HELP with making the smart career decision for a baby designer

Hi there, thanks for clicking by!

About me:
I graduated in 2017 in the US, had an internship during school. After graduation, I worked at a medical consultancy for a year where I was the only designer. I learned a lot but really felt the need for other designers and a mentor. Now back in Korea with my family. I’ve been interviewing with some firms for the past months- most of them in Korea but I’m open to going anywhere in the world if the job/workplace is super.

Possible options:
Place A: Small ID consultancy of about 7 people. Designers are involved in the design process from strategy, brainstorming to the end prototyping, sampling, packaging even some marketing material. CE projects, pretty interesting products and I like their design style/language.

Place B: Bigger, mid-size ID consultancy of more than 20 people. Most likely to be doing solid ID work- sketches, CAD and rendering plus some CMF as one of the junior designers. Their projects are also CE, very wide range of product categories. But… not the biggest fan of their design style/language.

I feel like I already made the wrong? first step by going into a one person design team straight out of school so I really want to make a smarter decision this time of full-time employment. This baby wants to grow!
Comparing place A and B, which place is more likely to have opportunities to grow/learn? They are not my dream places but it’s what’s available on the table now. I know part of it is because my portfolio is not strong enough. (Also didn’t apply to that many places since I thought my folio wasn’t good enough.) So another option could be building my portfolio for a bit more and aim higher. But that means more indefinite time of unemployment…ha!

Any advice, thoughts, your experience would be deeply appreciated. Please help this lost child find the light.

Each potential has their pros and cons.

I worked for a small consulting firm out of school. I was the 5th employee, but the time I left they had about 12. The benefit of that was I got a lot of mentorship from the creative director, I got to see how the entire operation ran, and I felt like the work I was doing was critical to the firms success (when a company is that small, everyone’s work is critical to the organization’s success by default). I didn’t really have any cons to that situation, but there could be some in terms of long hours (which is true in both A & B) and lower pay/stability of a small firm. Those were not my experience, but the probability could be higher.

With a larger firm you will get more exposure to more clients (potentially) and have more designers to learn from (potentially).

Thank you for sharing. It’s been tricky figuring out which path I want to pursue… ps, really enjoyed listening to you on the minor detail podcast!

Someone once told me “first you make a decision m, and then you make it right”… while I don’t think that saying always holds true, there is some amount of truth to it. It is impossible to eliminate all of the risk and chance of a decision no matter how much research and careful consideration you put into it. At some point you have to listen to what your gut tells you and make a leap.

And thanks for listening to the *minor details podcast. That was a fun 2 part episode with Nick. Did you listen to it on a streaming platform or watch it on YouTube?

In his very funny and quite true book “Whatever you think, think the opposite”, Paul Arden advises young designers just starting out to “take the job with the money - its honest”.

Right you have to make a decision at some point and make the best out of it…
I listened to it on my iphone’s podcast app!

sooo i should take the job with the least amount of money? Thanks, i’m putting that book on my to-read list!

Ha! I see what you mean. No, Arden means take the job that pays the best.


If the company’s design style doesn’t appeal to you, maybe you can change it? The best way is to go have the job interview and see if they like your work or sell a design style to them that you would like to pursue.

More important than the money is how it is made. Are they doing good business with clients they sustain a long-term relationship with? How are the payment schemes and how much autonomy do you have in your work? If this is similar, then sure definitely go for the most profitable job.

Since you aren’t settled yet in a particular location it will be much more likely for you to find something.

Ralph, I think it is definitely worthwhile to have the conversation. It raises a lot of questions I would have reasonable answers to before I walked in the door like:

  1. why should they change their style? Does it not align to their target consumer? Does it not align to their brand values/principles?

  2. what would a style (or design language system, DSL) that embodies their brand principles and target user aspirations look like and why?

  3. Even if I could reasonably prove 1 and 2, I’d try to dig deep on if the organization would be open to that change, what it would take for it to happen, if I would have any authority to help shepherd that effort?

Otherwise you could run the risk of coming in and seeming like you want to change the look of their product without having the business rational to do so, which is a bad look for designers. Of course we have personal taste. That taste needs to be aligned to the goals of the business. When I talk to clients about this I speak about it in terms of looking for the highest common denominator instead of the lowest.