Land of the Senior Designer Jobs

Is it just me or does the weak job market seem to be flooded with Senior level jobs?! Why?!..I know they are hiring people who lost their jobs, but at the same time…Where are the Entry/Junior level positions? If business is bad, why wouldn’t companies hire someone who requires a smaller salary? And the Entry/Junior level job listings often have 3-5 years of experience required…What recent graduate has that?

My guess is they can get senior talent at cheaper prices.

If you look at the business-side of the equation, and I’ve read this in DK’s book for Managers, one of the top goals in hiring is to get the most experienced, best fit candidate for the least amount of money. After reading some of this book I get the idea that managers are taught and stressed to handle companies money like it was their own and some get bonus’ based on how much the save the company or how “smart” they are with the companies money.

Get an internship.

Interesting point idguy88. It all depends on the company…And how big the money gap between senior designer/junior designer is…And the company asking themselves if spending more money on a senior designer is a “safer” choice.

I do understand what you are saying here…Get experience even if it means taking a internship. Maybe if money is tight and its my first job, then yeah I’d do it. However, I have a degree, I’m done with school…Internships are for students.

Don’t be discouraged…due to rampant Title inflation, the term ‘senior designer’ is often assumed by people with 3 years of experience. We recently got a “no thanks” from a relatively junior designer (applying for a mid-level position) who “was looking for a director role”. Huh?

I have a degree, I’m done with school…Internships are for students.

What? Do you want a job or not? So you have a degree - big deal. I know talented ID’ers who had a degree and great experience as students who took internships after graduation to get their foot in the door. I don’t think its wise, especially in this economy, to be picky about what you will take. There are lots of kids in a similar position who will do what’s necessary to get a start.

Internships are increasingly focused on students, so if you graduate without one you’re sort of behind the eight ball. Humble yourself and get experience. There are plenty of paying internships out there. That’s where you get that 1-3 years exp. for an entry level position. A degree is meaningless without experience. I’ll hire a community college grad that is humble, hungry and has internship exp over a grad of a top school with no more professional experience than a sponsored studio or two.

I absolutely agree with the above. You need to check that attitude at the door. Your degree entitlee you to nothing!! I have a major issue with this thinking. This kind of attitude creates issues in the work place.

We all have degrees. Your work ethic and willingness to work is what gets you a job. That kind of attitude gets you bounced right out the door, and trust me not only does that employer learn you are that way, but they then tell their friends. In this kind of climate you really need to take what you can get.

one of the top goals in hiring is to get the most experienced, best fit candidate for the least amount of money. After reading some of this book I get the idea that managers are taught and stressed to handle companies money like it was their own

This is true especially in corporate. Everything is about the bottom line. In corporate there is a trend to have a design managers instead of hands on designers. This requires people with design experience that can manage out side design resources.

Now with consultancies it is all about building relationship to get you first shot. This means that internships, freelance work and networking are huge. This means that you have to take what you can get to go this route. This backs up my previous statement that if you want to get your foot in the door you have to check you ego at the door and pay your dues.

If companies are hiring, job market is strong (or stronger) and business is good (or better). I would suspect that scope of work for new hire is at a Senior Level, and that companies expect quicker return on investment with Senior Level designers than entry/junior.

I guess I should consider myself lucky that I don’t have to deal with weird titles like this. At my g/f’s office the order goes something like this: intern, freelance, assistant, junior designer, designer, senior designer, creative director. But your title isn’t necessarily indicative of your experience, it’s about your performance (ability to do the work given to you, successful completion etc.).

Based on that model, I would assume if they’re looking for a senior designer, what they’re really looking for is someone who doesn’t need training, has a pretty solid background in the field, great track record at developing and executing and is willing/able to put on many hats to get the job done correctly. I think it’s less about the amount being paid and has more to do with seamlessly introducing a new member to the ‘team’ as it is. Additionally a senior level designer may need to hire an assistant/junior designer/freelancer depending on the project, and they should know who to call. There are certain intangible qualities that aren’t necessarily determined by the amount of widgets one has made and those qualities are probably what is being sought. Saying you need a ‘senior designer’ will keep everyone else at bay and make sure your money is put to good use.

Don’t get caught up in the game of titles, as much as it is about experience it’s also about who/how/what you know.

EDIT: For clarity I work in a small design office where there aren’t titles, my g/f works in a larger office as a (apparently) much sought after senior designer.

I think he may have been misunderstood when he said “internships are for students”. A lot of places will specifically put that in their requirements stating that you have to be in school for an internship (paid or unpaid). I was always under the impression that 's what it was limited to, the original poster might also. If you’re getting the work after you graduate, then you’re doing it as a freelancer since you have to be in school for it to be considered an internship (what many people, including some companies, think). So it might just be a bit of mis-communication here in regards to the attitude.

I think it is also important to consider that different people have different requirements from employment. I started uni at the age of 25 and graduated at 29. I had to jump straight into a full time salaried job just to pay my rent and start paying off debts I accumulated while studying. I luckily found an in house design job at a small manufacturer just before I finished uni, so I had 3 days off from uni top full time work. If I was still living with my parents and was say 21-22, I would consider an unpaid internship.

Also, in Australia we get paid an allowance to study (about $200 a week). If I was to do an internship I would have tried to incorporate it into my study, say as an elective. As soon as your study finishes, the study allowance payments finish. Also, while studying, most of my friends and I worked 2-3 days a week to supplement our study allowance. I assume internships are usually full time.

Also worth considering is there are different paths to success. Some people get an internship and try to turn it into a full time job with the company, some work on their own and build businesses and some earn their experience in a job that isn’t their dream job and then look for something better (like I am doing).

I’d be totally happy with an internship, but half of them explicitly state that you have to be a student…WTF? When I applied for a design engineer internship at Mattel, you have to answer “yes” to still being in college to even successfully submit the application. I have a year and a half of experience, but it’s not enough for a mid-level job and I can’t get internships because I’m not a student, so what the hell am I supposed to do? Worst of all, unlike a designer that can just make new concepts in hopes of impressing an employer, there’s really not much I can do to further my experience without a job. It’s not like I’m incompetent either, I can use Solidworks as good as dedicated draftsmen with years of experience and have handled more variety than most engineers with 5+ years of experience, but how the hell do show that to someone and have them believe you? Grrrr, so frustrating, I’m completely willing and able to do anything it takes to get a design engineering job, but I can’t even get a proper chance. OK, that’s enough complaining about my situation tonight, I think 3 posts about it is enough.

I’d be totally happy with an internship, but half of them explicitly state that you have to be a student…WTF?

Apply anyway. Try to reach out to someone on the inside first though. I’ve applied to a number of postings that I was “ineligible” or not “experienced” enough for. Predictably, none of these have worked out so far, but I have still managed to make some good contacts this way. If nothing else, it at least gets your name out there and maybe you’ll get considered for future openings.

Worst of all, unlike a designer that can just make new concepts in hopes of impressing an employer, there’s really not much I can do to further my experience without a job.

You’re an engineer. You haven’t built things or tinkered at all? That is definitely worth showing. Go to the local community college and take some machining/shop classes if you are lacking in that department. I’ve seen a number of postings for entry-level fabricators and machinists (even applied for one myself). That is a great way to learn more about prototyping and dfm. I learned more about mechanical design working with a tool and die maker for a few months than I learned in four years of class.

I can use Solidworks as good as dedicated draftsmen with years of experience and have handled more variety than most engineers with 5+ years of experience, but how the hell do show that to someone and have them believe you? Grrrr

Do you have a portfolio? That would be a start. Knowing a CAD program doesn’t make you qualified or competent. Don’t get me started on the kids who build a shiny CAD model (with exploded views and everything!) and tout that alone as evidence of serious engineering competence. You got your E.I.? Any knowledge of GD&T or FMEA? I’d find those far more impressive, tbh.

I’m completely willing and able to do anything it takes to get a design engineering job, but I can’t even get a proper chance.

Use the internets. Type in Product Design Engineer on LinkedIn and you get tons of hits. I don’t know where you are, but reach out to some of those people, maybe schedule an informational interview? Just a thought. Trolling Coroflot for a gig and pressing the send button cannot be the ONLY way you try to find a job. Most of the designers I know who found employment straight out of school got jobs that weren’t posted AT ALL. Contacts are everything. Talk to people. It really is the most effective way.

Oh, I do, I even apply for vague “product designer” internships that are likely aimed at industrial designers. I’d love to make contacts, but they have to actually respond to my e-mail or grant me an interview to do that. Persistence is always good and lets them know you are really interested, but beyond that, it hasn’t accomplished much for me yet.

Well, when I said “experience” I meant “work experience” as in “another company to jot down for X amount of months”. There’s really no way to say I know how to do something or have worked with something unless I have done it for a company and have something to show. The main thing I’m lacking is plastics and mold design, which I know plenty about, but I don’t have any professional, citable experience with it. Furthermore, there’s no real way to do that besides a job or internship because it is way too expensive to make a proper plastic molding die, etc. for just a class or something. I’ve done both manual and numerical machining before, there’s no lacking there. Anything taught at a community college would be remedial to what I’ve done already in my bachelor’s curriculum or on the job. The main thing is just I don’t have enough months/years of experience, which is bullshit because working for 3 years doesn’t mean you are any good or at least not necessarily better than someone that has been working a year and a half (like me).

Yes, I have a portfolio, and boy do I know just being able to build something in CAD doesn’t make you a good engineer. That’s really my strength, “I get it” when it comes to functionality and satisfactory strength characteristics, etc. Tolerancing I’m a little weaker with, but only in the respect that I can’t tell you what a tolerance should be for material X and hole Y off the top of my head. I know how to take tolerances into consideration when designing, but I would need some reference data and calculations to really spec anything.

You have no idea how hard I’ve tried to find a contact, but the sad truth of 99.9% of engineers (I’m the 0.1%) apparently hide under a rock after every work day because I’ve been in New York for 5 months now and still have yet to find anyone that even KNOWS an engineer. I wish I could just call up a company and schedule an informal interview, but if you look at most listings, the explicitly say “DO NOT CALL/DO NOT SHOW UP IN PERSON” and I feel if I tried I would just piss them off and they wouldn’t even consider hiring me in the future for not being considerate of their request. I’ve checked all kinds of job sites and applied around a good bit, but nothing has come of it. I recently applied to a handful of jobs that seem more geared towards entry-level that may have a chance, but who knows.

I just heard on the radio a statistic that US unemployment in the 18-25 y/o range is like 18%.

As someone who is in a similar position himself, I can relate.

I also never did any internship work… but I tried… a lot. Everyone in my area only wanted ME’s, and as a design technology major, they rarely gave me the time or consideration due to a lack of understanding about my degree, even though it has similar disciplines as a ME degree. Now that I’m more aware of this gap, I’m able to close it better when asked about it.

But hey, enough about me, there’s really only a few things you can do here… so don’t get too overwhelmed.

  1. If you haven’t had your resume seriously reviewed by an ENGINEERING professional that has good taste, or even better, is some kind of professor of rhetoric, do that. I have probably spent 30-50 hours building my resume over the past few years, and have always gotten positive feedback as a result. Don’t just rely on articles about creating the perfect resume. Resumes are custom tailored, and as a result, not even the perfect article could create the perfect resume.

B. Have a portfolio, which you do, so congratulations on being one of the few engineers who do. That will help a lot when you interview. I like the post above about not just adding screen shots and whatnot.

  1. Don’t pay too much attention to years of experience. Just apply, it won’t hurt your chances(If you didn’t apply at all, you would have no chance, right?). I’ve been looking at jobs that require up to 5 years of experience. I say, as long as you have the qualifications, apply. “I’ve been in an engineering related environment for XX years”, I find that’s a good way to show you have experience without admitting you have no work experience.

  2. Check out some staffing firms. I just got a call from one this morning. Apparently they had a resume of mine from a year ago and decided to call out of the blue. This could be a good way to directly get a hold of someone who can interview. These firms are paid to solely find and interview potential candidates for jobs, so you might have a better chance that way.

  3. Just keep plugging away. You’ll eventually get in somewhere. In the meantime, find ways to polish up your interviewing skills, because you’re bound to eventually get one, and applying is suppose to be the easy part.

I can certainly sympathize with you because this is also what I graduated into in 2004. The dot com collapse was still affecting things, in house design offices pared themselves down from 6-10 staff members to a director and 2-3 senior designers, consultant firms took a hit, etc. I also noticed the same issues with a lack of entry level positions, then and now. And you are right, once you walk out the door with your degree, very few places are going to give you a student specific internship. There’s no reason they can’t fill those with students.

What I will say like others is keep on networking. Explore some more unconventional opportunities to meet people too. Sure LinkedIn, IDSA, and other professional organizations will turn up some useful contacts, but try and figure out other opportunities to meet people as well. When I finally got a job, it was 6 months after graduation and I was running out of money FAST. I figured the best thing I could have done at the time was focus all of my energy on an upcoming industry trade show (I’d get into what more then I am now, but I don’t like to be vague here to retain some privacy). It worked out really well for my little sales pitch because at the time I was talking to a company exhibiting at the show about selling them my design for royalties and it happened to be on display.

So leading up to the trade show I looked at the show website, browsed through ALL of the exhibitor listings, and made a list of companies I wanted to talk to. Then I started sending emails and in some cases cold calling. I simply asked to speak to someone from their design staff at the show if they were available because I wanted to learn more about their company and do a brief portfolio review if they were willing. I had about 6 pre-scheduled appointments at the show as a result of this, and after those I simply started pounding the pavement and walking into showrooms asking to talk to design staff. The response I got was overwhelmingly positive to my surprise. I would say 70% of the time I spoke to someone if they were free at the moment. One only a handful of occasions I got a rude response from someone. Part of it was common sense too. Do your research so you know better then to walk into the showroom of some high end European company with rock star designers working for them.

As a result of this, I meet the owner of a small company that ended up hiring me a week later. That brings me to another point with all of this. You may find a smaller company that DOESN’T currently have design staff who could be interested in taking a chance on hiring a designer for the 1st time. Sell them on the RANGE of your talents. Show them that not only can you design, you have an engineering background, you can do CAD, you could do Graphic Design, etc. If you can sell your value to them maybe it’s enough to convince them to give you a job. And there at least you’re not competing against the other 3,000 people on coroflot that just applied for a job with some big name company’s in house design staff. The only thing I’ll caution you on is make sure you feel like you’ll be making a contribution and learning something. But that’s another discussion altogether here so I won’t get to far into it. I’m now starting my third job in a small company as the sole designer and I can say that I don’t feel like I’ve advanced my career as much as I should because of it. I’d rather be working in an established in house design dept or a consultant firm where I can work with other designers who are aware of exactly what it is I do and are people I can learn from. Regardless though, experience is experience. I can say that being forced to “wear many hats” has given me some good well rounded experience in other facets of product development.

Lastly, don’t count yourself out of everything before you apply. I have almost 6 years of experience and I applied for a job requiring 7-10 yrs experience recently and thought it was a long shot at best. They interviewed me 2 months later and I’m still crossing my fingers right now that I have a decent shot at the job. I would never have expected to hear back from them based on the initial job description if experience was the deciding factor for them.

It seems unfortunate that the current hiring procedures rely so heavily up on internships, most of which are unpaid or minimum wage, but it does seem to be reality. I know one of the major difficulties of people like myself, with attempting to get internships while in school was that we had no financial backing entering into college in the first place. Therefor unpaid internships were not an option as sustaining living costs would not otherwise be possible. Its difficult to step out of a part-time carpentry position that pays $18/hr and then go to a full-time position and make nothing. Luckily I found a summer internship my junior year that flew me Vegas, housed me, and paid a $300/month stipend.

But back to the main topic, I think if you haven’t considered it, you might also try selling yourself as a design consultant. This is what I’m doing right now. No, you won’t be getting benefits, but at least its paid design work. Of the 25 people that graduated with an ID degree from my school last year, only 2 that I know of have a salary position right now, and about 15 have contract positions. It is much easier as a recent grad (but not easy) to line up a contract job right now. One tactic for doing this is cold call style. I’m making as many connections as I can on LinkedIn, Coroflot, and Behance and just offering a professional invite to talk about design and potentially pursue job opportunities. So far, I am not full-time anywhere, but instead I am juggling 2 firms with part-time work, and some graphics jobs on the side. None of these jobs were posted anywhere, I had to go and get them, or they contacted me directly.

Some helpful things to check if doing contract work:

Dear Rpricket: In similar situation with freelancing, although I have some staff exp. under my belt. I was wondering how you handle contracts. Specifically, do you use one? Do you provide it with your proposal/quote? Or do you submit the proposal/quote then after the client picks you, then you give them the contract to sign? I am asking because sometimes I get resistance by the client on my contract which is not too onerous but some business people (cpa) tell me get the job first, then submit the contract. Not sure

Feedback m uch appreciatd, thanks.