I recently accepted a full-time job offer for a role I’ve been dreaming about the past two years: design researcher at a design consultancy firm. Although the Carey career coaches and I can retrospectively say that my job search was a success, the process felt more like a foot-powered roller-coaster ride, which is to say: arduous with big ups and downs. As an MBA/MA Design Leadership Candidate, I was looking for a career that didn’t fit so neatly into the typical MBA candidate areas (finance, consulting, marketing, and general management). In addition, job searching in an industry relatively new to me meant a quick cycle through the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
I can’t call myself a job search expert yet, but here’s what I learned on my journey. And, I hope it will make yours just a little bit smoother.
- Approach networking with an authentic motivation that can supersede the goal of landing a job.
I can’t tell you how many times I, and probably most other job searchers, have heard about the importance of networking—that an astounding 80% of jobs people get come through networking, a statistic that screams “Don’t rely on online job applications!” I’m an introvert who instinctively cringes at the word “schmooze,” so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to the networking part of job searching. Here is the reality: making my weekly networking goals a higher priority than job application submissions made my job search a lot more enjoyable, as well as more effective.
What it took was framing networking within a motivation I already have: to learn and understand (You have to find what that motivation is for you.). Conversations I had with friends, current and past colleagues, and online connections not only informed me of pathways to positions but also paved a way for me to build more interest, knowledge, and excitement about the industry. I had a chance to share ideas, forecast, even practice using industry jargon like a non-academic, and receive the feedback I needed to evolve my job search, which leads me to…
- Show your work early and iterate often.
It’s a maxim that’s drilled into design students, and it works in job search, too. Most hiring managers won’t have time to give you quality feedback. Expect to make a lot of revisions in the beginning and use hiring managers’ feedback—silence and/or rejections—not as a sign of failure but as impetus to put your job search materials in front of more people who will give you that feedback (friends and family are great to start, but people who work in your industry are better). Asking people to take a look at your resume, writing samples, and portfolio is a great way to network. It’s a relatively small ask, shows a willingness to grow, and is a way to tell people that you respect their expertise and feedback.
- Define your career goals early.
They don’t need to be static goals by any means or even just in one area. I wasn’t 100% certain I wanted to be a design researcher within consulting, but business school is broad and setting that target created a direction for me to try out student activities, conferences, and an internship that could first test and then support my specific focus. Defining my career goals early helped me start making my pivot while in school where it’s expected that I’m still learning, rather than asking companies to use their resources to help me build momentum in that pivot later, as a full-time hire.