Job Search Advice

Hi all,

I graduated in 2011 with a BS degree in Industrial Design. I still have yet to land a design job or even an internship. I realize an internship is probably my best bet for right now since I have no prior experience. I have had interviews for positions before but have not gotten any farther than that. I am not even getting responses from internships that dont even pay. I have a design website with my resume and all my design work. I dont understand why I can even land and internship let alone a fulltime position. I feel I am very quialified for an internship position I have experience in almost all computer programs and have go sketching and model making skills. Does anyone have any advice on what I can do to get some responses to these cover letters I am sending out? and if it helps here is my design website I am showing in my cover letters



This question gets asked a lot and the truthful answer to this is when your portfolio lands in a stack of papers on someones desk, you have probably 15 seconds to capture their attention and blow them away before they take your portfolio and move it down to the bottom of the pile.

Getting a job takes a lot of talent, a bit of luck, and hopefully a good network of connections.

Looking at your portfolio, you should spend a few days on here and on Coroflot digging through portfolios and start to see what floats to the top of your list. Look at what people do well and see where you fall short. The sketches in your portfolio are at what these days equates to a sophmore student. Look at IDSA merit award winners and see the quality of work they are putting out and then see where you can raise your bar. Portfolios need tending to even after graduation, so if you are serious about finding work I’d spend as much free time as you have revisiting and redoing old projects, do a new project, sketch like crazy, and teach yourself any new software you can. I think your portfolio layout itself can use a lot of work, your name and logo occupy almost as much space as portfolio images. Ask yourself as a designer, should my logo be as important as my work?

Ultimately your blood sweat and tears go into making a great portfolio, and you’ll need to keep pushing yourself til you really feel like you deserve to be at the top of that pile over another student.

As far as networking, I would see if you can attend next years IDSA northeast conference as a good way of getting some exposure and portfolio feedback. If there are any other events in the mean time you can track down it’d be good to go and attend. This forum is also a great method of getting feedback on your work and what you should work on and change on a project now that you’re out of school and don’t have a class to run it by.

I understand your pain. I graduated right at the begin of the recession. It was really tough to get anything. My biggest piece of advice is to network. Meet people, lots of people. I personally have only had luck doing that. I feel for every hour you are shaking hands you more then doubling or tripling your chance of getting work. When I look for work the first thing I do is look at who i know and then reach out to those people. If I don’t know anyone at a company I want to work for I see if I can find someone I know that knows someone there. It is hard at first I did very well at trade shows when I was starting off.

Just don’t give up.

Also I would keep reworking your portfolio. Your sketching is still a bit weak. Remember when starting out less is more if you are super awesome at sketching show a lot of sketches but if you are average show 5-6 really good sketches.

It is very rough out there and even when you do land a job there is no grantee it will be there next year. So be creative and network with as many people as you can. You will get something if you keep at it.

Jon, I spent six months re working my portfolio after graduation. I didn’t have internships either. Right now your portfolio is a bit below the level I would put in my “maybe” pile. Keep polishing the skills. Definitely network, but you need to have the right skill set to make the network pay off. After 6 months of working every project in my folio every day for 10 hours mixed with a bit of freelance, I started getting offers.

Okay I am going to take a different approach then YO and not focus on your portfolio or your skill sets, but instead the business side of things.

  1. Your resume on your website is barely readable, so if you are sending people to that for them to read you are at a dead end.

  2. Your resume needs some work, the layout is somewhat confusing and does not properly convey your skill sets and your experience you have gained from your jobs/school/competition. Go online and do some research on how to properly layout a resume and what information you should have in it. And yeah yeah yeah we are designers our resumes are suppose to be different… but different is not always good. I find that many ID people try to make their resume unique but are weak in graphical design and layout thus ending with a poor presentation. Find a graphic designer and get them to help you… Also you should properly outline your responsibility and level of involvement as it relates to your experience.

  3. Your resume lists competitions and your place in them but i cannot directly identify these projects in your portfolio… tsk tsk tsk.

  4. I would like you to post one of your cover letters that you have sent out so we can review that and see how it is formatted and written. And please don’t tell us that you use the same cover letter for each company and simply change some words… Each cover letter should be specific to the company you are applying to and should have some type of detail in their about the company and why you would be right for the job.

How are you sending out your resumes and cover letters?

5.How many companies have you sent your resumes to, and have you followed up with them?

6.Okay lets touch base on your interview… have you had any training or done any reading on how to interview?
One school i taught at provide students with a Business Professionalism class and cover interviews, dinners, and a variety of other topics related to obtaining a job(I worked with the groups and even i learned new things). I also taught a class call Portfolio and Professionalism were in the first have the semester was creating your portfolio, the second half was the interview / resume/ cover letter part.

  1. Try providing your information to a headhunter, let them help you do some of the searching, but be careful some headhunters are clues and have no idea what ID is or what we do (the number of ones that contact me for engineer jobs is unbelievable) Also take there advice with a grain of salt, I had one once tell me to remove my teaching experience from my resume because no one would be interested in that…

Now the reason i wanted to touch on this side of things rather then your portfolio is that like YO stated, your portfolio was
one that would go into the MAYBE pile (take that as a compliment considering YO’s standards and expectations. At some of the company you applied for your portfolio may have done better and may not have been the hindrance to you moving forward but instead it was your Resume/Presentation Skill/Interview skill/how you answered the questions, that prevented you from getting further.

It is tough out there right now and there is allot of competition and when it comes down to the wire people look at every aspect not just the portfolio.
Okay so your home work, revamp your resume, provide us with a sample cover letter. if you want to talk through your resume then send me an email and we can set up a conversation.

chevis W


You gotta think about where the rubber hits the road. The person reviewing your work (ultimately the hiring manager) will looking at your visualization skills sets (sketching, rendering 3D render, etc). YO’s assessment to put your work into his ‘maybe pile’ might be on the generous side. I would really sharpen on the sketching/rendering side of things- in particular paying attention to perspective drawings. I think once you master the ability to sketch and render you’ll have the attention of the person looking at your portolio/resume (who would likely have an eye for design), then he or she will dwell further into your resume and skill sets. I have to admit when applicants (even consultancies) sent me their work/capabilities I gloss over their resumes and awards and go straight to their hand drawn sketches and renderings, then their released products, then other capabilities. Hope this helps…

I’m going to be honest. Just judging by your work/website, I would say your level would be below average. I can’t say if this is the reason you are having difficulty, or it is your approach, cover letter, the economy, or anything else.

You sketching in general is weak, but I think the foundations are there to improve. One thing that seriously hurts the presentation is the wide range of quality. The first watch sketch is weak, the perspective is off and the marker rendering is first year level. Second watch sketch is better, and if was on a page of 20 similar quick sketches would probably be fine. Alone it’s not that strong. Shoe sketches are not so great, but the shox one is OK. Next page of round watches I think is the strongest both in sketch style, and layout. Colored shoe sketches are so far off proportion and weak in line and color, you should delete. Same with last shoe sketches.

For almost all the projects, it is very hard to understand what they are about as you can’t read the text. The concept exploration in most looks very basic, and not that interesting/strong. Final design is OK, but nothing wow. Overall forms seem very basic and not that well developed/executed.

Hard to suggest what to do at this point. Perhaps a new self-directed project that you have more opportunity to get deeper into form development, concept process and storytelling? That in addition of course to work on sketching. A lot.

Hope this helps. Don’t mean to be too critical, but I think if you are at this point already graduated and you don’t have a good understanding of what level you are at compared to your peers (globally) all I can say is that maybe your school has failed to be critical to you, and you need to look elsewhere to get a good gauge of how you can compete. Coming here is a great first step and I know can be hard to do.

First step is identifying you have a problem, which you have done.
Second step is finding out what the problem is.
Third step is finding a solution.



My name is Jon Hart. I am a graduate from Philadelphia University with
a Bachelors of Science degree in Industrial Design. I am writing
because I am interested in the _________ position.
I grew up in Doylestown, PA which is where I currently reside.
Art and Design have always been a part of my life since grade school which is
where I realized I had a talent for all things creative. While in high school
I made the easy decision to become an Industrial Designer so that I could
continue being creative and doing what I loved as a career.

My education at Philadelphia University gave me the opportunity to
work for well known companies and experience collaborating with
business, marketing, engineering, interior design, digital design, as
well as other industrial designers from around the world. These
experiences have taught me as a designer how to allow everyone to have
a part in the design process of a product and how to convey design
ideas in an understandable way to people who dont deal with design
firsthand. I pay attention to all details when making a design because
it is the little things that can make and overall difference in a
products success or failure.

I have experience in multiple design program such as Adobde Creative Suite,
Solidworks, Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Office, etc. Along with my computer
skills I also like to work with my hands making design models and mock-ups
from various materials. I enjoy working with others as I became very close
friends with all my studio mates in school. Below is a link to my website with
my portfolio and resume. I would love the chance to work for _____ and
apply my design skills for the company to the best of my abilities. Below is a
link to my website with my portfolio and resume. I look forward to hearing from


Jon Hart

Here is one example of a cover letter I sent out. It would be great if you could help me out with my resume. Its funny what you said about having a graphic designer help out on the resume layout because my sister is the one who helped me with it and she is actually a graphic designer. As for some of your questions I usually send out my cover letter by email with my resume attached to the file and a link to my website in the email for my portfolio. Ive applied to hundreds of places. Some were just companies I was interested in and most were job postings. I have had almost every kind of interview you can have, in person, skype, phone call, etc. I thought some went real well but just no word back after. I usually dont follow up with my emails unless I have heard back from a company and it seems they are interested. I was so close to getting an internship recently but it was found out the company wasnt aloud to hire interns that already graduated for legal reasons.

Thanks for all the criticism everyone I appreciate the honesty you all have. I am working to improve all my skills whether it be sketching or cad. As for my portfolio what seems to be the main drawback to it? The design layout itself or the layout of the content on the pages and how it shows how i got from beginning to end?

I think the layout is only a portion of the problem - the overall content of in each page is lacking, so even if you do a fantastic layout, a fantastic layout of mediocre sketches is always going to appear worse then a crap layout of awesome sketches.

Rather than give specific feedback I would just spend a lot of time browsing other peoples portfolios and work to give yourself a comparison. See who gets featured on Coroflot and what their work looks like and how your stuff is stacking up, and then figure out how you need to rework or revamp your projects to bring the quality level up.

Some good resources to check out. - has great resume’s and graphic design inspiration. Look and see how they structure their resume. Right now yours is a bit tough to read. Type wise its fine. But there is a spacing disconnect between the headers and the information. A resume doesn’t need to be fancy, just effective. - shameless plug. But I think this is a great resource on putting together a PDF portfolio. Look into the Voice and Story telling section. This is something that I feel is lacking in your projects. Not only should a portfolio show your design process it should also help convey a sense of personality in it as well.

My quick advice for you is to never stop trying. You’ll be amazed but sometimes opportunities come in bundle.

Just don’t give up, even with this tough economy, it will still be a bright light for you in the long run.

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Hmm… yeah i am agree with “glenyh” you don’t give up. and trying your best… all the best for all.

When i started looking for work, I compared my portfolio to the really nice ones on coroflot and highlighted areas where i needed improvement.

Dont worry about the website for now, because when you apply you usually send a resume and work sample in PDF.
Looking at yours I would say improve the presentation of your portfolio and work on a few skills:

1: improve layout and graphic design of your printed portfolio that you’ll show interviewers, and when you have time, your website.
2: work on your sketching skills, use sketches on coroflot and as a benchmark
3: work on photography/renderings, it doesnt matter how nice your hand model is if it looks like shit in the photo right?
Maybe move away from the “Photoshopped white background” thing you have going in alot of your photos and renderings. that usually doesnt look good unless the object itself was actually shot in a very white environment. even then you’ll still have shadows, subtle gradients, reflections, etc.
4: show your cad skills, if i was hiring you to do CAD work in solidworks, id want to see some images of exploded assemblies of some complex objects with complex geometry.
5: just nit picking, but i might change your “interests” in your resume to something more relevant to design. the whole body building MMA boxing thing makes you sound like a huge “bro” (no offence) =p