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9 tips for landing a job after design school or bootcamp

Carl Wheatley is a Product Design Recruiter at Facebook with several years of experience in the design and recruiting industries. Having completed Bloc and Designlab bootcamps before becoming a recruiter, he’s an expert at helping designers land their first design job. Today he shares his tips for landing a job as a design professional entering the workforce.

Having started as a designer before becoming a recruiter, I know first-hand what it’s like to compete for the dream design job as well as the importance of selling yourself and putting your best foot forward. As a design recruiter now, I review hundreds of resumes and portfolios each week and have a very good understanding of what hiring managers like to see when reviewing potential candidates. Drawing on my experience in both aspects, I’ve rounded up a list of nine tips you’ll find helpful as a new design professional entering the workforce.

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1. Let people know you are available and for which specific roles

When recruiters or hiring managers look for candidates, they’ll sometimes search “Looking for design job” as a keyword to help with searches. You might want to consider adding this kind of phrasing to all of your social and professional profiles to leverage yourself in these searches. It also helps to include all applicable design titles that you’re interested in whether it be UX Designer, UI Designer, Product Designer, etc.

Pro tip: Within your LinkedIn settings, you can now check a box indicating that you are looking for a new opportunity. This easily lets recruiters know you’re available and your current company will not be able to see this info.

2. Review your resume for grammar and spelling mistakes

Using proper grammar and spelling indicates attention to detail, which is a critical element in design. Have a friend or mentor review your resume before you send it in. The last thing you want is to give potential employers the wrong impression all because of a seemingly insignificant mistake that could have easily been avoided.

3. Show your best work first

It’s tempting to showcase all of the great work you’ve done—but often times, less is more. Hiring managers don’t want to go through several different pieces of work, and you don’t want to risk diluting your impact. Take the time to understand the organization you are interviewing with and select just a few designs that illustrate your best work and fit closely with their style and tone. If you need extra projects to showcase, message a few like-minded companies to see if you can do some free freelance work for them. This is a great opportunity to write about what you were able to accomplish alone rather than with the help of a team.

4. Include pixel perfect images in your portfolio

It’s always best practice to add pixel perfect images to your Dribbble portfolio or your personal website. Not only will this make your portfolio more visually appealing, it also suggests you care about presentation—another important factor in design. If you’re a UX Designer, I would make sure your wireframes look clean and polished.

5. Network

After completing design school or bootcamp, it’s always great to keep in touch with your mentors and fellow students who might end up being a gateway into your next job. I’d also suggest joining as many Slack and Meetup groups as you can. Dribbble Meetups, for example, are a great way to network and meet folks from your local design community. You never know what opportunities might emerge from putting yourself out there IRL and making new connections!

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Row 1: Olga Zalite for Hiwow, Renee Fleck for Dribbble, Oliver Sin.

6. Practice interviewing

Have you heard of the STAR method? It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This is a very effective framework for answering more open-ended questions in an interview. Make sure you’re able to clearly communicate a given story or situation, describe what role you played, expand on your process, and share the outcomes—whether you succeeded or failed. If you failed, what did you learn? Try practicing the STAR method by having a mentor or friend ask you potential interview questions that might be more challenging to answer. You’ll feel more confident going into your next interview this way.

7. Use creative staffing agencies to your advantage

There are so many creative staffing agencies out there. When I finished design bootcamp, I sent my portfolio to local creative staffing agencies so we could partner together in finding me a job.

Pro tip: Dribbble recently launched Dribbble Talent to help our incredible community of designers find their next career adventure. Your Dribbble Talent Application is sent directly to our talent team who is working hard to find more positions for the Dribbble community.

8. Follow up with hiring managers

After applying to a company, send a nice message to their recruiter or hiring manager letting them know you applied and are very interested in the role. This goes a long way. I recommend following up twice within the first month you applied. After that, I’d wait a month before you message them again. It always helps to follow up! Not everyone will reply, but it’s certainly worth doing. Here’s an example of the type of messaging you can use:

“Dear Carl, I’m a huge fan of Dribbble and how you connect all of us designers around the world. I applied to your Product Designer position and believe I could add a lot of value to your team. Please review my portfolio and feel free to reach out with any questions regarding my experience.”

9. Be confident and patient

I know looking for a job can be overwhelming. Rest assured, your dream job is out there waiting for you. The design space is very competitive nowadays, which is why I tell everyone to network and build up your portfolio. Ping companies to get small freelance projects just to get your name out there and to add projects to your portfolio. Applying for jobs is a numbers game. You have to apply to as many as you can to get responses and traction. Never burn a bridge with your colleague or classmate. For all you know, they could be your boss one day, or at the very least help get your foot in the door at your dream job.

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About Carl: Carl is a Product Design recruiter at Facebook. Before recruiting, he was a UI/UX designer working with many tech startups to design mobile apps. Carl is also the co-founder of a Meetup called Global UXD
 where he helps connect designers with each other and create new opportunities. Having completed Bloc and Designlab bootcamps before becoming a recruiter, he’s an expert at helping designers land their first design roles. Find Carl on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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