The joy of a successful journey precedes every first day we experience at a new job. Closer inspection reveals a series of pitfalls, ghosts, and brutal rejections that occurred along the way. The treacherous journey is often mentally draining and can leach away your confidence.
The journey I am referring to is obviously the job search.
Throughout this career-focused course, you’ve been preparing for the moment when an employer begins considering you for a job. Unfortunately, working hard won’t make rejection any easier. In fact, you will likely hear ’no’ a lot in the immediate future. Worse, some positions you apply for won’t respond at all. Just remember that rejection is a normal part of the job search process, then you’ll be fine.
The information that follows should be utilized to guide your search, focus your effort, and maintain your sanity.
The key to a successful search isn’t the sheer number of applications you send out but how you position your skills for potential employers. As few job searches are quick affairs, you should plan on returning to the guidance that follows over the weeks ahead.
What type of designer are you?
Regardless of the type of position you are seeking, it is vital to understand your strengths before you start.
When searching for a job, few things matter nearly as much as determining the type of job you want to seek. Identifying likely jobs seems obvious on the surface until you understand how many types of design jobs fit into the ‘design’ umbrella. The projects you work on and how you feature them in a portfolio will play a role in how employers perceive you as a candidate.
This issue is a big reason why New Pragmatic emphasizes this in the Intro to Product Design curriculum. It is assumed that you have already identified the jobs you are interested in pursuing. If not, this moment would be an ideal time to work through Product Design Jobs and make that determination as it will impact how you construct your case studies and portfolio.
First, designers should choose three jobs they are interested in to establish a job type that isn’t formed around a single company or role. It’s nice to have a dream job in mind, but you need to prove we can be gainfully employed as a product designer before stretching for the higher-profile positions.
If you are currently employed, before you launch an expansive external search, consider first reviewing the open positions at your current employer.
It isn’t uncommon for people to be employed at companies with open positions for the type of work they want to do, but they lack the skills to land that role. I’ve personally been in this situation before. I can assure you that your company would rather fill the position with someone they already know than take a chance on someone from outside your company — especially if it is easier to fill your current role.
Unless you are desperate to leave your current company, acquiring new skills and attempting to transfer into a UX or Product Designer position within your current company may be easier than moving to a new firm. As someone who held 6 different positions while spending 14 years with the same company, I know this career path well.
Quality over quantity
As alluded to earlier, the key to landing a new job isn’t sending out 500 resumes. Instead, your focus should be on finding roles that clearly align with your skills, interests, and/or experience.
When you focus on applying for as many jobs as possible, you’re encouraged to skip any research into the company. This research does more for you than helping you write a good cover letter. It helps you avoid working for bad people and worse companies.
Instead, the slivers of time you gain from applying for fewer positions should be redirected to research, and the extra effort you’ll need to pour into your applications. Your goal is to separate from the pack, and that’s hard to do when you are spamming every hiring manager with a boilerplate cover letter and resume.
The waiting game
Every job you apply for will have a window of time attached to it. When the job was posted will directly impact when you can begin to anticipate a reply, each position has its own clock.
An additional wrinkle is inserted when we consider the type of position you are applying for. If it is a full-time position at a large organization, you may not hear back for weeks. Use the table below to help determine when you should expect a reply to the positions you apply for.
|Type of Job||Response lag|
|Full-time, large organization||2-6 weeks|
|Full-time, small organization||1-3 weeks|
|Freelance/Contract work, large organization||1-3 weeks|
|Freelance/Contract work, small organization||0-2 weeks|
|Volunteer/pro-bono work||0-3 days|
Another factor that can dramatically impact the lag time is the stature of the position you are applying for. Senior roles are harder to fill, so you’ll likely hear from a company quickly if you are a potential candidate. Unfortunately, most senior roles involve multiple rounds of interviews, so it could be months before you know whether you landed the position or not.
I’ll be the first to admit that some recruiters have earned the bad reputation that most associate with the profession. As job placement is often a numbers game, you won’t have to search far to find a story about a recruiter that illustrates bad behavior.
Groupon tries to offer me a job: http://t.co/3yecr7hl (don't tell me the majority of tech recruiters aren't stooges).— DHH (@dhh) October 13, 2011
Stories like the one above litter the tech landscape. Simply put, recruiters are notorious for spamming people they know little about with job requirements that are often laughable.
So rather than gripe, let’s acknowledge that this behavior exists. In doing so, we reset our expectations so that we don’t get too excited the next time someone reaches out with ’an amazing opportunity.’ Any outreach from a recruiter could be a potential lead; it’s just as likely to be a dead end.
The second common recruiter nightmare that occurs is randomized ghosting. Because recruiting is a numbers game, a recruiter will only invest time maintaining a connection with you when they believe you might be a viable candidate for a position they have open. The moment it becomes clear to them that you might not be a viable candidate — poof — that recruiter will likely vanish. This sudden silence will stretch on for weeks, only to suddenly end when a new potential match pops up.
The on-again, off-again nature of many recruiters can leave you seasick from the rapid highs and lows you could experience. The only true way to combat this is through mental preparation. If you go into the job search expecting a particular attitude, it can make the practice easier to endure.
|Job Hunt Like a Pro (with a spreadsheet)||New Pragmatic|
|The Modern Art of Cold Calling||New Pragmatic|
Congratulations, it’s time to begin applying for new jobs officially. Using the provided spreadsheet, you’ll begin tracking the positions that you’ve applied for and storing associated research you gather.
As your search will likely stretch over an extended period of time, you should view the steps below as something that will be repeated daily.
Part one: Identify at least two positions to apply for today. Complete a spreadsheet entry for each role. For best results, do this every single day of the search.
Part two: Research possible your connections to the role via LinkedIn. If you have no direct connections, search for others at the desired company with design management roles.
Part three: As replies come in for each position you applied for, update the spreadsheet accordingly to enable easier tracking of active applications.
... and after two weeks
Part four: There will normally be a lag between when you applied and some form of reply. In this step, you’ll be following up with any position that you’ve applied for but haven’t heard from within two weeks. If you don’t have a direct connection to the position, you’ll put your initial research to work by reaching out to others involved in design management at the company. This won’t guarantee a reply, but it will provide peace of mind that only arrives when you put in the effort.
Once you have completed the first three steps, update your Program Journal with links to the assets produced for this exercise. Post your Journal in the #Feedback-Loop channel for review. Be sure to return to the instructions listed above as you continue through your search.
Up next Interview Prep