What should junior designers look for in a company?
A team that’s motivated and stands up for a well-designed experience; and a mission that’s big and challenging.
Apprenticeship is the age-old way of learning the trade secrets of a job. So is true for design. As you go find designers and organizations to work with, here’s something you can look for.
As you begin your career, the way your first few organizations will condition you is going to stay for the remaining years. Make sure that you set the bar really really high.
A team that won’t settle for less
Excitement is contagious, but so is mediocrity. Look for teams that are excited about the problems they are working on and wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best possible. Working with people who will settle with less will set the bar too low for the rest of your career.
A team with experience standing up for good design
When you design, there will be constraints —the time that’s available for a developer to code, a date your product manager has already promised for this feature, a customer who wants it sooner, and many others. While design happens in constraints, you’ll have to convince, negotiate, and even fight for the best possible experience. And these fights will not be easy. Saying “don’t you trust me” won’t work.
So you want to be around people who know how to do this so that you can watch and learn.
A team that’s diverse in opinions and willing to challenge yours
You don’t want to be in an echo chamber of your beliefs. If your opinions don’t get challenged enough, you’ll not stop to consider if they are right or wrong.
Companies are but people working towards a mission. You need to pick one that gets you out of the bed every morning.
A problem you believe in
The twenties are the best time to test your limits. You can work longer hours without burning out, and take risks with your neck on the line. Nothing will push you more than working on a problem you can believe in.
A problem that’ll challenge you
If a problem has been effectively solved numerous times before, there’s not going to be a lot you’ll learn. For instance, e-commerce or delivery. Growth happens when you enter new territory.
A problem that’ll be valuable to solve
Solving the problem should make things better for enough people. Not every problem will be new — but that’s ok. There might be problems that have been solved in a different industry but are new to this one. They offer a lot of scope for contextualizing solutions to the industry. It can seem like repeat work but adds amazing value for people in the industry.
When you get into an organization, make sure you look for mentors who can teach you these skills. But the most important thing is to take ownership. Only when you take the responsibility of solving a problem, you’ll have to push yourself to find answers. That’s when growth will happen — often in leaps.
If you are lucky, you’ll land into a company like this very soon. For others, it might take a few tries. But don’t worry, you can always take ownership wherever you are. Action can be the biggest mentor.