Among the sea of candidates fighting for a product design position, it’s only natural to wonder: How can I effectively allocate time between job search and portfolio development, ensuring I stand out in the crowd?
Last week, YLD’s Design team were invited back by Experience Haus for a ‘lunch and learn’ session. This was an open discussion where the design students at Experience Haus could ask burning questions, especially as their programme comes to an end. Whether you’re fresh out of university or switching careers to product design, keep reading.
UI vs. UX
These two disciplines often exist separately rather than together in one person. While it’s important to have some proficiency in both areas, established companies with a more mature design foundation tend to maintain a clear distinction between UX and UI individuals. Having a general understanding of various aspects is not only useful but pretty much expected; however, having a focused expertise on either is what is most valuable. In cases where a company combines “UX/UI” roles, it’s best to find out more about the specific division of responsibilities. Knowing explicitly what those tasks are will influence not only how you describe your work and visually present it but also the overall approach.
How do I stand out by showing my design thinking process?
You need to be able to articulate your work process, your understanding of the design process, and how UX fits into it. What you present in the end is important, but your focus should be on articulating your thought process — show the journey of how you got there.
In addition, ensure your work has substance/ depth, aside from it looking visually appealing. Talk about the user experience, and note even though that aspect may not be glamorous, it is essential to what you want to showcase. Break down your process into steps and be honest about how you work. What’s the first thing you think about when you’re tasked with something, and what is the first action that you take?
How much time should I spend on interview challenges or tasks?
Ask the interviewer how much time they expect candidates to spend on tasks so you don’t over- or under-invest your time. Looking for work can be a full-time job in itself, and you need to be respectful of your time., This will also help you receive fair judgement compared to other candidates — they may have spent 5 hrs on the tasks, and you have 5 days, or vice versa.
Which essential design skills should I sharpen as a Junior Designer to progress well in my design career?
Staying curious and eager to learn is essential and having a proactive attitude can significantly boost progress. Here’s a rundown of some key areas that deserve some extra attention:
- Design Systems: As a junior, you don’t have to be a wizard, but getting the basics of design systems is a hot topic, as it focuses on improving not only the customer experience, but also collaboration between designers and engineers through consistency, familiarity, and accessibility at every touchpoint.
- Accessibility: Clients look for designers who are well-versed in this area as accessibility in design revolves around making the internet, and digital products useful, and attainable for everyone.
- Tool Mastery: Instead of juggling learning too many tools, focus on knowing one very well. Keep tabs on the latest updates and developments in industry-wide tools like Figma, for example. You should absolutely be tool agnostic but be a master of one — at the end of the day, you can always learn a new tool when needed.
In addition to the great conversations around some burning questions, we learned some top tips to stay focused throughout the job search process for designers.
- Iterative portfolio approach: Gradually enhance your portfolio while actively engaging in your job search.
- Apply now, refine later: Don’t hold back on applying due to waiting for a “perfect” portfolio. Every interview you secure contributes to your experience and portfolio development.
- No website required: A personal website isn’t a prerequisite for job applications, but make sure you are able to show your work in an organised way, such as a presentation, a pdf or even a well-structured Figma file.
- Clarify task expectations: When assigned a task during an interview, explicitly ask about the recommended time allocation and clarify any concerns around the brief. Beware of vague instructions like “spend as much time as you want,” — clear instructions and guidelines will help you plan your work better, and create a more fair comparison between you and other candidates.
- Articulate your thought process: Effectively communicate your work and decision-making process within the given time frame for the assigned task.
- Real-world relevance of the task: If the assigned task appears to have practical implications, explicitly ask what they intend to do with your work after the interview.
Thank You for Having Us
This was the YLD Design team’s second ‘lunch and learn’ over pizza with Experience Haus students which honestly could have easily carried on into the afternoon!
Our design team loved chatting to the ambitious and motivated Experience Haus aspiring designers and we’re looking forward to other sessions in the future. To the students from these two groups, we extend a heartfelt thank you for having us and wish you all the best as you embark on your new design careers.
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If you’re on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate on impressive projects alongside top-notch designers, engineers, and data scientists, let’s connect at firstname.lastname@example.org for available positions. Moreover, if you’re grappling with a specific project and need expertise in cutting-edge technologies, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.