Junior / Senior level Not enough experience

Hey guys looking for some advice on this. I’m sure others have been through this, especially when you are a good ways out of school
Last fall / winter I was laid off from a start up that folded after almost 2 years. My role at the start up was a good mix of ID work, product management, development and then there were weeks were I solely had to help with sales. Prior to taking the risk and joining the startup I was a junior designer at a medium sized company for a few years designing phone cases, that was my first real ID job outside of school. Since my lay off I’ve had to pick up part time work while picking up freelancing, and also took a UX course with General Assembly to broaden my skill set. Just anything to keep the bills paid. I’ve been applying to a range of ID job and UX jobs in my area.
Since then I have had a number of companies string me a long on the application process, anywhere from 3-6 months, only to tell me months later that more experienced candidates in their product field were found, or positions were cancelled or they hired internally etc.

Anyways my question really centers around, gaining the right experience when no one is willing to let you gain in, what do you do to overcome this. I’ve been looking at ways to work on side projects for my portfolio etc. As an example, when you apply to a job lets say in the tradeshow industry or wearables industry, but have no relevant work experience in those categories.

You didn’t mention your specific tenure at the startup. If you had a few years in then you should hopefully have enough portfolio of work that talks to your experience. In ID people usually are less worried about your very specific skillsets in a junior or mid level role, they want to see you have the skill set and process to adapt.

If you are applying to jobs that really want someone who can drop in and slot right into a position at a more senior level, they may want someone who has more experience in a certain field.

My biggest suggestion would be to post your portfolio and ask for feedback. If you are missing certain skills in key areas you can use the time off to work on those.

Hey Will, I checked out your link. Part of it might be that there is just not enough work there? Maybe you are showing more in person or what you are applying with?

What I see is product development, not necessarily the niche of industrial design, when I look at your website.

While a turn on for some employers, a turn off for others.

I do have more work, unfortunately a lot of it is bound by NDA still including freelance work. Now with Case-Mate most of my work was finding new materials to apply to the backs of cases, while I have a lot of renders of that, I know that doesn’t really help with ID related jobs. That is partly why I feel stuck right now.

Yeah, actually one of my previous interviews I had, I was told this. I have actually started looking at Product Development jobs, since that seems to be where I have been heading. I have been finding more UX product development though, which I know I don’t have the experience on.

Just looked through your website, I think the lack of work is one of the bigger problems right off the bat.

There is very little typical ID process, and iPhone cases are always tough projects because your process and creativity is greatly limited by the form of the phone itself.

If I were to hire you for a more general Jr. ID position you would have to show to me:
-You can sketch and ideate (the sketches shown on the case page are just tubes and cubes, I’m really not sure what I’m looking at - and that is a big red flag)
-You have some more CAD skills in your back pocket (the forms on your work are very geometric, it would be interesting to see something more freeform)
-You have some other projects that show problem solving, prototyping and learning from the ID process which informed the final design.

Also your general assembly UX work isn’t linked from the top nav, so I missed it the first time around.

If you have a lot of projects still under NDA that you are doing for freelance I would try to see what could be done. Either:
-Speak to the employer and see if it is possible to share any of the work for job hiring purposes behind closed doors or a password wall. Especially if the product is close to market release or was cancelled.
-Consider “debranding” a project if it is general enough to be shared without revealing the client.
-Take a calculated risk to share it behind a password wall anyways because you really need to beef up your work. Looking at your resume it shows me that all the work from 2011-2013 ended up in a black hole.

Unfortunately, we have no openings and likely won’t until 2019. Your cut and sew skills are enough to get you in our door for an interview.

Thank you for the sound advice. Unfortunately what I am realizing is that while I may have a good bit of professional experience under my belt, my ID skillset hasn’t really grown. Most of my professional work has been in Adobe Adobe Illustrator 2d mockups CAD and keyshot rendering, as well as product development. With my professional work, I don’t have a lot of sketches to back up my projects, simply because there wasn’t a true need for it at the time. At the start up esspecially true ID work took a back seat. Given this, likely I will try to take a stab at UX or Product development positions.

Sad truth for many people, even some of the most skilled graduate designers. Spend time learning software and doing personal projects a few hours a week and you’ll build up a sufficient portfolio.

That was part of the reason I spent time to take the UX course, even if it was only a week long one. I am curious if anyone else on here has gone the route of Development or Product Management.

If you are not getting into development, I would say your career is not progressing. ID is a small part of development, not understanding the entire process makes you undesirable. Not knowing the big picture means you require more management. It would be like having to tell a center every time what kind of snap is needed, short, shotgun, kick or punt. Being siloed is not good.

Product management is the downstream. 95% of your time is dealing with current sales and if you are lucky, 5% is getting customer input on development. Personally, it is not for me. Too much ADD in me. I want to know the next shiny thing, not last’s years thing.

What do you want to do? The conversation started with asking for feedback on interviewing to be an industrial designer. A few posters commented that your portfolio needs to be stronger. From there I expected the conversation to delve into how to make a stronger portfolio but instead we veered off to leaving ID. That is fine off course, if that is what you want. I think you need to define what it is you want to do and then back track the steps to get there.

I know that can be hard when you are looking for a job. If you don’t define your goal and work toward it it comes off to potentitemployers that you are just applying to anything, and that doesn’t usually come off well.

There are plenty of smaller companies that deal primarily in soft goods if thats an area you want to be in. But still, you should spend more time documenting how you got there, being able to share how you refined your patterns, etc - so that if you apply for a job that knowledge is clear to the hiring reviewer.

Thanks, when I was first laid off I did already have some pre defined goals on where I wanted to go. I was looking at potential employers in the lighting industries or in the sporting and fitness industries. I quickly had lined up some interviews with a lighting company here, 3 interviews later they cancelled the position due to budget reallocation. Atlanta is very competitive right now, and just due to the nature of where I am at, I have been looking very broad including outside of ID (where I can apply my current skillset). I know the next option will be to look at moving.

How to overcome experience?

  • focus on your passion and show it in your portfolio
  • don’t give up
  • pitch yourself with confidence in interviews and really prove to them why they need you

I was in this same boat, and after over 7 years of experience in an industry I had little interest in, I was able to jump into one I absolutely love. See my comments on this similar post:


I just read your thread. Very inspiring!
What I have realized after going through the recession in Atlanta, is that well the jobs never really came back. ID isn’t all dead here, but there just aren’t any jobs, and the few that are posted are way too competitive. UX here has mostly gone the route ID was a few years back. Either its places looking for Senior / Director level UX with masters degrees requirements or working at a start up for nothing. I’ve been trying my hand at UX, but I almost feel like I’ve got to start completely over career wise to land something. Slowly I am starting to look elsewhere for jobs

I just forgot one more that could really help in this situation

  • build relationships with people you would like to work with

After all the typical “work on your portfolio” answers, this one will make up the rest of what you are lacking - and all of us are lacking in some way. At my current workplace, both the lead designer and I had previously reached out in a friendly way to specific people in the company months before a job opening.

Ive been working on the networking part. My last 2 gigs I networked in to those, which worked great. Unfortunately this time around I haven’t had that kind of luck. I’ve had some great coffee meetings over the past few months, but they all have ended with, well my company isn’t hiring, at the moment. Atlanta, from what I have seen is really in a bubble right now, too many candidates not enough jobs and well those like me have either moved, given up or changed to a different design field.