When you’re ready to jump start or make the next move in your career, it’s exciting. But getting there can be one of the most stressful experiences. Even the most talented, confident designers will second-guess their abilities when reading through list after list of requirements. Not to mention, sifting through them can get pretty monotonous when they all have the same old format and buzzwords.
Get a leg up on the competition and apply to the right job by reading between the lines and decoding job postings.
The Job Title
Back in the day, we’d all be webmasters. But our industry and its standards for titles are evolving and getting way more niche. This has led to a little bit of dilution in the job hunt for us web professionals.
Try not to get turned off by a job post based on its title. You might identify as a web designer, but don’t skip over interactive, UI, or visual designer roles. Check them out — they’re likely very similar.
Think of titles as SEO for job listings. Employers are trying to appeal to as many designers as possible in order to increase applicant flow, but don’t be discouraged! Also, take notice when the job title gets specific about what exactly you’d be designing, like product, marketing, or mobile.
Some terms to broaden your “web designer” search:
- UI Designer
- UI/UX Designer
- Visual Designer
- Interactive Designer
- Lead Creative
- Lead Designer
- Design Director
- Digital Designer
- Product Designer
- Marketing Designer
- Communications Designer
Another aspect to decode is the company you’re applying to. Is it a tech startup? Is it an advertising firm? An interactive agency? A big company? Is it a product-based company or service-oriented company? The type of company you’re applying for is telling of the kind of work you can expect as a designer.
A web designer at a tech startup will likely work either in the product itself or in marketing to design product UI and/or website from, well, nothing.
- This is right for you if… you want a lot of creative influence, as well as the opportunity to build something brand new from the ground up and touch aspects of the company outside your skill set.
- This isn’t right for you if… you need a lot of structure, direction (creatively and otherwise), and security. These are big britches to fill for someone who has little experience or patience.
A web designer at an advertising firm will likely take approved creative assets for a campaign and turn them into digital marketing pieces.
- This is right for you if… you want to get a few national brands under your belt and be a part of a cohesive campaign effort — from print and video, to radio and web.
- This isn’t right for you if… you want a lot of creative influence. Very specific direction will be coming from very opinionated clients and creative directors. And, since ad agencies are rooted in traditional design, some don’t include web designers early on in the creative process.
A web designer at an interactive agency will likely work on one-off contracts for national brands or complete solutions for small/local businesses.
- This is right for you if… you need a lot of variety in your work, and desire to learn and grow from other like-minded designers, developers, and marketers.
- This isn’t right for you if… you want to be focused with your design style or work outside of your comfort zone to gain skills outside of your expertise.
A BIG COMPANY
A web designer at a big company will likely work in a department that solves very specific creative problems.
- This is right for you if… you want to work for a big name; love structure, security, and very clear creative direction; and are niche in your design skill set.
- This isn’t right for you if… you like the fast-paced, high-risk, loose structure of a smaller company and consider yourself a “jack of all trades,” master of none.
The Job Description
The most important thing to pay attention to when decoding job listings is the job description itself. Typically it will include things like:
You’ll probably come across job listings that say something along the lines of “BFA/BS or equivalent experience.” The “or” implies it’s negotiable. So if you don’t have the degree, online education solutions like Code School are disrupting the norm and are great alternatives to traditional education.
Don’t just learn design, either — learn to code. It’s important that designers completely understand the potential for the medium in which they’re designing.
Typically, this section is filled with things like specific versions of whatever language or program is the industry standard. (Tip: it’s a red flag if they aren’t the latest and greatest.) It’s probably a good idea to be proficient with what is, but if you believe in a different creative solution, stand by it and defend it. It might just set you apart. I’m a huge advocate for Sketch, and I’ve successfully converted our team to use it as our standard.
Continued education and/or its equivalent in work experience paired with a few solid examples of work will get you in the door. But they’ll also ask for a link to your portfolio. Remember, although the cobbler’s kids have no shoes, if you’re really looking to land a job, establish and maintain your web presence. Employers willGoogle you.
Between the Lines
So far we’ve talked about the standard — what people expect to see. But this is about decoding job posts and reading between the lines. When job postings call for applicants who are “self-starters, passionate, and detail-oriented,” they’re looking to be communicated with and surprised.
Create something just for them. Whether it’s a video application that lets you express your passion and enthusiasm for the job, or a website you created just for them, do something extraordinary that shows you aren’t just another applicant, but the right person for the job.
Have you done something creative and unique to land a job? Let us know tips and tricks you’ve used in the comments section below!