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Listen: Design your future with this guide to finding jobs for creatives.
With more than 30 years in the recruiting industry helping find jobs for creatives and placing talent with great companies, we thought we'd seen it all. But nothing can prepare you for a pandemic's radical impact on work and the layoffs and economic uncertainty that have followed. For those of you in the midst of a job search, we've got your back. We've gathered a collection of our top job-seeker resources to help you prepare for your search and land a new role that's the right fit for you.
Making your next move with precision
Job market research is an essential first step for anyone considering a career move. Take some time to explore what potential employers are looking for in terms of skills and experience. Knowing what employers are looking for can help you frame your story and position yourself to stand out from other job applicants. After identifying the skills and roles that are in demand, be sure to customize your job applications to highlight how you have those sought-after skills and experiences emphasized in the job posting. Don't forget to compare salaries and review job listings to determine a business case worth presenting, as well as make sure it matches up with salary expectations based on role, level, etc. Check out our online salary comparison tool. It aggregates data in real time, giving you a current pulse check on market expectations.
Need a helpful process to figure out where to go next with your career? Consider this strategy from Mags Hanley. Mags outlines a two-phased approach that uses UX skills to architect your career—a Career Audit and a Career Strategy. Career Audit is all about analysis and assessment. This process involves researching different opportunities, conducting stakeholder interviews, and testing out new career directions. Career Strategy is about creating a vision for the future, assessing the impact of current choices on that vision, and selecting an appropriate course of action to get there. Together, these processes provide a roadmap to use your skills in a meaningful way and take your career goals to the next level.
Crafting your online presence like a pro
Building an online portfolio these days is easier than ever. With portfolio website builders like Wix, Adobe Portfolio, Behance, Weebly, and Dribbble, there are a variety of ways to get your portfolio online quickly:
- Wix has over 500 templates for web design and 200 million users worldwide.
- Adobe Portfolio requires an Adobe Cloud Membership but provides access to thousands of fonts with Adobe Fonts and the ability to integrate with other platforms such as Behance and Lightroom.
- For UX / UI designers especially, Behance is beneficial for connecting to peers and job opportunities.
- Meanwhile, Weebly allows users to drag and drop elements into place for easy site creation, plus access to e-commerce through Square integration.
- Dribbble is also a top choice for UX / UI designers with its emphasis on engaging with peers by sharing small screenshots of works-in-progress.
With 87% of recruiters using LinkedIn when seeking candidates or vetting potential hires, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for creatives to attract potential employers and clients. Along with using a professional photo and providing proper contact details, it's important to create a keyword-optimized headline, list your past roles relevant to your job search, and include concise job descriptions and an outline of your key skills. Whenever possible, incorporate metrics and results into your profile, but keep your work samples in your portfolio only. For more great advice, be sure to check out our post on how to create a UX profile that will help you land your dream job.
While job titles are supposed to make it clear what you do and where you stand in the organizational hierarchy, the problem is that they can be quite confusing and vary between companies and industries. In addition, many job roles are changing faster than titles, which means your title might not accurately reflect what you do anymore.
When your past titles don't align with the new role you are applying for, it can be difficult to get recruiters and hiring managers to consider you a good fit. In this case, it can be helpful to add some clarity to the titles in your application materials. For example, if your title was Marketing Manager but you were primarily in charge of leading marketing campaigns, perhaps you list your title as Marketing Manager (Campaign Lead) on LinkedIn. Or if your title years ago was Interaction Designer but now it's much more common to use the title UX Designer for that same position, using UX Designer in your title will help surface you to recruiters searching with that keyword. If you are currently working, you can also prepare for the future by talking with your manager about updating your title if it no longer feels aligned with your responsibilities and seniority.
Finding and applying to jobs you'll love
Establishing connections with recruiters in your industry can make all the difference when you're in search of new opportunities—they help you find roles where you're a fit, position your skills and experience to hiring managers, and advocate on your behalf to help you get a competitive offer. A great recruiter can even help you find your dream job, whether that means making a career pivot or transitioning into a different industry.
To start building relationships with recruiters, ask for recommendations from your professional and personal network and follow recruiting companies on LinkedIn. It's also important to do your due diligence on potential recruiters; be sure to ask questions about their area of expertise and look for signs of transparency, responsiveness, and engagement. Even if you aren't actively searching, it helps to build those relationships now so you're prepared for whatever the future holds.
Aiming to be a perfect 100% match for every job opportunity can be daunting and can cause you to miss out on many great opportunities. When looking at a job posting, it's important to understand which requirements are essential and which are desired and to consider roles where you are a 70% match or higher. In your application and during interviews, use the STAR method (situation, task, action, and result) to demonstrate how your skills and experience from prior jobs will make you successful in this new role. You can also highlight your commitment to lifelong learning and your ability to ramp up quickly as a way to demonstrate that you'll fill any skill gaps and quickly grow in your new position.
In addition, narrow down the criteria you most value and listen carefully when recruiters suggest opportunities that you initially discarded. Keep an open mind when recruiters suggest a position or seniority level beyond your initial expectations. An experienced recruiter understands the nuances of making matches beyond the job description and resume and can often connect the dots from your past experiences to show how you'd be a great fit for a job you might not have considered on your own.
When it comes to online job applications, standing out is critical. The best way to make yourself memorable is by focusing on quality instead of quantity—be picky with what jobs you apply to and carefully follow their directions. Consider crafting a killer cover letter that focuses on your skills and what you can offer the company, as well as utilizing resume keyword optimization by selecting words from the job description to help surface your profile in the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). You could also try out AI tools like ChatGPT to develop a well-crafted, keyword-optimized application. Don't forget about LinkedIn either—use this platform to build your personal brand with a great profile picture, background, headline, and content.
To stay organized when applying for multiple jobs, it's essential to learn about each company so that you're ready for interviews. Finally, prepare ahead of time for possible video interviews with insights from experts in the field. It may seem like a lot of work, but taking the extra steps will give you the edge you need to stand out against other applicants.
Preparing to impress your interviewers
When it comes to being interviewed as a creative, there are many common questions you may be asked. Questions about what projects you are proud of, how your portfolio was designed, and your process for handling feedback can give hiring managers a glimpse into how you see your work. Asking about your creative process and favored tools allows them to evaluate fit with the team's style and workflow. Make sure you are also prepared to speak about your collaboration skills and ability to work cross-functionally with Developers, Copywriters, and Project Managers. Finally, many managers will ask whether you've been a part of devising a strategy or concept phase for prior projects. For even more interview questions you might be asked, check out these 52 favorite interview questions from top design leaders.
In a highly competitive job market, an effective way to stand out during the interview phase is by telling stories. Stories showcase your skills and accomplishments in a way that goes beyond traditional elevator pitches and resume elements. By talking about how your work has made an impact, you'll be able to demonstrate your unique value and perspective. Personal projects can be just as important as work-related ones when it comes to showing off your skills and interests. When preparing for interviews, use the STAR method to structure your stories. This will help you highlight your best qualities and show employers that you're ready for new challenges.
Interested in improving your interview skills? We have your back! We've gathered our top five videos to help you boost your interview confidence, covering everything from tech preparation and wardrobe advice to question strategies and what not to do:
- Video 1: Three quick interview tips: Test your tech, ditch distractions, and dress for success
- Video 2: Three first impressions hiring managers are looking for in an interview
- Video 3: Three tips for selling yourself in an interview
- Video 4: Three questions you should be asking during an interview
- Video 5: Three mistakes you're making in interviews
With remote interviews remaining as popular as ever, there are several best practices to ensure your success. Get ahead of potential technical difficulties by making sure you have a strong internet connection, practicing on the video platform you'll be using, and checking your microphone settings. An appropriate atmosphere is also key; make sure that you have a quiet, unobstructed background with natural light that makes it easy for your interviewer to see you. Just as you would if it was an in-person interview, dress professionally—this creates a sense of professionalism and respect.
Beyond acting professionally throughout the call, don't forget to be authentic—let your personality shine and be confident in what you bring to the table. Finally, practice your responses aloud with a friend or family member to ensure clarity and ease any anxiety before the interview.
Playing the long game as a Designer
The Design Career Map is an invaluable framework that can help you map out your design career journey. It gives you a greater level of understanding and knowledge of the different stages of professional design work, helping to set expectations and prepare for the many possibilities throughout your career.
- “Start” (0 years) is suited for those who have completed their design education and are ready to begin their professional journey. Alternatively, “Change” (0 years) is intended for those who already have several years of experience in the workforce as well as different family and financial responsibilities.
- “Learn” (0–2 years) is where Designers can learn traditional craft skills as well as master other tech-related disciplines in real project situations.
- “Build” (2–5 years) allows Designers to really understand themselves and identify their strengths so they can do more projects to accumulate experience.
- “Establish” (5–10 years) gives insight into how practitioners, specialists, managers, or consultants should take their path.
- “Stretch” (10–20 years) is where people learn how to deal with life's changes while staying on track with their careers.
- “Grow” (20-plus years) is the stage where expertise comes into full bloom as highly skilled professionals within the design community.
With today's ever-evolving job market, many people are actively searching for opportunities that maximize their professional and personal satisfaction. Achieving career fulfillment comes from a variety of factors, such as aligning with an organization's values and goals, connecting and building relationships with others, and doing meaningful work that impacts customers and users.
Don't forget to take the time to define your personal values first, then search for job opportunities that match them. Now is an ideal time to reflect on what makes you happiest and ensure that whatever job you take up aligns with your values. By better understanding your values and the job search process, you will be better able to make an informed decision among job opportunities and create a fulfilling career path that aligns with what truly matters to you.
Job searching as a creative can be challenging, but by defining your niche, building a strong portfolio, using your network, looking beyond traditional job boards, customizing your application, and staying persistent and patient, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job. If something isn't quite clicking with job searches or interviews, consider speaking with someone who can offer a new perspective, like a mentor or an experienced recruiter.
Wherever your journey takes you, remember to stay true to yourself and your passions. And most importantly, don't put too much emphasis on your job as an indication of your self-worth; there is so much more to who you are beyond what you do or where you work.
Please share this post with anyone in your network who could benefit. And to get new insights and information about the job market, be sure to follow Aquent Talent on LinkedIn and sign up for our monthly LinkedIn newsletter.
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