What do you do when your placements get canceled?
I am currently in my final year, studying BSc Digital Design, at Brunel University. I have secured a graduate job in my final year and this is how I did it.
During the end of second year, I had decided that completing a year long internship was not the route for me as I felt that there could have been other ways to gain experience such as summer internships. Due to this, I applied for several summer internships that would have allowed me to gain both the necessary skills and the experience to build up my confidence as a UX/UI Designer and in the end this resulted in me getting offered 2 out of 3 summer internships I had applied for.
Unfortunately due to COVID-19, they had both withdrawn their offer leaving me in a state of panic and discomfort, thus resulting in me reevaluating my position as a designer with no experience. After many days of worry and procrastination, I decided enough was enough and to evaluate my choices within this current moment rather than dwelling over the past and things I could not change.
I built myself back up emotionally, and began coding a new website from scratch. I decided this would be the first step in getting any work or experience at all. I worked for 4 to 5 weeks constantly coding, updating and uploading my work onto my website. During this process, I remained positive and tried not to think about the hardship I had faced. Once I was happy with my final portfolio website – I made it live.
I also started uploading to my instagram consistently and was very active in terms of replying to comments, sharing my work, and encouraging other design pages to repost my work. These small steps helped me to present myself as a professional UX/UI Designer.
As third year began, my Instagram page was doing quite well and I felt like I had enough content to show my skills, however, I still didn’t have a placement or a job offer.
It was at this point I downloaded LinkedIn and began my process of networking. In my opinion, networking has been one of the most important reasons why I was able to get a job in the field of UX/UI with no experience.
I began googling and following various design agencies where I would like to work and connecting with people who studied at Brunel and were now professional UX/UI designers.
I would connect with these people and initially message them with a friendly message introducing myself, explaining how I found them, why I aspired to be in their position and what I am looking for as well as what I can offer them. I would then go on to ask for their advice on getting into the design industry and sharing my portfolio with them.
Many people were happy to get back to me and offer me insightful and honest advice which I would take into consideration and make changes accordingly.
Why junior designers should network on linkedin
After this I would message those who had given me improvements and show them the changes I had made so that they could see my progression and my willingness to learn.
This proved to them that I was not only a competent designer but that I also had the drive and self-motivation to better myself.
Many of the people I spoke with said they were happy to see me take their words into consideration and to see the project updates. This allowed me to then ask for any opportunities available in their company or with any of their connections.
This was the hard part as it was all about waiting and allowing people the time to get back to you without being too eager. After sharing my portfolio and asking for any job opportunities with the people of LinkedIn, a kind individual had offered to share my CV around his company and with his connections.
finding contacts with contacts!
I felt positive at this point and had a sense of hope and relief that someone was willing to go the extra mile to help me. After around 1 to 2 days, I was approached on LinkedIn by a Design Lead at a design and marketing agency who had seen my portfolio and was willing to have a chat with me about potential opportunities.
We set up a Microsoft Teams video call and I had a formal interview with him outlining parts of my portfolio, taking him through my projects, and talking in depth about the design process and the final project outcomes. At the end of the interview, he explained that he was extremely impressed with my portfolio and my attitude and offered me a graduate job on the spot!
I was over the moon that all my hard work had paid off and excited to start my design career at an agency where I felt I would be valued and heard.
the importance of networking
This experience really highlighted the importance of networking for me. If you are able to connect with people and build up professional relationships with them, they can offer you invaluable advice and experience you may not get elsewhere.
You can also test different ways of approaching and talking to people. The worst thing that can happen is that you get no reply, so just be prepared to fail often, fail fast, and learn for your next try.
You will not know about the opportunities you have sitting right in front of you if you are not willing to be proactive and put yourself out there. Seek out multiple people, get different perspectives and you’ll learn so much about the industry and how to become a better designer.
soft skills vs. hard skills
Having an amazing portfolio that highlights your projects and shows off your hard skills is only a stepping stone into getting into the industry. Ultimately it is your soft skills that will make people remember, acknowledge and connect with you on a professional level.
As a UX designer, you’ll often work on cross-team and cross-functional products; this is where soft skills can have the most impact. Communication, willingness to learn and collaboration skills are the top 3 soft skills you should focus on improving.
Designers will most likely want to be around someone who has a positive and uplifting attitude in comparison to someone who produces more work but shows a lack of soft skills. Stepping outside your comfort zone to develop your soft skills will increase your emotional intelligence and increase your chances of getting employed.
Zeel's top tips for current design students:
🤝 Always snatch every opportunity for networking
You may have had a seminar with guest speakers do not be afraid of connecting with them on LinkedIn and reflect on the session you just had to build a professional relationship with them.
Show your connections that you are taking their advice by implementing their suggestions and showing off your growing skillset.
Do not be afraid to ask for advice or feedback, as almost always people are willing to help and grow their own networks too. It works both ways.
💼 Focus on developing your portfolio
This is primarily the biggest asset for getting employed. As someone who has gone through a fair few interviews, getting your portfolio up to standard is essential, it is your passport into the world of design.
Employers will look at your portfolio rather than asking about your grades and degree. They are aware that a number does not justify or display your talent.
Be prepared to talk about your portfolio and projects in greater depth. Adding fun and interesting anecdotes always lightens the atmosphere.
💪 Do not give up!
At the end of the day, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities.
Be proactive in your search for a job or experience and push yourself to connect with people to enable even more opportunities to come your way.
If you enjoyed this blog, please leave a comment below!
Name: Zeel Jethwa
Current Job title: Junior UX/UI Designer
Company name: Agency
Creative Sector: UX/UI Design
University Attended: Brunel University
Course Studied: BSc (Hons) Digital Design
Year of graduation: 2021
Connect with Zeel via her website and social media:
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