Ask DN: How did you get your job?

almost 8 years ago from , Freelance Mobile Designer

What was the process of getting your current or previous jobs? Did you apply? Get contacted by a recruiter? Is having an online portfolio an important part?


  • John PJohn P, almost 8 years ago


    39 points
  • jj moijj moi, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    0th job: asked my teacher to be his TA

    1st job: applied 500 jobs > 10 interviews > got rejected 9 > got 1 internship

    2nd job: applied 50 jobs > 5 interviews > got rejected 4 > got 1 job

    3rd job: recruiter sent 8 jobs > 3 interviews > got rejected 1 > rejected 2, picked 1

    4th job: recruiter sent 5 jobs > 2 interviews > rejected 1, picked 1

    5th job: applied 2 jobs > 1 interview > got the job

    I think it's easier as you grow in your career. Of course the portfolio is what got you the calls for interviewing in the first place, but it's less and less important as you get closer to 10 years of work experience.

    20 points
    • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, almost 8 years ago

      I love that you included rejections, this is something people looking for jobs sometimes get easily discouraged by. I applied for 101 before I got my current gig.(it's also harder if you're applying from outside of the state/country the job is in).

      2 points
  • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    My history:

    1. First job, Content Developer Straight out of school, thought I knew everything about design. Applied to about 15 positions around the US, basically a shotgun scattershot. Interviewed at a couple. Took a job as a Content Developer at a design agency. They didn't think my design skills were good enough for the design team yet.

    2. Second job, Designer Applied to about 35 positions, mostly scattershot again, but in select cities. Interviewed at three places, and a Nashville company offered me a job based on the potential they thought I had. At this point, I only had 1 real project in my portfolio and a bunch of student work.

    3. Third job, UI Designer Applied to 5 select jobs. At this point I was very picky in where I wanted to work, and had the skills, talent, and experience to be picky. Picked a great place. Made great work. Eventually promoted to Creative Director.

    4. Fourth job, Senior Designer Had about a dozen people try to hire me in the past year, but wasn't interested. But, when I was ready to find another job I touched base with a guy I had connected with in the past and was offered a job. (all about networking and who you know!)

    Things I learned: 1. The scattershot approach does work... eventually. And you probably won't get exactly what you are looking for.

    1. You do need a portfolio, and keep it up to date.

    2. Who you know matters, and networking is important.

    3. No job is perfect!

    4. Recruiters (in my opinion) offer little to no value.

    5. When someone reaches out to offer you a job, at least talk with them even if you are not interested in changing jobs or never want to work there. It's part of the whole networking thing and can help down the line.

    6. Connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn is a waste of time. I could say a lot about recruiters...

    7. Being a smart designer is better than being a flashy designer.

    8. When you are good at what you do and work hard people will notice.

    Probably could say more, or less, but there ya go.

    14 points
    • Vincent MillikenVincent Milliken, almost 8 years ago

      What was your time periods within each job, if you dont mind me asking?

      Do you think it mattered when switching how long you where in your previous position?

      0 points
      • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, almost 8 years ago

        Sure, I don't mind sharing. I do think tenure matters some, but there are other factors as well. But, my short(er) stays never were an issue when securing a position (I know a lot of people worry about this).

        1. Content Developer. Only here for 10 months. Wasn't a design job, but was planning on switching teams with the help of my boss. But, we lost a multi-million dollar client and my whole team (~30 people) were laid off. Like I said, this wasn't design, but it was the last time I felt like I was really really good at my day-to-day job.

        2. Nashville Designer. Stayed for 1.5 years. Felt like a lot longer. This is were I got the basics of design down.

        3. UI Designer/Creative Director. 1 year 10 months total. Learned most of what I know here. CD for about 3 months or so.

        4. Senior Designer. 3 months and counting, and I really want it to be loooong term. So that's the plan.

        0 points
  • Ryan GloverRyan Glover, almost 8 years ago

    I've seen the owner naked a few thousand times.

    Hint: I work for myself.

    13 points
  • Account deleted almost 8 years ago

    I was recruited for most of my last jobs by people that already worked there. Networking has been huge for me. Someone always knows of someone who can tip you off about openings.

    An online portfolio is key, but it does not have to be a FWA award-winning site. More often than not, a simple template from Cargo Collective or Squarespace is fine. It's the product that matters more. Even then, updating a site is too time consuming sometimes... so in my case, I keep a Keynote file fresh and export it as a PDF if anyone asks to see more current (or specific) stuff. On interviews, I've even given them an iPad with that Keynote on it so they can flip through my stuff while we talk. I find it sometimes a bit more "human" than huddling around a laptop.

    6 points
  • Rıza Selçuk SaydamRıza Selçuk Saydam, almost 8 years ago

    Set goals. Created an online portfolio. Applied to couple of companies, received some rejections and offers.

    But one day, I get contacted by a recruiter (not because of my application, through my portfolio) and after interviews, received the offer.

    My visa was not guaranteed, there were other companies that offered me backup scenario but I took the risk and accepted the offer.

    Waited 3 months for visa. Approved a week ago! 2 more months left to start.

    So, finally I am relocating to Bay Area and joining Facebook as a Product Designer starting in October. I am extremely happy and excited!

    5 points
    • Cihad TurhanCihad Turhan, almost 8 years ago

      Congrats Rıza,

      I'm at a stage very similar to yours right now. I think I'll learn much from you :)

      Good luck there

      1 point
  • Matt WalkerMatt Walker, almost 8 years ago


    I've always seen recruiters on LinkedIn and got emails from them, but I never bothered with it. Not sure if I'll ever find work through recruitment again.

    3 points
    • Alex ChanAlex Chan, almost 8 years ago

      Just curious, was this an internal recruiter or an external firm?

      0 points
      • Matt WalkerMatt Walker, almost 8 years ago

        This was an external firm. I think internal firms are safe, but be very weary of external firms.

        1 point
        • Alex ChanAlex Chan, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

          Yea that's been my observation as well. Typically, it's very expensive for an employer to go through an external recruiting firm as well.

          Somewhat related story: a previous coworker of mine landed a temporary job at a prestigious design firm through a recruiting firm. At the end of the gig, the design firm wanted to hire her full time since she did such a great job on the project. Unfortunately, her contract had a clause that would cost the design firm a substantial amount of money if they hired her and she didn't get the job.

          1 point
          • cliff nowickicliff nowicki, almost 8 years ago

            Sadly, that's the majority of all external recruitment companies. The fee gets lower the more you work for them. Some recruitment fees go away after 2 years of contract employment. At that point though, you're either a lock in, or you've been booted out LONG before.

            1 point
  • Dave HawkinsDave Hawkins, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    I quit my last one and then gave myself this one.

    An online portfolio is 100% necessary. Put the effort in and you'll see it pays dividends.

    3 points
  • Nathan NNathan N, almost 8 years ago

    I got my current job through my dribbble profile. The hiring manager directly reached out to me through the email button. I probably wouldn't have gotten this opportunity without an online portfolio.

    2 points
  • Sam SolomonSam Solomon, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    I created it.

    Six months ago I was stuck in an advertising job that I wasn't happy with. I was working as an interactive producer, coordinating the construction of expensive websites. Working in advertising is running the hamster wheel. There's always more work to be done, and no reward for it. I wanted to get out and work on a product team.

    I interviewed at a couple of places in SF/Silicon Vally. I met a ton of awesome people in the process, but none of those options worked out—maybe it was for the best. I really wanted to move back to Atlanta, so I shot a note to a friend who has a really successful B2B startup in the city to see if they knew of anybody in looking for a designer.

    He sent me an email back that said "How do you feel about fantasy sports?"

    I started working with him in December and left that advertising job in March. We now have six full-time employees with five working part-time. Whether it works out or not, it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

    2 points
  • Martin LeBlancMartin LeBlanc, almost 8 years ago

    I built it.

    1 point
  • Daniel FoscoDaniel Fosco, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )
    1. Went to a design meetup hosted by the company

    2. Asked about the job and was encouraged to apply

    3. Re-did my website

    4. Researched the hell out of the company, their process and priorities

    5. Got in

    1 point
  • Sean D'AuriaSean D'Auria, almost 8 years ago

    I got my job by having a solid portfolio, working hard at the jobs I have had in the past to make good working relationships, applying to a lot of places and finally interviewing well. There is no secret formula or easy way. You work hard and have good work you will get a job where you are happy. It's that simple.

    1 point
  • Angel Seong, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    age 2 through second year of college: drew a LOT, all traditional/fine art stuff, not much design work at all. fiddled around with photoshop, again just painting stuff

    third year of college: learned about UI/UX through a poster, slapped together a portfolio during the break, "hired" as a "UI/UX designer" at a "lab" funded by school

    1st official internship: applied to ~50 jobs > 7 first round interviews > 3 second round interviews > accepted first offer, learning a lot and having a good time at my job currently

    about to graduate upcoming school year and scared & excited about all the prospects facing me!!

    0 points
  • Kevin SuttleKevin Suttle, almost 8 years ago

    Worked my ass off, made good connections. All but my current and first job, I knew someone who knew someone. You never know when you're going to come into contact with someone again. This is another reason not to burn bridges as well.

    0 points
  • Spencer HoltawaySpencer Holtaway, almost 8 years ago

    I quit my old one without much idea of what I was going to do next except "freelance". The job I quit was Lead Designer for Words With Friends at Zynga.

    I knew I didn't want to work in games again so that cut down a lot of the linkedin inbox. I would do pretty much anything for shorter-term freelance, but when considering full time I only talked to a companies that fit either of two focuses:

    • they make something I use and want to keep using (so I can add value to it and make myself a happy customer), or
    • they make something that I can see people genuinely finding useful and describing as something they can't live without.

    I talked to Storehouse.co (I'm an avid hobbyist photographer) but unfortunately my visual design focus wasn't quite where they wanted it at the time. I talked to some education startups because they're generally, by definition, doing something that deserves to exist, but unfortunately they didn't work out following some pretty odd interview smoke and mirrors.

    Eventually I got referred to Shuddle by someone who did and still works here. I worked with her briefly on Words With Friends 2 or more years prior (when I was much more junior) so it gave me confidence that her memory of my work then was enough to bring me in here now.

    My now-creative/UX director and I hit it off pretty quickly and I think it would be fair to say we see eye-to-eye on our goals but have differing approaches that compliment each other on a day to day basis (she has much stronger creative vision and more varied and in-depth experience, while I have small agency and more recently the corporate background with all the documentation skills that come with it).

    The rest of the interview process was pretty easy, in that it all came naturally: I think after months of freelance and less desperate full time interviewing I had more confidence in what I wanted and what I could and would do. That was really the key: knowing myself and not being desperate.

    Got an offer the day after interviews. Took it the day after. Bam.

    0 points
  • Anthony Gibson, almost 8 years ago

    Walked into a Tedx community meeting for fun to see if I wanted to help out with the production of it. Spent about a half an hour mooching off of the free beer and talking with everyone in the room. It was hosted by a co-working space, so there were creatives everywhere.

    One thing leads to another and the woman I'm talking to takes me back to another woman who just left an Ad agency to found a nonprofit. I handed her my freelance business card (simple card with my website, contact info, etc.), and 8 months later she emailed me asking me out to coffee. She then convinced me to join as a Creative Director and a little over two years later, I just helped finish transitioning our digital products into a new company through a merger.

    Moral of the story: First impressions matter, Have a portfolio that is well put together (explain yourself, be a smart designer, as others have mentioned here), and always put yourself out there, go to meetups, go to events you might not be normally interested in, you'll meet people you never thought you would meet.

    0 points
  • Sauro Sauro , almost 8 years ago

    a lot of experience and knowledge without a online portfolio + good network + trust + fast results = got a job.

    0 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, almost 8 years ago

    First Job - through a friend I met in NYC during college Second Job - through a friend I met in NYC during college (my internship boss) Third Job - through of a friend of a friend on Facebook Fourth Job - recruiter (worst job ever - first web dev job) Fifth Job - through a friend.

    0 points
  • Jacob Kelley, almost 8 years ago

    Tons of open source work: https://github.com/jakiestfu

    0 points
  • Theresa MershonTheresa Mershon, almost 8 years ago

    Job 1 "Web Designer" -- referred by a friend

    Job 2 "Interactive Designer" -- referred by same friend

    [break for 4 years of freelancing, almost all gigs referred by friends, former coworkers, or former clients; 1 gig was from Craig's List ]

    Job 3 "Interactive Art Director" -- Applied to about 5 jobs, interviewed 4 times, turned down 2 positions, was turned down by 2 positions (Damn you Frog Design), accepted 1.

    Jobs 4-6 -- promoted within my company: Design Director > Creative Director > Director, Design & UX

    0 points
  • Pedro RiveraPedro Rivera, almost 8 years ago

    I freelanced three years ago for the company I currently work. Three months ago, the HR lead contacted me via Linkedin and told me about the UX Design job they've opened and wanted me to apply. So here I am :)

    0 points
  • Rolf NelsonRolf Nelson, almost 8 years ago

    I have somehow had the best luck ever. Without trying to sound like a badass or doucheball, I'm glad to have had the professional opportunities I've had, while somehow avoiding complete disaster, and feel like everything in my past has culminated to prepare me for the position I am now.

    1) Fossil - interviewed final semester of school, chose to intern with fossil vs art direction job at boutique. Got great experience with huge brands under my belt here, as well as new skills in video and multimedia that I didn't learn in school.

    2) SEKTR (failed venture) - invited by a friend to help start creative agency... failed miserably in 3 months (think Entertainment 720, but with a very shady principal who just made bad deals) 2.5) Hired full-time by main client of SEKTR - mega church X loved the work that me and our video director did so they went around our principal to hire us. Stayed there for a year because this church didn't require art direction as much as production design.

    3) Freelance - decided to go out on my own 3a) Southwest Airlines (via recruiter) -got to scrape entire website and update to new brand for launch in 2014, and see how it was to work for a GIGANTIC company with little emphasis on creative, 3b) Samsung (via an agency) - created multiple packaging designs, futuristic and cool mindset for a large company, interesting to see from an agency side

    4) Reflect - introduced to a guy here through a Facebook/reddit acquaintance, and thought the opportunity of digital environmental design to be insanely interesting, and matched my skill set.

    0 points
  • Dan SherrattDan Sherratt, almost 8 years ago

    Combination of luck, knowing someone, and trying incredibly hard to impress.

    After working in a series of truly awful jobs in the midlands (Birmingham/Wolverhampton, UK) I went travelling on and off for 2 years.

    Upon my return I applied for around 200 jobs a week as a graphic designer, but my lack of hands on experience meant that from the 500 or so jobs I applied for in a month I got 2 interviews, one in London, one closer to home. I failed to get either (one stated they weren't sure I was committed not to go travelling again)

    A friend working for a mobile agency in London asked if I could put together some mobile banners for them as someone had let them down and they had to hit a deadline, I happily obliged and they were surprised at the speed and quality of my work (despite it being simple mobile banners) and continued to use me whenever the workload couldn't be handled by their in house team. Another friend was throwing me some print work at the same time so I could pay the bills.

    Eventually the work was coming in from the mobile agency so often I told them I'd need (like) to be put on a contract so I could secure a move to London without worrying the work would dry up. I took an absolutely huge pay cut for this, although now I can safely say it was the best choice for me at the time.

    I've been at the agency for 4 years now, moving from the advertising side of the business to the product development side. Moving from Designer, to Senior Designer, and more recently Art Director.

    Things I've learned:

    Research, research, research. Even now, in any meetings with clients, being able to reference a specific advert they had 5 years ago, or an app their biggest competitor has just released always takes them by surprise, the same can be said for interview situations.

    You have a right to your opinion, state it. Don't just moan, moan with purpose. People love honesty, as long as you can back up opinions with your research and knowledge, you're providing them and yourself with leverage in a situation.

    Recruiters don't have your best interests at heart, you're allowed to say no to things they suggest even if they think you'd be 'perfect' for it. If you absolutely have to work with one, make sure you go for a coffee with them and tell them exactly what it is you want.

    Having an online portfolio is important, what's more important is that it contains things that are up to date, and even better, something in it that is 'live'.

    0 points
  • Laura McGuiganLaura McGuigan, almost 8 years ago

    For me, an online portfolio wasn't that important. I haven't had one actively for... 5 years? In the early days, it worked out to have one, but as my career advanced, it didn't matter as much as the people I was connected with. And even then, sometimes it was just fate.

    1st job — Graphic Designer at a small print shop back home, left after 6 months to go to college

    2nd job — intern for a competitive intelligence company doing a lot of Flash work - 6 months

    3rd job — Design Intern at AOL, teacher in college suggested I do it because she thought I was one of the better students in class (we had a lot of people who just didn't try/care at my college) - that lasted about a year and a half, with a 3 month break in between

    4th job — Graphic + Web Designer for a consulting firm — the internship didn't have availability for fulltime work post college, so I had to take what I could find at the time, with little connection - 8 months

    5th job — Designer at AOL — they found my resume in their internal recruiting office and there was an opening in another department, worked with UX architects, business and my creative director on Shopping related websites - 1 year, laid off whole department

    (portfolio goes inactive)

    6th job — Contract work for RCN — had a hard time finding work out in suburbia Virginia, worked as only Web Designer reporting to Head of Marketing for rcn.com. It was brutal. - 8 months.

    7th job — Interactive Designer, small agency — former AOL boss reached out to me about a position at a 40 person agency in Alexandria, VA. Started as a UX Associate to get in the door, was promoted to Interactive Designer after 4 months. First time really working with UX in mind, very intriguing game changer for me - 11 months.

    (start using Dribbble)

    8th job — Senior Designer, smaller agency — nclud was a resource my previous job used from time to time; they reached out, their work was more interesting and gave me the flexibility to own it (hate working for large companies) - 1 year, 5 months

    9th job — Lead Designer turned VP, Design for start up — nclud was bought out by Twitter, rest of it sold to another agency. Lost autonomy, among other issues. Did a hackathon with a Javascript dev friend, met my current boss/CEO of TrackMaven. Was 4th employee. Did all UX, UI, branding, identity for the first 1.5 years. Began hiring team. Now manage a team of 5 (1 front end dev, 3 comms designers, 1 prod designer). Company now grown to ~80, deal with design strategy across Marketing and Product. - just over 2.5 years so far.

    0 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, almost 8 years ago

    Quit an internship due to being undervalued. From there I started my own freelance business. By chance, things progressed... :)

    I have gotten a job off a job board in the past. It was also by chance but turned out to be the best thing ever.

    0 points
  • Rob GreenRob Green, almost 8 years ago

    1st Job - Waiter at pub-restaurant during college: A couple of friends already worked there, got me a trial shift and I was taken on.

    2nd Job - Digital Designer at local agency: Just finished Uni and emailed letting them know I was looking for a job and asked if I could come in to show them my portfolio. Ended up getting a two week placement and then was taken on full time at the end of the placement.

    3rd Job - Head of Digital at same agency: After just over two years I was promoted to Head of Digital to lead the expansion of the agency's digital output.

    0 points
  • Jon FarrellJon Farrell, almost 8 years ago

    I emailed a startup I thought would be fun to work with and they gave me a job the next day. Don't underestimate the power of reaching out :)

    0 points
  • Andy WarburtonAndy Warburton, almost 8 years ago

    I bumped into their recruiters at FOWD in London in 2012 while trying to acquire some freebies from their booth. They gave me a short interview that same day. Two weeks later they flew me to Amsterdam to meet the team and have more interviews .

    0 points
  • Ryan BibbRyan Bibb, almost 8 years ago (edited almost 8 years ago )

    It goes without saying that an online portfolio is a necessity. Even if you haven't got 'real' work on there. Create some fun projects with a 'real-life' process and get some case studies online etc!

    I've contacted companies directly (only twice to be honest), and emailed them showing my passion for what I do and explain why I want to work for them. You need to make sure any potential employer knows what value you will bring to their company. The two interviews I have had - I've landed the job!

    Final words - be confident in any interviews. Show that you know what you're talking about. But also, be honest. If you're unsure or aren't as strong in a certain field to others, just say. You can always learn new things, how did you get here in the first place!?

    0 points
  • Some DesignerSome Designer, almost 8 years ago

    0th job : short term TA 0.1th job : by pure luck. again it was a short term. 1st job : the teacher I assisted arranged.

    2st job : 40+ interviews. recieved around 5 rejections. others didn't even bother to talk back.

    after getting 3th job I've redesigned my portfolio (still looks like shit. I have to re-redesign)

    3th job : around 15 interviews. recieved 6 rejections. 4th job : 0 interviews yet :)

    I have an incredible experience on print and web design but portfolio is much more important when it's about design. People started to care about my responses. The job seeking process gets shorter when you care about your portfolio. You're not a clerk or a suits guy. You create, you do not sign and staple papers. Your creations are much more important then your excel knowledge.

    0 points
  • Sam Pierce LollaSam Pierce Lolla, almost 8 years ago

    Saw a job post on my favorite website, had an interview the next day, flew in to interview within a few days, gave notice at my old place a few days later, and was across the country before I knew it.

    (psst... farmlogs.com/jobs/designer )

    0 points
  • Corey LeeCorey Lee, almost 8 years ago

    Although I've used recruiters in the past, most of my jobs have been from applying directly. For my current job, I was scouted by a friend who I had worked together with in the past to join the team. Keeping an up to date portfolio is always important.

    0 points
  • Wayne Spiegel, almost 8 years ago

    Followed a designer on Twitter. Got a call a week later from a recruiter.

    Some useful tips, I guess: - Online portfolio - Follow and chat with designers on social platforms - Connect with recruiters on LinkedIn

    0 points
  • Cody FitzgeraldCody Fitzgerald, almost 8 years ago

    Recruited through LinkedIn

    0 points
  • Hawke BassignaniHawke Bassignani, almost 8 years ago

    College summer internship -> job. :D

    0 points
  • Bryce HowitsonBryce Howitson, almost 8 years ago

    A friend asked me to have a chat with some startup founders about types of designers, how to hire them, writing job postings, etc. By the end of the phone call I realized I'd just had an interview. They offered me the job a few days later.

    I'm not sure a traditional design portfolio is necessary but things online that show how you think and your expertise is absolutely essential. Mine happened to be a phone call this time around.

    Have you thought about the UX of hiring you? If you're a "designer" then design the entire process from networking to resumes to portfolio to follow-up to thank you notes.

    0 points
  • Aaron CalzadoAaron Calzado, almost 8 years ago

    Spammed and exhausted my LinkedIn, Authentic Jobs, Indeed, personal connections etc. I love the LinkedIn application process because I could apply for a ton of jobs easily and focus my time writing cover letters and research.

    My current employer rejected my graphic design application and a few months later interviewed and hired me for their newly available UX position.

    0 points
  • Jason LiJason Li, almost 8 years ago

    Lots of different ways: 1) Applied to several companies 2) Responded to inbounds from recruiters/companies 3) Angel List 4) Ultimately I signed up through Hired.com, and was contacted directly by my current employer. Was hired shortly after.

    An online portfolio is really important to have. A lot of design interviews require you to walk through your portfolio and discuss your process.

    0 points
  • Keaton TaylorKeaton Taylor, almost 8 years ago

    finished a 3 month contract and tweeted that I was looking for work.

    0 points