Stuck, in need of some help...

Having graduated 3 years ago I am finding myself in a weird situation. I moved to NYC and began doing some freelance design work for a company in Brooklyn right after I graduated. It was only on a project to project basis so it wasn’t enough to put food on the table. After about a year of this and working at a restaurant I somehow got into sales (going on almost 2 years :confused: ) and I now feel that I’m stuck. I’ve been trying to get back into design but I am stressed about the fact that I’m 3 years out of school with only a little freelance design experience. I feel as though employers look at me and think that I am past being an intern yet not qualified to be a Junior Designer. For the past month I have been applying to numerous job postings and sending out inquiry e-mails to companies in the area in hopes of landing an internship/junior design position (not much success). Any advice on how I might go about my search in a different manner to get better results? Link to portfolio below. Greatly appreciate any/all advice. Thanks!

Hi Jason,

I think you have some pretty good work. What drove the decision to move to and stay in NYC?

My girlfriend had recently moved there for a graphic design job which is why I moved and continue to live in the city. I also had a freelance design job in the beginning. I’m certainly not opposed to moving it just isn’t ideal. And I feel like between the 5 boroughs and New Jersey I should be able to find something nearby.

Hey Jason,

There was a designer where I work who got hired some-time before I had, that prior to here she was in sales (I want to say for around 4 or 5 years though not too sure). So it is definitely possible to land a spot as a junior designer. From my experience though, it is no easy task finding a position and it does take a lot of patience. I am sure there is a lot going on in NYC but I would keep my options open to other opportunities in any area. I think it is pretty common practice in our industry to be moving around a lot if there is a job you really want.

Good luck!

Thanks Traftos. I know it’s probably going to take longer than I want it to but I’ll just have to be patient. I’m going to repost in the portfolio section and try to get as much feedback as possible so I can improve what I’ve got.

NYC is not the biggest hotbed for industrial design. Add to the fact that it is more competitive in any metro area and their are graduates from Pratt and Parsons who maybe interned in the city. You are limiting your geography so you are limiting your opportunities. My first job was in the middle of Connecticut. Did I want to be living in the middle of Connecticut? No. But it was a great job, I learned a ton, made a lot of connections, I got to work with great clients like Nike, Burton, Hasbro, Chantal, Timex… and it got me to the next thing. While I was doing that, my fiancé (now my wife of 13 years) was in grad school in Chicago. Did it suck? Of course it did! And this was before we had cell phones and neither of us had internet at home. Friggin’ 1999. We had to actually plan when to call each other and pay long distance by the minute… I should mention that the snow was up to my head and I had to walk to work without shoes on… OK making that last part up, but take a risk, and make it happen man!

Do whatever it takes.

Thanks for the advice Yo. Definitely going to branch out and make sure I contact as many people as possible until I make it.

Devil’s Advocate Hat: ON

Looking to get back into the field of design. Back into design? Did you leave? This phrase doesn’t have a positive feel to it when I hear it. Anyone needing a designer needs talent that is up to speed. Change it. Or drop it. You’re an experienced designer; not a lot perhaps, but there’s no reason to give anyone cause to doubt your skill.

Knowing how to deal with people is an invaluable skill, but I would stongly suggest that you remove the “Real Estate Sales Person” title from your resume. Unless that’s what you want to do… Save that conversation for the interview.

Devil’s Advocate Hat: OFF


I couldn’t agree more and that’s kind of my point. Employers see that and think, “I’d rather have someone who is fresh out of a design program” or “I don’t want to hire a salesman”. I too thought that I should remove it (real estate sales) from my resume but was told by my college adviser that it needed to be there. His point being that if I just remove it it appears as though I’ve been doing nothing for the last 2 years. I’ve been trying to find a balance and thinking I might lead with the “Design Experience” first on my resume and not have it in chronological order while still showing that I’ve always had a job, design or otherwise. As to the “back into the design field” comment I’ve been sending a cover letter (in e.mail form) that does state exactly that and briefly explains where I currently stand. I know it may not sound good but it’s honest and I don’t see any way of avoiding the fact that I haven’t been designing in a professional manner for almost 2 years. That being said, that is why I started this thread in hopes of getting a little advice on what I may be doing wrong when approaching an employer and how I can improve. Definitely appreciate your feedback though. Any suggestions on how I might go about it differently as to not have other potential employers react the same way you did?


Generally speaking if you’re applying for a design job, I don’t care terribly much about your non design related experience.

I would drop it. If someone asks “so what have you been doing for the past 2 years?” say “Working as a real esate sales person while I hunt for the right design position”.

If you want to put a “positive” spin on working as a sales person and how it would relate to design, talk about things like has it helped your communications? In dealing with difficult people? etc.

NYC is a tough area but there are jobs.

If you have been out of the game work on getting your portfolio upgraded. Do some self motivated projects in your spare time. Learn a new CAD or rendering package. Keep polishing your layout. Right now your layout is very flat, and on Coroflot you have images like this:

Super high res image with giant text (which is too small when resized) and a super low res image of your design. That’s sloppy and is easily fixed.

People care about your portfolio, and so should you. Put a lot of sweat and late nights into it and make it something that you’re proud of, even if that means adding new projects or going back in and redoing school projects so they feel fresh.

If you’re sending a cover letter saying you’re trying to get back into design, you may view that as honest, but as mentioned above that makes me think “well you haven’t done ID work in 2 years” which may be true, or may be not true. But it doesn’t read well and doesn’t sound good to an employer.

Cover letters should include a brief description about why you’re interested in a specific firm (and not just because Brooklyn rent is $2800 a month) and why you think you’d be a good fit. Aside from that, let your portfolio speak for you.

Awesome, thanks for the advice. Going to remove the sales completely and reword my cover letters from now on. Thanks for pointing out that low res image I have, I just posted that project the other day and didn’t realize how awful it was. Will fix it tonight.