Lost and in need of help

Hi all,

First of all I want to apologize for the lengthy post and thank you for taking the time out your busy lives to read it.
I’ve been meaning to post in here for a while to get some career advice, but I really thought I could do it on my own.
That feeling is gone and now I feel lost, defeated and in serious need of help/advice.

I graduated in the summer of 2010 as an Industrial Designer at a time when the economy was rough and you
were extremely lucky if you found a job. I was one of those lucky ones that found one. I started working as a design
engineer at at closet company in Westchester County just outside New York City. Although the job was not what
I wanted, It was a job (had to start paying school loans) and it was related to design. I believe there is always something
to learn from any experience one has in life, so I thought to stay there a year or so while I strengthened my technical
skills and improved my portfolio.

After I was happy with my portfolio I started applying everywhere. I applied to design studios, design consultancies and
large companies with little or no luck. Some liked my portfolio but said they couldn’t hire me because I had no “design experience”,
others simply never called. I tried the internship route, but none of the opportunities that I was offered could pay me anything
and wanted me to work full time, leaving very little time to have a part time job to pay the bills. I’m fully aware this is the norm,
but I just couldn’t afford it. Little by little I looked for jobs less and less. I became comfortable with the money at my job but hated it
every day more and more. Fast forward to today, I’m still at the same job feeling helpless and hopeless.

I’ve started questioning my abilities (not good) and wondering whether I should keep pursuing this or change fields all together,
but I don’t want to give up until I can say “hey, I tried it and it wasn’t for me”. I’m just as passionate about design as I was when
I first discovered what this incredible profession was, but I just want to know If in your opinion I can still stand a chance after
all these years, and what I can do to make my professional experience more relatable. I’ve provided links below of my portfolio
and resume for your review. I’m lost right now, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much!

Website: santiagoflorez.com

Resume: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/537421bde4b0ad0822323a0c/t/58e70a179f7456e87e07ca18/1491536407305/Santiagof_resume_4_17.pdf

Portfolio: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/537421bde4b0ad0822323a0c/t/58e70a56e4fcb51b3f1d28ef/1491536472957/santiago+florez_portfolio_4_17.pdf

Hi Santiago,

You are doing very thankful work at your current company, is there a specific reason you want to switch jobs? It is already a good thing that you are employed, you can also look at expanding your abilities or the company’s focus while you are there to make it more satisfactory for yourself.

What I am seeing, for example by the AED project, is that you can do the common industrial design process.
When you veer more into your own design thinking it becomes furniture/DIY and it speaks very much like the job you have now is the job you want. So if you want a different job, make sure your portfolio also shouts towards the specific job you would want.
What companies especially want to see is original ideas - you can work on that. Design competitions for example are a great way of expanding your conceptual thinking. Of all your furniture I like the Escher table the best, it relates to modernism, is original and timeless. If you had the same execution with your DIY project, that would also have been a great project. To me the rising sun chair is a bit too much of a melange of ideas and reminds me more of a reconstructed shopping cart which relates more to Dutch than Scandinavian design. I would also like to see some more innovation!

Hi Santiago,

I was in the same boat for awhile, graduating in 2009 when it seemed like a dead-end to pursue ID.
Have you considered taking night/summer classes with a strong focus in direction within design? I only mention this because while your portfolio is pretty solid, it spreads over wide range of categories from furniture to electronics. What companies are you specifically targeting, what’s your interest in design if you were to make the next move?

Thank you for checking out my post. While there is no doubt that it’s great to be employed, unfortunately I do not get to design anything at my current job, which is what I want to do. This is one of my biggest obstacles when I go to interviews. They want me to have professional experience designing and I don’t have that. All of my work is from my student years, so they see it a bit amateurishly I think. Also, there is not much I can learn anymore after being at my company for 6 years.

I’ll look into it. Thanks for the advice. I was also thinking on expanding the Escher table line.

Hi smyoung! While in college I took a lot of different classes precisely to try to determine which direction to go in. I liked some more than others , but I enjoyed designing different stuff every time. This is why I focused mostly on agencies and furniture studios, but no luck. I feel like once they see that I’ve been out of school for 6 years, they rather hire a fresh out of college person. At this point I don’t care. I just want to get my foot on the door.

Maybe you can look at the fact that you have been out of school for a while in a different way.
You weren’t hibernating during those years but instead gathering valuable experience. Maybe not designing but in many other ways, I am sure.
Organisation, problem solving, manufacturing and general maturity in the “real world”.
Try to leverage these.

I got a start into the design world really late, didn’t really start designing until I was past 30.
So I know what it is like to not be the cookie-cutter young junior designer, when that is your competition.

What I would advice is to not just use all that knowledge you acquired after school towards future employers but also towards re-vamping your current portfolio.
If you feel it is dated, then re-do the projects, add new ones. I get the sense that you have a clear idea in mind of what your portfolio should look like in order to make a splash in the places you’d like to work.
The only way to get there is to hone your skills and possibly take whatever internship opportunity you can get.
You are in a great position to do thsi as you will approach your situation in a different, more structured way than a recent grad.

You portfolio isn’t bad at all and with a bit of structure, editing and re-work plus a couple new, contemporary projects, it can definitely get you where you want to go. Then the fact that you are a bit older, will only help your chances.

Hi Santiago!
I’m totally in the same boat! I graduated in 2010 and transitioned my local internship into a full-time position. My job is a packaging job for promotional gift card programs in retailers. My company loves me, but 7 years is much too long to be doing this. I was really interested in the nuances of packaging design for the first couple years, but now I’m really just not interested. I’ve gone through many phases of applying to jobs and reworking my portfolio since. I feel like I’m progressing towards my goal of getting into a more fulfilling ID position by the end of this year. I hope to make it into a large design studio where I can find some mentoring and lots of design process. For me, that can be in a large corporation with a variety of products or a fairly large consultancy. I am still updating a couple of my portfolio projects, diving deeper into research, and initiating new projects at the same time.

I just had a couple interviews, and lost. Both times they repeated to me that I have talent and enthusiasm, but not quite enough experience in either user research or working with engineering teams. I find the interviewers like to ask questions about my day job products and often dismiss my personal concept projects. The problem with that is, I have a hard time communicating the depth and value of my day job products. I design dozens of packaging products a week, we have over 4,000 SKUs that go to market each year, and there are only 2 designers here. Maybe I should have said that :confused:

I’m considering seeking internships at some consultancies to build my experience and accelerate my learning. It would be a temporary sacrifice, but worth it, and I would make some awesome connections. For now, I’m just going to do everything I can. I’ll keep trying, if you keep trying! If we can make these career transitions, then we can prove to others in the same situation that it can be done. Good luck to you!

Hi Santiago, does the company that you work for employ any designers? Having been there for some time have you identified any areas where design would benefit the company? Do you have new product ideas that your company could produce? Do you see new market opportunities that you could combine design with your company’s capabilities to open up new offerings?

Forget what your job description is and maybe think about how you could apply design for the benefit of the company. If you answered yes to any of my questions then I recommend you explore some ideas and put together some proposals.

I don’t know what your company’s capabilities are as far as manufacturing, engineering, etc., but maybe start by creating an inventory list of all of your company’s capabilities and resources, and then imagine, if it were up to you, what could you design to leverage this in new ways? Then design some things with this in mind and propose it to your leadership. If they don’t bite, well then you have fresh, new, applicable design work for your portfolio.

Thanks for the advice. It’s great to hear that you were once on the same boat (kind of). I’m fully aware of the fact that even though I don’t have “design experience” I have gained other useful skills that are very important for the job, however, employers always try to dismiss this claiming they need someone who can hit the ground running and be productive from day 1. I think this is where I’m struggling the most. How did you manage it? Also, what do you mean by structure for my portfolio? Any examples? Thanks in advance.

Nice to see I’m not alone. I see you are having the exact same problem that I am having. What other kind of feedback have you gotten from your interviews?

Hi Greenman,
There is no creativity or design at my company, making my job very monotonous and boring. We work within a system and within a scheme of what management considers “design” is . Management has no taste and often conflicts with each other as to what we should be doing. At the end it all comes down to money. There is creative problem solving though, which I think is my biggest asset right now. Maybe I should be focusing on this and try to illustrate it better to future employers?

Just need to vent a little here…I’ve had a few more interviews since the last time this topic was live. Is there anybody else in this process that feels absolutely exhausted about the whole thing? The questions I get asked are often quite deep especially questions related to “culture fit” profiling. Sometimes I feel like the companies would rather just clone their own staff than try hiring someone new. Maybe that will happen in the future… :slight_smile: Somebody needs to redesign this whole “job searching” process. It is way too tiring, and I’m 7 months in, still waiting to hear back from a couple. Of course, I keep updating the portfolio, and that won’t end, I’ve been updating it for the past 5 years. Ok, back to work. Any success for you Santiago?

I was pretty frustrated with the whole work of job searching a couple weeks ago, but within the last couple of weeks things have been changing for the better. I’ve had interviews with 4 different companies and I’ve found larger networks of jobs to research. I may actually be realizing this dream of career progression very soon.

I’ve created a file system on my home computer to document all the places I’m applying to from here on, and any networking I make with them. I’m looking both in the states and internationally. Best tip for looking internationally - lookup BEDA, The Bureau of European Design Association. http://www.beda.org/ Then click on “Our Members” and view the members of countries you are interested in visiting. So far I’ve explored the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO) and found a number of design firms listed right there.

Another tip, look everywhere for job openings. I have found many openings that aren’t posted on Coroflot, but are on Indeed, or aren’t on Indeed, but are on LinkedIn. Also check Monster. Finally, it seems like some companies only post on their website, so keep checking those too. They probably post elsewhere, it’s just easy to miss with the flood of information on the web.

I recently corresponded with my university professor, and he suggested meeting people at design conferences, design fairs, and just straight up visiting the place. He also noted that many firms have relationships with schools that can help you get in the door if you decide you want a Master’s degree. I’m seriously considering it myself because I found a couple of my choice design firms indicate on their websites that they attend specific senior shows and interact with specific university programs.

Also, I’ve talked with a couple design directors at design firms that I really admire, and they told me to approach my workplaces of choice and develop a relationship with the designers there through introducing myself and seeking advice.

I forgot to mention, I sat down and watched the Umea Institute of Design Degree Show 2017 and it really inspired my own portfolio storytelling. Since I have worked on the outskirts of the design community for a number of years, I feel like my design language has suffered. Watching a degree show or any industrial designer give a professional presentation explaining their work is a great way to inject meaningful and interesting language into a portfolio pitch / interview. Here is a link to the videos I watched:

They will hire the person that they see as the best fit for working within their existing team, assuming that the person also has the skillset required for the role. This goes both ways of course, and you can absolutely decline an offer because the cultural fit isn’t right, even if your skills are suitable. Being happy in your workplace is important.

As they say, it’s about who you know and not what you know. I’d say the two are equally important, and that this is very good advice.

I told you I would follow up on this thread, and so here I am, after a year’s worth of applying to jobs, having all expenses paid flights out to a number of design studios around the country for interviews, having almost all but given up on my job search, I just submitted my signed offer to my new employer and my resignation letter to my current employer today!

I learned a lot over the past year, but I think one of the most important things I needed to learn was to believe in myself. I had put a lot of thought into my portfolio and resume, and made a few updates through the year. In order to land the job, I also had to put that much thought and care into the interview, and believe that what I was showing was actually who I am. Confidence in my experience and my abilities took the year for me to develop.

So, after designing “gift card holders” for 7 years straight, I will now be designing bbq grills, related accessories, and additional outdoor bbq experience related products that will be sold in Walmart and other major retailers. Gift card holders resided in the POP, gift, and craft related markets. I jumped a pretty huge gap there, and I’m super excited.

One more thing, I did not land this job by applying to a job board post. I prepared for it by applying to job boards. This job came through my network that I was acquiring along the road. Cool huh!

Good luck to you and everyone else out there looking for an ID Job!

Awesome, congratulations! Inspires to never give up if you really want it…