3 Ways You Can Find a Great In-House Design Gig

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We’ve all heard the old saying that it’s “not what you know, but who you know” when it comes to getting a new job.

Look, lets be honest with ourselves for a moment shall we? We’re all talented, creative, and experienced to one degree or another. And we have great degrees, certifications, portfolios, and resumes to show off too. So with the kind of credentials we have, and the fierce competition we face, how exactly can someone get a great new in-house gig? You need to get out there and network my friend!

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photo from Unsplash

I peruse social media and job boards as much as the next person to see what’s out there. I’ve sent my resume out to dozens upon dozens of recruiters and agents over the years. My LinkedIn, Coroflot, InSource, AIGA, and other online profiles are kept up to date in the hopes that recruiters or hiring managers might magically find me and present that dream job I’ve been waiting for (hello Apple, what are you waiting for, I’m RIGHT HERE!). I’ve even applied to a few jobs though the online sites too. And do you know how many jobs I’ve gotten though that process?

Exactly one.

That’s right. Of all the jobs I have held in my career, from design to teaching and even leading InSource, just one job came about through the blind online application process. All of the others came about because someone I know heard about a new opportunity – either within their company or not – and they referred me directly to the hiring manager.

[Related: Check out HOW’s job board to see who’s hiring. | Explore the 2017 Designer Salary Guide]

I consider how I got that one job to be dumb luck to be honest with you. But like everything else in life, the timing was right. I was ready to move on from the job I was in, and they posted a position that I was a perfect fit for. But it still took several months from the time I applied online, to actually getting an offer. The other opportunities that came to me through people I know didn’t seem to take that long to close, and frankly they were even better of a fit for me than that one job.

Here’s my point; if you are looking for a great job – consulting, teaching, in-house, agency – you need to put yourself out there in the real world, not just online. Here are 3 things you should consider when looking:

1. Tell friends and family you are looking.

It sounds simple, but the best thing you can do when looking for a new gig is to actually tell people you are looking. Don’t shout it from the rooftop by sending a mass email or making an announcement on social media. Individually tell people that you trust, respect, and admire that you are interested in new opportunities. When asked why you are looking, never grouse about the problems at the current gig. Instead tell them what a great new job would look like (e.g. learning new skills, traveling less, advancement to lead a creative team, etc.). No one ever referred someone who said “I dunno, I just need to get out of there”.

2. Get off your butt!

Email, messaging, and texting are all OK ways of alerting your network that you are looking. But they are generally one-way communication and not a good way to have a conversation with someone. You can call someone on the phone and talk about the kind of jobs you are looking for but for better chances of someone keeping an open ear out for you, invite them to lunch and bring it up casually in conversation.

3. Build—and leverage—your network.

Friends and family can only take you so far in your search. You need to leverage your professional network too. Don’t have a great professional network? Then start attending industry events and conferences to meet people, and build your network.

InSource just had an event in NY (In-House Perspectives 2) where we dedicated at least an hour to networking. There were over 100 in-house creative leaders there who could be a great resource for you in searching for your next job. If you missed your chance in NY, you’ll have another in March in Seattle (IHP3), and we’ve got a session planned for you at HDL in May too.

The HOW Design Live conference is another great place to build your network. I never come home from HDL with anything less than 100+ business cards in my pockets from people I have met, and I think I hand out twice as many myself (bring business cards to HDL people!). More importantly, I make an effort to contact everyone I meet afterwards. And as I build those relationships, I learn whom I can reach out to about looking for something new.

Of course, building your network isn’t just about looking for a new job. Your network can help you brainstorm creative solutions, find new vendors, or even refer freelancers with specific skills you need for a project you are working on.

In-house jobs are on the rise more than ever, and it’s opening the doors to opportunities within the creative field that no one could even have dreamed of before. From creative rock-star, to operations, and of course… leadership. Get out there and meet face to face with your peers. Make new business contacts, and build those relationships. You never know when someone might call you with that next great career opportunity.


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