An effective search for (and landing!) a junior graphic designer position requires a three-part strategy:
- Finding and applying for jobs on job boards like Indeed, LinkedIn and Craigslist
- Job boards that focus on graphic designer positions (often run by associations like AIGA) that provide different resources for graphic designers
- Informal networking within the graphic designer community
A separate article in this series, Graphic Designer Job Sites: Where to Find Open Graphic Designer Jobs, focuses on graphic designer-specific job boards. And the articles Be a Dynamic Networker and Meetups: Unique Assets on Your Design Career Path provide tips on informal networking. This article focuses on part one of a strategic approach: levering job boards. The focus on Indeed is because it is the biggest job board; LinkedIn because of specific job-hunting features; and Craigslist because it provides access to local jobs.
A strategic approach to job boards
As noted, a successful job-hunting strategy for graphic designers includes leveraging job boards, associations for graphic designers, and informal networking. Why so much emphasis on framing job boards in the bigger picture? Because all the venues for job hunting feed into each other.
For example, hanging out with other graphic designers in meetups or other informal networking venues can be the source of insights into how to best post your resume on job boards. And the kinds of requirements you see for graphic designer jobs on big job boards can tip you off to skills you need to strengthen or pick up. So, plan on working the whole mix: job boards, graphic designer resources with job postings, and informal networking.
That said, job boards are the most direct connection between an aspiring graphic designer and a job. So, let’s get into how that works. Job boards are built on algorithms (complex programs) that sift through your resume and match you with appropriate jobs. Because making a match between your resume and getting notified of open graphic designer jobs is so important, this post will walk through how to make sure your needle doesn’t get lost in the haystack.
Which job board(s) should you use? Hold that thought. The first and most important step in getting listed on a job board is having all your assets lined up so when you step into a job board with your application, it will match what companies are looking for in a junior (or senior) graphic designer.
What you need for any job board
You need four things before diving into searching for and getting notified of graphic designer jobs:
- An excellent resume that will “trigger” the algorithm to match you with a graphic designer job (for detailed advice see the Graphic Designer Resume Guide & Tips post in this blog series)
- A properly presented graphic designer portfolio that emphasizes process (see Graphic Designer Portfolio Website Guide & Tips)
- A LinkedIn profile (see Why Your Design Portfolio Should Emphasize Process, Not Just Content)
- A template, ready-to-customize cover letter (see Graphic Designer Cover Letter)
Do you really need all four? Yes, because employers will want to see them.
Do you need them before you engage the world of job hunting on job boards? Yes, because when an employer knocks on your door, you don’t want to be in your bathrobe. Apologies for the mixed and unseemly analogy but the point is, job boards automate job posting, job searching, and reaching out to prospective employees. That process depends on a resume, which must include a link to your portfolio and your LinkedIn profile. And–if it goes well–moves quickly to asking for a cover letter that you don’t want to throw together on the fly.
As noted with the links in the bullet list, there are posts in this series that walk you through creating all four of the requisite pieces required before you connect with a job board. So, if you are missing a required prerequisite to posting on job boards, you don’t need to stop reading this post. But as soon as you can, fill in the missing pieces of what you need before you start searching or signing up on job boards.
Triage your options
This article opened by identifying a “hat trick” (for those of you who aren’t hockey fans, that means scoring three times) for finding a graphic designer job: big job boards; graphic design groups’ resources; and informal networking.
But within the category of big job boards, it’s helpful to identify another set of three kinds of job-hunting tools:
- Big job boards that connect just about any kind of job with job seekers, like ZipRecruiter; Monster, Google (yes they have a jobs section), and Indeed
- LinkedIn and Glassdoor, networking and job search resource sites that also match job seekers and employers
- Craigslist, which doesn’t neatly fit into any category but for that very reason might be a useful avenue to jobs not found elsewhere
Given the fact that there are so many options, you will want to, and can, boil your search down to a small set.
- Indeed because, of the big job sites, it consistently rates best in objective surveys, both because employers rely on it, and because it does a very effective job of matching employers and qualified job seekers.
- LinkedIn because it meshes with building up your online profile, getting candid insights into companies’ culture, and connecting you with posted jobs
- Craigslist because it is local, and even in this digital/remote age, that matters
Finding and getting a graphic designer job through Indeed
The first step in searching for a job at Indeed (and the process is very similar in all job boards) is to define what you are looking for. Refining your search for a graphic designer job is an iterative process. In general, you’ll start with “show me everything!” (not an actual menu option but a strategic choice). Then, as your email inbox gets flooded with suggestions for jobs to apply to that you don’t qualify for (“hybrid, in-office 2x/week entry-level position, located at the Orcadas base in Antarctica”), you can start refining your search criteria.
Start the process at the Indeed home page, and select the Find Jobs tab if it is not selected.
Location, location, location?
The watchword in defining the price of real estate is “location, location, location.” Not so much in graphic design jobs, but location is a factor. You don’t have to enter a location in the location box, but should you?
Be strategic in making that decision. If you are in a city where there the most graphic designer jobs are located (San Francisco, New York City, Berlin, Los Angeles, London, Boston, Austin, Chicago, Toronto, or Seattle), enter your city. If you’re in a more out-of-the-loop location but willing to relocate or thinking your best chance is a company that uses remote designers, leave the field blank.
If you are ready, willing, and able to move to one of the above cities (best to pick one), you can identify that as the city you are ready to work in, and explain in your cover letter when you submit your application that you are ready to move there.
As you start to enter “graphic design” in the What input, you’ll be prompted to refine your search. If you want to go for a shotgun approach and see any job openings for graphic designers, just leave your setting at graphic design (leave off the “er” for the widest range of jobs).
After your first set of messages, you may want to start refining your search by narrowing down jobs to, for example, remote jobs, internships, entry-level, or part-time jobs.
You can also sort job postings by a wide range of criteria, including posting date (by default, the most recent ones appear); salary; design tools (Illustrator, InDesign, for example); and company (if you are focused on finding a job at a particular company).
Learning while looking
By the way, you might be noticing at this point that searching for jobs at Indeed is not just a job seeking process, it is also a learning process, about what employers are looking for. For example, the list of the “most wanted” skill sets for graphic designer jobs in the San Francisco area on the day the above search was done reveals six skills that are most widely in demand (Illustrator, Photoshop, Creative Suite [sic], InDesign, After Effects, and Figma).
Does that mean you need to have all these skills to have a chance at landing a job? No. In some cases, skillets that match jobs will be an “either / or” proposition; you need one, or the other. For example, there’s a good chance that companies looking for graphic designers to fit into UX/UI (User eXperience/User Interface) positions will have Figma on their “required” skills list, while design positions focused on motion graphics will have After Effects listed. And in neither situation will the position require both Figma and After Effects.
But you can get insight into where you might buff up your skills as you job hunt by seeing what shows up in the Design Tools list for a given position. And if you have the chance to grab some quick training in After Effects or Figma, and some time to do that, you might seize the moment to add a skill to your set of assets.
Getting notified of available jobs through Indeed
You don’t have to go to the Indeed website every day to see what jobs match your search criteria. As soon as you hit the “Find Jobs” button at LinkedIn for the first time, you’ll be prompted to sign up to get notifications of open jobs.
If you want to change how often you get alerts, the search criteria, or your email, the subscribe page at Indeed has options for that.
Applying for jobs through LinkedIn
LinkedIn is where many employers look to find out about a potential employee. They may find you using tools provided by job boards, but they will learn about you from your LinkedIn profile. So, searching for graphic designer jobs at LinkedIn is a good companion approach to applying for jobs through a massive jobs board like Indeed.
The big job boards may have more listings, but LinkedIn has useful features to assist you in your job search. Those include the same search options as the big job boards (job title, location, and options like remote, how recent the posting is, and sorting options).
One-stop shopping: networking + job hunting
LinkedIn pairs job board features with tools like comparing your resume and skills to other applicants, and suggestions on how you can improve your chances of landing the job you’re aiming at. These features cost money, but we’ll get to how to handle that. And LinkedIn provides one-stop shopping for employers: they can easily access your LinkedIn profile (which you should maintain as an important part of your job application assets) as they examine your application.
After you click on the Apply button for any job on LinkedIn, you’ll be prompted to upload your resume. Look over your resume before submitting it, and update or correct it if necessary. Save it in PDF format and attach it.
You’ll note that LinkedIn prompts you to “follow” the company to which you are applying. That’s obviously a bit of product placement from the folks at LinkedIn to build their own community, but it’s also a good idea. Following a company keeps you tuned in to announcements from management that clue you in to particular skills and assets they are looking for in graphic designers.
Like other job boards, LinkedIn allows you to set alerts to let you know when job postings for graphic designers that fit your defined filter show up.
Here, it’s worth a word on features available for job hunters who pay for LinkedIn Premium. Those include tips on when you’d be a “top applicant” to a posted job.
You also get access to LinkedIn Learning’s massive set of tutorial videos on just about any skill. So, if a job requires knowledge of Illustrator’s export-to-SVG features, you can cram with a video and add that skill to your resume before submitting it.
About LinkedIn Premium. Honestly, it’s pricy. But at the very least, the free one-month trial is definitely worth it for job hunters. There are different versions of paid “LinkedIn Premium,” subscriptions, but when in job hunting mode, the best bet is Premium Career. This level of subscription provides access to private browsing that makes it possible for you to review profiles of someone you might be applying to or interviewing with, without being identified to them. And this subscription level provides information about people who viewed your profile as well as unlimited looks at other profiles.
The competitive analysis included in Premium Career is particularly valuable as it helps you size up your skill set (and figure out how to improve it) compared to other applications to jobs you are interested in.
A subscription to LinkedIn Premium costs hundreds of dollars a year, but you might get more than your money’s worth out of a subscription for a few months while applying for jobs. The LinkedIn Premium Career subscription helps get your profile highlighted when applying for jobs, and you get valuable insights into who is looking at your profile.
Here’s a suggestion: get the one-month free trial. Yes, the trial subscription ends after a month (actually, it turns into a paid subscription if you don’t cancel it). So mark the one-month date in your scheduling app to cancel if need be, but get your “money’s worth” out of Premium Career during the all-important first month of your job hunting journey.
Engage but don’t troll
Another dimension of LinkedIn as a job-hunting venue is the ability to message potential employers.
And even without Premium features, a bit of detective work at LinkedIn can identify people worth networking with at a company you have targeted to focus on in your search for a graphic designer job.
That said, proceed with caution on this. Don’t abuse connections by bombarding them with requests to hire you.
Finding a local graphic designer job on Craigslist
Craigslist is an outlier in the graphic design-hunting arena. It lacks many of the helpful features of sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. You can filter for things like remote work, part-time positions, and internships. But don’t expect millions of listings, networking features, easy resume uploading, or other tools that make job hunting less hassle.
But Craigslist has two features that make it worth including in your job search: cost, and location. Postings at Indeed can easily run an employer $25 to $50 per day (Forbes, 2022) on a single job ad. That can be prohibitive for a small business. By contrast, employers can post jobs for 30 days on Craigslist for as little as $10. And Craigslist is a valuable resource for local-only job searches.
Graphic design positions in cities with burgeoning graphic design communities that are not on the “Top 10” list of centers of graphic design (San Francisco, New York City, Berlin, Toronto…) can be buried at big job sites.
And even in big cities, there are graphic designer positions where location is critical. If a small design shop is looking for a polite, motivated, organized, creative English/Spanish bilingual graphic designer who lives near either end of the 3rd Avenue Bridge linking the South Bronx and Harlem, they might not find it worth the time and money to invest in reaching the 250 million people who search Indeed around the world every week (some job postings are free to employers on Indeed but “sponsored” postings that provide more value to employers cost money).
If you’ve decided that your first graphic designer job must be with an employer on the level of Apple, Tesla, or Tom Ford, skip Craigslist. But if you’re looking to break into the business, open to part-time, and looking to leverage unique assets (like bilingualism or proximity to an employer’s office), Craigslist may well be an important part of your search for a first graphic designer job.
Proceed with caution
One downside of Craigslist, and it is a serious issue, is the almost total lack of regulation. Indeed, LinkedIn, and other job networking or posting sites maintain safeguards to monitor and regulate who is posting jobs, and protecting your privacy. That “monitoring,” such as it is, is done by volunteers at Craigslist.
What that means is: proceed with caution. You can find some hidden gem jobs at Craigslist, but you can also more easily be scammed. The article 10 Ways to Determine If A Craigslist Job Posting is Legitimate includes these useful tips:
- Avoid jobs that have been posted weeks, let alone months ago. Legitimate job postings will likely fill faster than that.
- Do not share any of your own financial information (like checking account numbers).
- If a job feels creepy, it is creepy, avoid it.
- Research the hiring company independently using LinkedIn and Glassdoor or other online resources
- Search big job boards like Indeed to find jobs and apply online.
- Make the job application process a learning experience by studying job requirements and enhancing your skillset with new classes or certificate programs like the ones available from Noble Desktop.
- Search and apply for jobs on LinkedIn, and avail yourself of a one-month free trial of LinkedIn Premium.
- Consider a careful, cautious survey of local graphic designer jobs posted on Craigslist.
- Review your resume, update it and improve it iteratively as you survey posted requirements for graphic designer jobs.
- Update and improve your portfolio as you review the projects you created in class.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile updated with new skills.
- Prepare for interviews, you never know when you’ll get one!