How to re-enter the design job market successfully
Wednesday, August 01, 2018
Unemployment is low, and firms are having difficulty filling positions. If you’ve been out of the job market for a while, perhaps raising a family or for other personal reasons, but are ready to start designing again, now might be an ideal time to get back in the game.
Even in an employee-driven market like the current one, returning to work after a prolonged absence can be a challenge. You can increase your chances of landing a suitable position by doing some advance preparation before you start replying to job postings.
Retool your resume to focus on your skills, experience and accomplishments, not your employment chronology. If you have done any pro bono work or have remained active in your professional society, include that information on your resume.
Likewise, update your portfolio, highlighting only your best work and deleting anything that might look too dated.
Check back with your previous employer(s) or supervisor(s), or clients if you were self-employed, to ask if they will be willing to serve as a reference. Be sure to ask if they prefer to provide a written reference or to be contacted directly. Remember to follow up with a thank you note to those who say yes.
Spend some time reviewing web sites for the types of firms you are interested in and for A&D media sites targeted to practicing professionals. Familiarize yourself with the kinds of projects they are doing and with current or developing trends in the specialty area(s) you are most interested in.
Many firms now employ an evidence-based approach, so you should also explore the body of relevant research related to the specialties you want to practice.
Review postings for the types of jobs you want to see what kinds of skills are required. You may need to take some training to get yourself up-to-speed with current practice or office technology.
A lot of training is available online, some for free and some for an affordable fee. If you haven’t used design software for a while, practice creating some hypothetical projects to brush up on your skills.
Let the people in your network know that you are looking for work and of what kind. If you have close connections with designers who are currently employed in a similar type of firm, talk with them to find out about what the workplace is like now, business trends, design trends, and what employers are looking for in a candidate.
A few other suggestions to keep in mind. Never try to disguise that you have been out of the workforce for a time.
You don’t have to bring it up, but be prepared to provide a succinct and non-defensive answer if the question arises during a screening or interview process. Depending on your reasons, you may also be able to turn the issue into a positive, by pointing out, for example, that with fewer personal obligations or commitments you now are in a better position to devote yourself to your work.
Be open to opportunities that may not be exactly what you have in mind, including accepting a position at a lower level than the one you had when you stopped working, as long as there is opportunity for advancement.
At the same time, don’t apply for positions for which you are way overqualified. Employers are likely to worry that you will quit as soon as a better opportunity comes along.
Don’t be surprised or offended if prospective employers don’t value your experience and skills as much as you do. Prejudice against people who have been out of the workforce for a while is common. Stay positive and let the employer know that you are ready and willing to prove your worth.
Be patient, be persistent, and accept as many interviews as you can. Consider each a learning experience. You will be able to practice and hone your interviewing skills so you’ll be ready when the right offer comes along.
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