By Greg Detter, Senior Vice President, Robert Half
If you’re a digital designer, you probably know this already … you’re a hot commodity right now.
But that doesn’t justify career complacency. Hiring managers are most interested in creatives with up-to-the-minute skills, a keen understanding of consumer behaviors in the current market and a portfolio that screams, “I can add value to your brand from day one!”
As a digital designer, why not “design” or “redesign” your career to future-proof yourself? Here are a few tips to take your career plan from mockup to final product:
Polish your digital portfolio
Think of your digital portfolio as a kind of visual elevator pitch. Within one minute of opening it, a hiring manager needs to have a clear sense of your design style, brand (witty? edgy? socially conscious?) and preferred techniques for grabbing an audience’s attention.
For your portfolio to make this kind of impact, put your best foot forward. Whittle it down to your 10 strongest samples, cutting anything more than five years old or doesn’t represent your core strengths, industry experience and range. Add punchy, unambiguous captions that illuminate your creative strategy for each sample and highlight positive outcomes such as increased page views and customer conversions.
Recognize that your portfolio will always be a work-in-progress. Review, refresh and customize it every time you apply for a new position, aligning your samples with a potential employer’s house style and business strategy.
Keep tabs on what fields are hot
Don’t rule out considering another specialization. According to Robert Half research of marketing and creative leaders, the following areas of digital design and production are the hottest for hiring in 2022:
- Information architecture — A core skill for both content strategists and designers, information architecture focuses on the organization of information within digital products.
- Web and mobile design — Every business needs an online presence. Designers who can help companies stand out in the crowded digital landscape are highly sought after.
- User interface (UI) and interaction design — A UI designer can make or break a digital product because they are responsible for interactive elements such as buttons and text fields.
- User experience (UX) — UX designers leverage their understanding of consumer trends and usability principles to guide how a user interacts with a digital product.
Kick-start your professional development
Our research also shows 92% of creative professionals think their skills would be current and relevant if they had to look for a new job today.
But what about tomorrow? New roles are continually being created, and they demand innovative skills sets. In this extremely competitive market, employers are more willing to reskill or upskill existing staff who may lack the expertise they prefer for a certain position but who have the incentive to pursue path-breaking roles.
Here are some ways to supercharge your skills:
- Ask for stretch assignments — See if you can convince your manager to assign you projects and responsibilities outside your normal job description. Taking on such assignments can help build out your resume, motivate you to higher performance levels and prove to anyone watching that you’re agile and adaptable.
- Try creative cross-training — Pick a skill that interests you and spend some time each week shadowing a colleague who has mastered it.
- Find a mentor (inside or outside your organization) — Constructive feedback is critical in digital design, but your managers and colleagues won’t always have time to assess your works-in-progress. A mentor, on the other hand, can focus on giving you honest, specific and actionable advice.
- Consider a contract position — If you’re between projects or employers, don’t assume that your next great role will be a permanent one. Working as a contract professional is a smart way to keep your skills and portfolio current while continuing to explore longer-term opportunities.
Assess your salary
When surveyed by Robert Half, 65% of creative professionals looking for a new role said getting a salary bump was their main motivation. To benchmark your current compensation against industry and regional averages for digital design and UX roles, consult the Salary Guide from Robert Half.
If your pay is lagging behind similarly qualified peers, give your boss a chance to make things right before jumping ship. In the current hiring market, losing talent — and having to replace it — could be more costly to them than giving you a generous raise.
Digital creatives like to move fast, take risks and build one awesome product after another. It’s an exciting workstyle but may leave you little time to reflect on your overall career arc. Commit to spending an hour or more per week redesigning your brand and skill set. You may reap the rewards sooner than you think.
Follow Greg Detter on LinkedIn.