By this time you should have a good understanding of what you should be doing and what most people are looking for out of a junior Designer. I’m going to describe what you should be expecting when you arrive at your first job and what to do for the first couple of weeks.
The information in this post is highly biased towards a larger company. I did this because I want most Junior Designers to find a position in one as their first job if possible. If you are starting in a smaller company, you will have to filter a bit of this post.
At Shopify we have a concept called circles of impact. It’s a little managementese, try to ignore that, but it’s a term we use to describe how you affect those around you. As a student, you are a party of one. Even group projects in educational systems don’t properly prepare you for the circles of impact you’re going to be a part of when you reach a company.
For example, at Shopify, any Designer is part of the following circles:
Many junior Designers have a habit of only focusing on one circle–their own. While this may work for some time, ultimately, you will be judged on how well you work within an organization so focus on increasing your value to your outer circles.
As you become more confident in your skills, you’ll find that you can extend even further. This is generally the path to being recognized as a leader in most organizations. The more confident and skillful you become, the more circles in which you get recognized for what you do.
Spend some time outlining your organization’s circles of impact and getting to know the people within that. This will help you give you a good footing on the type of people you’ll be working with on a day to day basis. Outside of design, these following disciplines exist:
There may be other specialized roles at your company that I don’t particularly know of. If that’s the case, you’ll have to figure out what the best questions to ask are. There are always questions. Find them.
I’ve said it about three times now but it bears repeating: communication is the most important part of your role. This will be the most important skill you’ll learn throughout your entire life, and I say that, because I learned this lesson the hard way.
You should be able to explain what’s going on in your head. You can practice this through writing and explaining to yourself simple things like, “What will I buy at the grocery store?” or “What happened at work today?” You can also explain to yourself what you’re learning on a day-to-day basis, but you don’t particularly need to feel pressured to publish it.
A good example is Reddit’s ELI5 sub-reddit. The acronym stands for Explain It Like I’m Five, which is a great target to aim for. You should be able to explain any complex problem or solution to any teammate at any time in a way that makes sense to them. They cannot help you if you cannot explain it well.
Design is a career in which you can design the future within reason. You cannot always have your way and it’s unlikely, as a junior, that you will. Nothing in the field is black/white or right/wrong. There is just right, for now, in this context.
There are many datapoints you will come across in your assignments and projects. Datapoints doesn’t refer to just things that deal with our traditional idea of what data is (numbers and metrics). Data can also be qualitative (opinions from users), your exec’s mandates on where the business is going (business strategy), or even your personal subjective wants based on your research (don’t mistake this for ego). You should not build anything while only looking at one datapoint.
Keep yourself open to solutions and focus on the problem.
This concludes my graduation series. Good luck with the start of your career, Design is a fantastic industry to build a life in. If this was helpful to you, please share these articles with your fellow classmates or tweet me love notes.