Things I Wish I Knew When Applying for Design Jobs

By Sara Riedel

It doesn’t matter who you are, job searching is not an easy task. Job searching in the design field? Even harder.

There’s the “how many years have you been in the field” question, which is the one we all stretch our resume to fit into. The “rank your proficiency in all Adobe programs” question: “Yeah, me accidentally opening Bridge means I’m proficient in it, right?” And, if that isn’t enough, the “culture fit” question…”Sure, I can be into Pokémon GO if it’ll get me this job!” But, surely, there are plenty of successful designers out in the world, that presumably got a job they like somehow, right? So, how did they do it?

As someone who has spent a sizeable chunk of the past 4 years searching for summer internships, and then ultimately a full-time job, I’m here to share a couple bits of advice for job searching. Turns out, beyond the compelling, well-organized resume and inspiring portfolio, there are several things that I learned way too late and wish I had known when I was applying for design jobs. Hopefully, they help you land your dream job in the design field or at least a job that isn’t a soul-sucking nightmare.


Who do you know? Who do they know?

Who is hiding in the back of your networking closet? Reach out to your college professors, old co-workers and bosses, or pretty much anyone you have a strong, mutually-respected relationship with within the design field. Chances are, they have deeper connections than you and could give you an intro to someone else who could help get you a job. Sound embarrassing and desperate? It’s not.

We’ve all been there, and in the digital age, introductions via email or phone calls are quick and easy. I waited way too long to take advantage of my professors’ connections and willingness to help, but when I did, they were able to vouch for me in ways that my resume or LinkedIn never could.


Recruiters are a thing and they totally make your life easier.

What’s a recruiter? Yeah, I didn’t know either until I stumbled upon one while job searching. A recruiter is a perfect little job-fairy that works with companies to help fill holes in their team and can help you find a job! They have access to jobs that often aren’t advertised publicly, have personal relationships with the hiring staff and creative management, and can get your resume directly in front of those who are in charge. I was hesitant to work with a recruiter at first—it felt like the easy way out, or cheating in some way. But, after two days of working with my recruiter, I had a job interview, and a day later I had a job. There’s no shame in having help in this process, especially when it’s doubling the number of jobs you’re applying for.


Be honest about your expectations, goals, and desires.

So you’re applying for any and all job openings you see? Believe me, I’ve done that too, but I’m here to say: stop it. It is a waste of time to start applying for jobs before you have an understanding of your values and goals and how you want those to align with your career. Get honest with yourself. What do you want in a job? Why do you want this particular role? How do your goals and values align with those of the company? Having an honest understanding of what you’re looking for will make for a more genuine interview. Not to mention, talking about why you want to work somewhere will be that much easier—or harder if your values don’t align.

For me, these three tips made all the difference. I asked my professors to vouch for me, and they did because they know how real the struggle is. I worked with a recruiter and my job search was over before I even got the chance to repeatedly smash my head into my keyboard. And I stuck to my guns about not being into Pokémon GO and found a job where my love of Hamilton was appreciated.

Sara Riedel