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FAHANMI Ambrose Wuraoluwa
FAHANMI Ambrose Wuraoluwa Updated

Greenhorn to Unicorn (Pun intended)

For starters in design career especially the go-getters, the ones who begin design as a passion or satisfaction of curiosity, or the ones who take up a personal challenge from a friend/parent that they can do something meaningful with life (and the pen tool), after the first step of looking in the mirror and saying to whoever appears as the reflection that, “I am a (graphics, product, UI/UX) designer and would be the best in no time” comes the feel good blood which courses through the body system and pumps straight to the heart (the literal epicenter of all crazy and uncrazy ideas).

You start off, hit a 2week -1month learning spree, learn the basics, watch (almost) all videos on the internet and skip the ones that begin to tell you what you already know barely 5minutes into them, then the ultimate, participate in the daily design challenge for a month or less and boom, self-certified (graphics, product, UI/UX) designer.

Up Next! High Paying Job application.

Then reality sends a postdated check. Recipient’s name is Newbie and a big laughing emoji is the last name. You’ve sent the thousandth “I await a favourable response” and you’ve barely had any favourable response. The ones that even manage to send a reply often add without wanting to hurt your feelings: “we humbly wish not to continue…” (we all know the rest). Worse of all even after cutting a bit out of the ego cloak and admitting you really do not have any work experience but just want to get any internship, you still get the ‘you know what’ reply.

Good news, all hope is not lost and the journey to that high paying job just began.

First, permit me to put on my interviewer glasses and talk like I have it all figured out too.

Hiring designers is far from buying groceries at the store and nearer to buying a nice-looking shirt (with e-m-p-h-a-sis on nice-looking). The catcher to a good shot at landing a (any) job is always to stand out like a nice-looking shirt. I know you’ve heard this before but it is the basic. What do you think you can offer that Jack Doe cannot (He probably watched all the same video you did)?

My tips.

  • Be intentional.

Define what you really want and go actively for it. Designing is a form of channeling your creativity and thought process hence, go for what you’re comfortable doing. If you feel more comfortable with mobile designs than web designs then best believe you will be happier and more productive at a company that would pay you lesser designing for mobile than one that pays higher for web designs.

  • Build your portfolio of work.

Your work they say should speak for itself. Before gaining professional work experience, you could take on quite a number of personal projects, design challenges that would add to your portfolio. You could even go as far as picking an app and redesigning with your own idea.

Another significant aspect is how to showcase your portfolio. You could showcase by:

  • Having a pdf compilation of your works,
  • Using sites like Behance, Dribbble, (the new dribble site is so cool by the way), Uplabs to showcase your designs,
  • Using free site builders like: Google sites (my personal favourite for simple and free website), Wix,
  • Creating a picture folder on a google drive showcasing your works.

And all other different ways you can imagine.

  • Have a resume that is concise and straight to the point.

Your resume is probably the first thing that the interviewer would notice. The shorter and well-articulated it is, the better it is at passing the message you want. As a newbie,

  • Try minimizing your resume to a maximum of 2 pages,
  • Highlight your skillset as they are your selling point and
  • List out your personal projects no matter how little or how insane they are. Half a loaf is way better than nothing especially when you are hungry.

  • Personalize your application (cover letter).

Because we all want to apply for as many jobs as possible, afterall, shooting a million darts on one board would make one hit the target eventually, we tend to do the minimum; using one cover letter for all job applications. While this isn’t bad at all and saves a lot of 'cover letter brain racking' it sometimes reduces the efficiency of the purpose the letter is supposed to serve.
You could have a ready to edit cover letter but spend a little extra time checking out the company you are applying to and try adding a sentence that aligns your personal values or goals to that of the company you are applying to. Imagine how just a ‘Hi Catie boo’ personalizes a message.

  • Send follow up mail.

After applying to the job, send follow up mails if you applied via mail. Typically, 5-7 working days after your application is okay. This gives a general impression of insistence and ‘great collaborator' (remember you have excellent collaboration in your list of skills). You really do not have to type a long essay (like this article). Just a quick ‘I applied for this job few days back and wanted to check in if…’. If a mail is not provided, you could look up the company website and see if there's a contact mail and if not, its still all good.

  • The ladder always starts from the bottom.

Know that it is a journey to your dream job and while you might be lucky to hit that job at first application, you might not be so lucky and would have to start from somewhere. Chart your own career path and follow it flexibly, consistently and arduously.

At the end of the ladder is always the money in the bag and cashing it in at the right time makes you the WWE champion.

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Ashima Sood
InVision ambassador Ashima Sood , ambassador

This is great advice Fahanmi!

While I look at portfolios I also look for proof of concept, or why the final design has been configured the way it has. If the candidate gets to the interview round I ask them how they validated their design decisions. 

I'd also add that cover letters are now fairly obsolete. But that's based on my experience in the US and in India.

Thanks for sharing this! I'm sure it could be super useful to many young designers out there.


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