A short summary of the most important steps you need to take if you’re applying for a design job in an agency.
Finding the right candidate for a design job can sometimes be a real challenge. There are a lot of aspects that need to be covered, but your initial presentation is crucial. As a lead designer at Degordian, I receive a lot of portfolios and open letters on a weekly basis, but a lot of those applications are not satisfactory because designers don’t present themselves and their work in a right way. This is actually the reason I chose to write this post — to help you out by describing how to find the right job and properly present yourself and your works.
Set your goals
First and most important — ask yourself what you want to do and what is your passion. If you are not sure, the first step can be finding someone who is already working in an agency and talking to the people from this profession. That will give you a much clearer vision about the direction you should go.
‘Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?’ — that’s the question you’ll be asked on every interview you go on, but the thing is, you need to know the answer to that question especially for yourself. Be sure to know what you want to do in your life and focus on it, as that will make planning your future much easier.
Make sure you build your career in an environment you can thrive in. In the long run, people that surround you will be the ones that really affect your career. Try to find a job in an environment where people have similar passions and love what they do, connect with that kind of people and you’ll have a bright career in front of you.
Work on your portfolio
With your portfolio, you are making the first impression before your potential employer. Work hard to make an impression and showcase a few projects you are most proud of. Remember, you present yourself and your way of thinking through a portfolio, so make sure every detail is perfect.
Try to avoid .pdf portfolios and Dropbox folders with screenshots of your designs, because you are applying for a position in a digital agency — there are a bunch of great simple online services that can help you to easily build your own portfolio (Readymag, Squarespace, Semplice just to name few).
As a designer, always attempt to solve the problems through your projects. Talk about the approach and process you had while working on them. Consider a few things when sending your portfolio:
- What is the background behind your project?
- What problem do your want to solve?
- What are the goals of the project?
- Who are the users you design for?
- How are you planning to solve problems on that project?
Design is not about making things beautiful, it’s about using the right process and storytelling to create a solution. Do not prioritize screenshot aesthetics over functional utility.
I’ve heard designers who were trying to find a job for the first time complain they don’t have any work to show because they didn’t have an opportunity to work on real projects. Don’t stress yourself with having no experience of working in an agency or with clients, or not having any work to show. I am sure you know some website or a tool you use every day, but you had a bad experience using it.
Make an improvement, see what’s wrong with the design, try to find something better and present your approach by resolving that problem.
Take care of your portfolio, consider all current technologies and design for that technologies. In the end, show the things you are best at, and include those you would actually like to work on.
Prepare for the interview
Research the agency before you come to the interview. Do research on the people who already work there and find designers from that company on social media. You’ll find a lot of useful information that can help you, and you’ll also learn a thing or two from the people who already have experience in working there. Also, don’t forget to research clients the agency is working for and the projects they have done.
Be ready to present and discuss your work. Critiques will help you broaden your communication skills as a designer, as there is always the opportunity to articulate why you did what you did or to better explain your idea to the reviewer, if they don’t see it as clearly as you do.
Being honest during the interview is maybe the most important part of all. Remember, we all have pros and cons, so feel free to communicate them.
Explore different agencies, their websites and their social profiles — there you’ll find about what they do, about people and culture inside the agency. Attend design meetups where you have a chance to meet and talk with people from the industry so you get a vision and feeling of how it is to work in a different agencies. Stay fresh with your portfolio work and be aware of current trends in digital design, not just when you are applying for a job but all the time.