Design thinking doesn’t just apply to creating memorable products, services, or experiences; it can also help you land a job you love. Just ask my colleagues Duane Bray and Lauren Wallins who, along with a global HR team, help recruit, support, and grow IDEO’s incredible talent pool.
I spoke with them recently about what advice they’d give to the thousands of applicants whose resumes we’re privileged to receive each year. I believe Duane and Lauren’s human-centered advice transcends our company and can be applied to any job seekers trying to launch successful creative careers.
Here’s what they had to say about getting hired by design:
Be empathic. There are real people reviewing each resume and fielding calls from eager candidates. Being proactive is good, but being pushy or aggressive can hurt your chances. Be as polite, professional, and respectful to the front-line HR person as you would be to a future boss.
Think outside the resume. When applying for creative jobs, your resume and cover letter count for less than half of your application. Besides taking the time to put together a solid visual portfolio of your work, ask: What would you do if there weren’t things like resumes and cover letters? How would you introduce yourself and your capabilities? An iPad app you designed? A video montage of your work? As we’re fond of saying here at IDEO: “Ask forgiveness, not permission.”
Tell a good story. Resumes are neatly ordered, but we all know life is messy. Few of us easily sail from success to success—especially in creative fields where failure is part of the process. What’s the dramatic arc of your work life so far? What are you passionate about? What outside pursuits fuel you? When did you fail and how did you recover? Telling a clear, compelling life story—in plain English, without loads of buzzwords—helps humanize your accomplishments and makes them more memorable.
Be targeted. Nothing raises HR eyebrows more than when someone applies to multiple positions simultaneously. While being a generalist can be a good thing sometimes, it’s unlikely you’re equally good at being a graphic designer and an engineer and a receptionist. Do homework on the company you’re interested in and be honest about your strengths and possible fit. The latter approach shows confidence, while the former seems desperate.
Be yourself. Are you a naturally collaborative person who likes to riff on other people’s ideas? Do you think more clearly when you’re in jeans and sneakers? Then why apply to a work at a company with a strict hierarchy, cubicles, and a dress code? It might seem okay for now, but soon both you and your employer will be frustrated by the mismatch. A bit of upfront soul searching and some research into the goals and culture of your potential company will save you lots of time—and career heartache—in the future.
Happy job hunting!
What’s the best advice you’ve given—or received—about landing a creative job?
(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)