumerate the role in a way that doesn’t really capture the reality of how we work.

Having been at this for a while, we’ve found that the people who thrive at Mule are often those who don’t fit into a tidy box or define themselves by their title. There are certain general qualities even more important than specific skills or experience.

Listening is paramount.

What makes a Mule?

A Mule:

  1. Listens. You can’t answer a question you didn’t bother to hear. You can’t solve a problem you don’t fully understand. Research, empathy, context—these are all words for taking every opportunity to listen before proposing your ideas.
  2. Is part of a team. This sounds like a given or a cliché, but it’s not. Some people find it satisfying to collaborate and share credit. Others are competitive and live for opportunities to be the hero. Many organizations reward the latter. We have each others’ backs and work together to make our clients shine.
  3. Has a point of view. Here’s where it gets tricky. You have to be willing to argue for your point of view while working with a team towards a common goal. This is the difference between consensus and collaboration as Dan Brown points out in his book. If you care about the quality of the work, you’ll have strong (well-informed) opinions.
  4. Solves problems. This is what we do. We take initiative. We look for opportunities to contribute and make things better. We think about the why before the how. We don’t define ourselves by our tools, but by what we can accomplish with them.
  5. Thinks critically and strategically. This means you assess ideas and situations with the goal in mind. You prize clarity, welcome criticism, and are willing to revise your opinions based on new information. You are always curious and want to learn more.
  6. Communicates directly. Too many people confuse being “nice” or non-confrontational with being respectful or effective or pleasant to work with. Indirect communication costs time and money, and creates confusion. We need askers not guessers.
  7. Enjoys working with clients. Working with clients is not easy. Not because the clients are jerks (see below), but because they come from a different organizational culture. They are naturally concerned about where their time and money is going. And project-based work has a certain intensity. I love it. Some people think it’s hell. That’s fine. Know yourself.

So, if this describes you and entices you, and you have professional-level skills in visual design, research, strategy, interactive design (whatever acronym you prefer), or something we haven’t considered yet, get in touch.

Here are a few tips.

You should be excited about what we do, and have an idea of how you might fit into it. It’s fine—great even—if you have more questions than answers, but if you’re just dropping a line into every pond, save your time.

Write well, attach nothing. We assess applicants on the strength of their communication because that is so much of the job. Say what you have to say in the body of the message and link to anything you want to show us.

We all work together in a studio in North Beach in San Francisco. We will strongly prefer people who already live in the Bay Area because relocating here right now is…difficult.

A little something extra: How we choose our clients

If you’ve read this far, you must be interested. So, I’ll share a bit more about the work we do. In the same way you are what you eat, a studio is its clients. There is no more important decision than who to work with.

Our criteria:

The client must do something worthwhile. Whether for a business or a not-for-profit organization, we must have confidence that the world will be a better place for us taking this on. We’ve worked with gaming companies, software makers, publications, and technology startups as well as mission-driven organizations.

The project must be essential to the organization. We use design and technology to solve problems. This means there must be a problem to solve and clear business goals. Over time we’ve found that the more critical the project is to an organization, the better it tends to go. We can’t do good work without the full attention of the right people.

The client team must be good people who believe in the project. We don’t work for jerks, cynics, or people who don’t value what we do.

The budget and timeline must be sufficient. Clients can always find someone to do the work faster and cheaper. And it usually ends up taking longer and costing more. We won’t promise to do the impossible. And we don’t work weekends.

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