There comes a point in every designer’s life when it’s time to look for a new gig
That new position may be a promotion. It may be a hop to another company. It could be due to a downsize and a layoff. Or your role may have shifted into something you’re not passionate about, or that isn’t giving you the opportunity to grow professionally. Regardless of the reason, you can’t stay in the same role your entire life. (Well I guess you could, but where’s the fun in that?!)
When the time to jump strikes, and you’re ready to start searching, the job application process can be completely paralyzing.
Why? Because if you flip through designer job postings you’ll encounter bullet point requirements ranging from Graphic design to interaction design to front end development to user research to usability testing, IA and content strategy. What’s the result of this crazy range of requirements? Designers suddenly feel under qualified.
I had a chat tonight with someone who works at a huge corp. In the past year the person grew their design program from nothing to a fully functional design thinking focused org. This person is a legit rockstar.
Unfortunately their team was axed during a huge layoff, so this person was put in a position in which they could either accept a role building out a brand new product team in another division from scratch, including creating their entire design system, workflows and processes, or the person could take a few weeks severance and search for a new job.
This extremely experienced, incredible designer told me that they were feeling inadequate and not skilled enough to take the position. They also expressed feeling the same when they reviewed other job posts. I was STUNNED.
They said they didn’t have enough experience in the all of the other areas of design to feel comfortable taking on the gig.
So here’s the thing. There are about 3 people in the entire design industry that are truly experts in every single area of design.
It’s crazy to expect that of any one human. If a company is looking for a single generalist who is an expert in every area of design, they’re nuts. At best people who specialize and have adequate knowledge in other areas will apply, and possibly kick out some rapid studying and learning to polish areas they’re weak in.
Experts in some areas of design with tons of experience in their specialty are feeling the same way that new and intermediate designers feel looking at new job descriptions.
Seeing all of those requirements tossed together makes a majority of people applying for the same jobs you’re looking at, even veterans, feel just as under qualified as you feel. Especially veterans who’ve been using older tech and languages. Don’t let it get you down.
If you’re really passionate about a gig with a wild job description, apply and then clarify the daylights out of the job requirements when you get into the interview.
Be clear about your existing skill set and the areas you hope to grow in during your interview.
Sometimes companies just rattle off a grocery list of buzzwords they’ve seen other companies use in their job requirements list without actually understanding what they mean.
Next up on the job application fear list: There will almost ALWAYS be something in the job requirements list that would push you professionally and that’s a GOOD thing. When you’re looking for a new job, don’t apply for a job doing only the things you’re amazing at.
If there is nothing in the job description that you’re a little uncomfortable with, you’re not applying for the right job.
Career progress takes professional growth opportunities.
If you’re always the most skilled designer in the room, you’ll never grow.
Apply for jobs that will help you reach your long term professional goals, not jobs that will only allow you to do the things you’re already extremely skilled at.
Last up, unfortunately for people in our industry, when you come into a company at an entry level salary, it can be nearly impossible to get an internal pay raise that matches your skill set once you’ve really grown professionally and gained more experience.
There are of course exceptions to this rule, but a majority of the time you need to job hop to land a raise that aligns with your enhanced skill set.
Obviously money is never the most important aspect of a job (unless you really need it), but being paid less than you’re worth is a garbage situation.
If you really like your team, give your company the opportunity to resolve the salary issue, but if they refuse, start searching for other opportunities.
The tech industry is a little weird in that job hopping is seen as normal behavior. A year or two at a company at the beginning of your career followed by a jump is the norm.
I could ramble on all night about this topic, but I’m going to wrap things up here.
Don’t get overwhelmed, just embrace the fact that you’ll never know everything there is to know about design — none of your peers ever will either.
It’s part of the fun of being a designer — you have to be firmly set in a lifetime leaner mindset to succeed.
Apply for jobs that will allow room for professional growth, not jobs you’re already an expert in.
Always push yourself. No one can move your career forward other than you, so own it.
If you’re willing to put in the time and hard work, the sky is the limit.