You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Finding a Job That Fits

This is why it’s important to define your own criteria when looking for a job. Let’s apply the jobs-to-be-done framework by Clayton Christensen. Don’t think about getting any job—think of hiring a job for your needs. This will help you identify a company that can support your growth and help you reach your potential faster with wind at your back.

Think through the company’s characteristics that are important to you as if you’re evaluating a candidate. What makes them great? Who would you pass and who would you hire? Not all of these characteristics will play an equal role, and you may choose to include others, so treat this list as a starting point:

  • Design maturity of the company.

  • Your future manager.

  • Culture of the company and the team.

  • In-house role or work for a design agency.

  • Consumer or enterprise products.

  • Platforms and devices.

  • Location of the company and the surrounding ecosystem (on-site, off-site, and remote.)

  • Industry specialization or breadth of expertise.

  • Impact and society.

Lastly, you may notice one big thing that’s missing from this list—salary. Everyone should be compensated highly based on the value and skills they provide. When you’re evaluating jobs against each other, of course you’ll consider compensation, and we’ll dive into the nuances of it in Breaking Down Your Design Job Offer so that you get the compensation you deserve.

Over time as you’re searching for your dream job, you’ll periodically revisit this list. It’s not static. Maybe you’ll learn some new info based on your interviews or by talking with people in industry. There’s no penalty for adjusting your criteria; however, it does help to have it in place. Think of your job criteria as your north star that can help guide you toward the right decision.

How Design Maturity Impacts the Type of Work You’ll Do

A mature design company has internalized and established proven design processes that it has honed over many years. Design is not a layer sprinkled at the end of the product development cycle but an integral piece at the heart of the process, a core competency that’s well funded and properly staffed.

Table: Design Maturity Tradeoff

Low maturity companyHigh maturity company
Opportunity toEstablish a practice of design from scratch in-line with your vision, go beyond the work and shape process and design culture.Focus on the core work and develop strong individual contributor skills in craft and collaboration.
Best suited when…You’ve been in industry for some time; you can do the work.You’re starting out and need guidance and mentorship.
You’re interested inOperations, processes, design management, policy, and governance.Improving your core individual contributor design skills, focusing on deliverables.
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