You’ve assembled your portfolio, polished your resume, and maybe even had a few interviews but you are still trying to land your first design job. Having these all of these things is important, but they don’t always tell the full story of your potential. Most employers are looking for someone who can work through complex problems, make intelligent decisions, and recognize when to change course. Visual skills and software proficiency can advance your position, but if you can’t demonstrate how well you think and communicate your thoughts clearly, you may be quickly overlooked.
Here are five simple ways to make your thinking skills stand out and finally land that first design job:
1) Be you.
Don’t shy away from sharing personal interests, fascinations, or hobbies that you’ve developed outside of your career. Use your judgment as to what’s appropriate, but this gives your audience a chance to learn more about someone they’ll be interacting with regularly. It will also bear your passion for learning and growing as an individual. The more diverse knowledge you possess, the more you may bring to an organization. You just might get lucky and discover that the employer is working with subject matter or another organization that aligns with your interests—bolstering your position. If the company you’re interviewing with is planning to expand its global footprint, mastery of multiple languages could give you the extra edge you need.
2) Convey a natural curiosity.
As someone who wants to be in a design-related discipline, you have an innate desire to better understand the world around you so that you can change it in some way. Wear that curiosity on your sleeve. When you’re communicating with a potential employer, ask questions and play back what you’ve heard. Some of those questions can be simple, like “How does that work?” or “Have you heard any feedback from the users?” To really impress, try a question that shows you’re actively listening and learning. That means you’ve processed information they’ve provided and are digging for deeper insights. In your portfolio, highlight the questions that you asked throughout the course of a project or experience. Explain how you found the answers and what you did differently based on what you learned.
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3) Focus on process.
When sharing your experience and work, don’t just show or talk about what you’ve created. Walk through the steps you took to get there. If it’s a work in progress, explain what you plan to do next. Here’s a formula you can apply: focus 20% on problem framing, 60% on process, 20% on end product, and, if you have extra time, 10% on the outcomes and value you created. Your thinking skills aren’t always evident in the end product on its own. If you talk through the process and the roles on your team, they’ll be able to identify your contributions and give you the credit you deserve.
4) Discuss obstacles and failures.
When you’re presenting yourself with the goal of impressing someone else, your tendency will be to highlight your successes and achievements. However, your audience will be much more captivated by a time when things didn’t go as expected and you had to zig or zag. Those times of challenge reveal your ability to evaluate your options, create new opportunities, and solve problems to move forward. In business, it’s rare to carry out a plan without having any curve balls thrown your way. Employers want to know that you’re not afraid of unknown territory and you can face adversity head on.
5) Communicate clearly.
How you explain what you’re thinking is a direct reflection of your thought process. If you go on tangents or ramble without making a point, that could be a sign that you’re disorganized and unable to sort out your thoughts. If you use plain language, avoid jargon, articulate well, and insert intentional pauses, you show that you are in control and confident in what you’re saying. Form ideas in your mind before you share them. If words won’t suffice, don’t hesitate to draw or visualize an idea. Design-related environments are highly collaborative. A key element of smooth collaboration is clear communication. Show that you can process information and explain your thoughts in a way that’s easy for others to follow and understand.
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Lindsay Quinter is a designer and strategist who enjoys working with client teams to transform messy ideas into well-ordered, beautiful solutions.