Wanna get a design job? Think like a hiring manager.

If my experience at Ink and Pixels taught me anything, it is that young designers continue to face the permission paradox—you can’t get a job without experience, but need a job to gain experience. Each of the five students whose portfolios I reviewed voiced this same set of concerns: Lots of applications are sent, but little-to-no feedback or opportunity exists after hitting send. Just about all students recognized that there was a glut of applications, and thus it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. And while the concerns are valid, I’ve begun to wonder if students fully understand the business side of the equation.

Hiring is a complicated and time-consuming process. To hire a new employee the business has to shell out costs, often in the form of man-hours and marketing costs. In business settings where a Human Resource Department is involved, there is time cost associated with posting, reviewing, and interviewing potential candidates. In addition, there is the time design managers and creative directors have to set aside to review and interview candidates. For a business, this time falls into an un-billable category, and thus represents lost income. A company is willing to put up with this lost income if they can identify and hire the right candidates, who are likely to stick around for a few years.

HR and the design team members eliminate candidates quickly—they have to—and they do so without prejudice. As a young designer, it is crucial to show (or tell) potential employers exactly what benefit, what problem they can solve when they are applying and interviewing. Sure, this is a gross over-simplification, and there are no absolute ways to achieve that goal. But as young designers often throw a lot of different types of work out to be reviewed (and I definitely believe this is a good thing), they should tailor their work to the needs of the potential employers. If the job is print heavy, show some print work first. If the job leans more towards a digital space, show some digital work first.

The importance of events like Ink and Pixels shouldn’t be overlooked. While not every reviewer or panelist will have jobs to hand out, talking to pro’s in this setting is a very structured form of networking. One-on-one time with a handful of design professionals can only help young designers understand the difference and challenges in each unique design environment. Talking to the attendees at Ink and Pixels was the highlight of my weekend (I mean, I live in a house with two toddlers), and I commend AIGA Baltimore for once again putting on this event.

About the Author:

RobMaguire_HeadshotRob Maguire has over 15 years’ experience providing graphic design and marketing services to businesses of all sizes. After changing gigs each time his wife switched jobs and cities, Rob decided to begin his role as an independent creative. His experience working as an agency art director, and later as an in-house senior package designer has cultivated a knack for understanding the unique needs of each client. Today, Rob works and lives in Maryland with his wife, kids, and dogs.

About Ink & Pixels:

Ink & Pixels is one of AIGA Baltimore’s largest events focused on helping designers prepare for a career or career shift. This year’s Ink & Pixels event was held on Saturday, April 13th at Stevenson University.

More about Ink & Pixels