editione1.0.2Updated February 27, 2023
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.
Great! Now you have your superpowers and you have highlights of your personality. Next, put it together in an easy-to-consume narrative. If a stranger met you today, how would you introduce yourself? What impression do you want to leave behind?
By drafting a couple of versions of your statement, you’ll get a better sense of the narrative you want to convey and will have a response at the ready when you’re responding to emails or hitting up networking events.
As with uncovering your superpowers—don’t be afraid to step away and ask for help. If you were to ask a friend or a co-worker, how would they describe you or pitch you? What would they say? Try this exercise with others or a group of friends—you might discover new qualities or some that you’ve taken for granted that others find valuable in you.
Don’t write a statement that can easily end up on the Designer Bio Generator.
Get specific. When you’re thinking of aspects of your personality to highlight, be sure to avoid coming across as generic. Many new designers, in their statement about themselves, say that they’re empathetic, customer focused, and like to drink coffee. That’s not much of a differentiator. Of course as a designer you will be focused on the first two, and many people drink coffee. But not many collect coffee art or make interesting visualizations out of it.
Try it out. To start, list all of your hobbies, passions, and things you like to do. Don’t limit yourself just yet and feel free to write out as many as possible. Once you have the list, think of which aspect of personality you want to emphasize—is it something creative, fun, social, or design related, or a combination of multiple things?
Sometimes writing a pitch can be daunting. Here I’ll share a couple of examples from two respected design leaders in the industry that can help you refine yours. Now you may not be a design leader or have yet had the opportunity to impact many people with your design. That’s OK. As these pitches demonstrate, it’s not just about the content but also presentation. At senior levels of design, clear, concise communication is paramount and you can also take away great lessons in communication style.
Marissa Louie is a director of UX design at Expedia and also the founder of Animoodles. Here’s how she describes herself on LinkedIn:
Design leader with a strong product and business background. Experienced in building and coaching design teams, and leading the design of delightful products used by over 1 billion people. As a people manager, I enjoy helping grow extraordinary leaders.
I started tinkering with code as a kid, and fell in love with web design while taking my first computer science course at UC Berkeley. Since then, I’ve enjoyed tackling really hard problems with some top notch people.
In my free time, I can be found exploring visual storytelling through photography, videography, and animation, and learning about a wide range of subjects including design, business, leadership, and management. I am intensely curious, and in a state of constant growth.
As you may notice, the first paragraph is straight to the point and uses an inverted pyramid writing method (where you give away the punch line in the first sentence and first paragraph) in which you’ll learn all the information that you need to know about Marissa. The statistic “over 1 billion people” substantiates the impact. Even though the third paragraph is about hobbies, these too inevitably intertwine with design and reinforce her current role as a founder and director.
Alissa Briggs is a design director at Autodesk, formerly head of design at PlanGrid where she managed a substantial team growing the organization. Here’s her about statement from her website:
I’m a strategic and energetic leader, speaker, and coach with a successful track record of scaling top-notch design, research, and writing teams. Get in touch to discuss how I can elevate your team through workshops, talks, and coaching.
At the top of her site she has an even shorter description leading with the headline “Elevate your design team,” an eyebrow, “Design leader, speaker, and coach,” and tying everything off with a call to action below. The pitch also links to Alissa’s page showing all the different speeches and coaching she’s done over the years.
Take a moment now to draft up a version of yourself (about half a page) based on the raw ingredients of skills, superpowers, your experiences, and your personality. How does it look? Feel free to do a few more iterations. Next, see if you can get it down to a 30-second pitch that you can give to someone you meet.
Finally, see if you can compress this pitch to a one- to three-sentence summary. You’ll use this line in your portfolio, online presence, social accounts, and so on. Think of it as a hook to get people interested in learning more about you.
Your pitch will change over time as you get feedback. There’s no perfect pitch out there, and making changes is part of the process. Make sure that as you do make adjustments your brand proposition stays clear. Better to turn some people away than deliver a pitch that blends in so much that it becomes unmemorable.
Before diving into the portfolio, start with your resume or LinkedIn. When someone will be looking over your profile, they’ll want to understand your story and have the right context when looking through your work. A lot of these initial impressions are based on quick scans of your profile.
Where are you coming from?
What have you done in the past?