Every salaried professional would have thought of switching companies at some point in their life. Maybe sometimes. Maybe all the time. I had the same thought for almost a year and towards mid 2021, I decided to take action on it. Let me take you through my journey, my steps and my learnings.
When & why I decided to switch?
When? Well there is no straightforward answer to this. There wasn't a single point of time where I suddenly decided to start looking for a new job. It was through a series of pondering, explorations and conversations with other designers. Slowly, this decision came into form over a period of time.
Why? So then there were three factors which influenced me to start looking for a new job.
1.1 Wanted to explore a different domain
The current domain which I was working in was the semiconductor enterprise industry. I was working there for about 3.5 years. Though everything was going good, I was curious to explore another new domain. Especially, I wanted to switch to the consumer industry. I wanted to understand the way design is being handled there, learn and get that exposure. This was the one major factor which influenced me to take the decision to switch.
1.2 Working with a bigger team
The second main factor was the team composition. I have worked in two companies so far and in both the companies I was like one of the senior most designers. There are a lot of advantages to this but I also wanted to experience the other side of working in a more experienced team at some point. I didn’t have any much experienced designers above me from whom I can learn and get feedback from. A lot of people and non-design managers moulded me into a better professional. But the design skills I gained along the way were purely through self learning and interest.
I thought it was time for me to work with managers and experts in the design field. So that I could see in-person the characters and skills I should try emulating in the years to come. This factor of wanting to work with a larger design team, collaborating with more seniors and getting real-time feedback also prompted me to take the jump.
1.3 Market Timing
When I started looking around towards the end of 2021, hiring was going at a record pace. Every company was hiring designers and I felt I could definitely make use of this opportunity.
I was sure that I would be able to get a really good opportunity and the corresponding market salary due to the current hiring conditions. Salary was probably one of the least important factors out of these 3. But yes, it definitely did play a role.
So professionally these are the three factors. But am I personally ready? Am I ready to bear the consequences if I take a wrong decision? So this might seem like overkill but all these thoughts were running in my mind. But I was at the ripe age of mid-20s. I didn’t have any immediate dependence on myself from my family side. That reduced the anxiety of reconsidering my decision to some extent.
It gave me the freedom to explore my interest without any serious consequences or financial burdens. So even if I took a wrong decision in my career I would have some level of cushion to fall back on. That cushion won't last forever but it would give me some time to rectify a mistake.
For taking such big decisions in my life I follow a few simple frameworks which I will cover at the end of this article. This will be useful not just for your career but also for any personal decisions.
2. Prepping for job search
One shouldn't start interviewing right away. Here are few things which I did prior to that, which help you too.
2.1 Getting my portfolio ready
If you’re in the design field, then a portfolio is something which you should have for getting any new opportunities. It can be in any form but you should definitely have it.
Your portfolio will be your brand identity. I knew that all companies would ask for a portfolio or at least a few case studies for the interview stages. I did have a portfolio even before I started searching for a job but it was based on WordPress.
That was something which I put up temporarily and I didn’t get to design it to my maximum satisfaction. If you know about WordPress, then you will know that it is very difficult to customise it especially if you don’t know to code. There are a few good templates and themes out there which would have been more than sufficient for putting together a few case studies. But I didn’t feel like doing it. I wanted to have something customised which reflected my design expertise, personal brand and taste.
I explored a few options like Squarespace, Wix and a few other website builders. But again it was the same issue all over again. The amount of control and the level of customisation I had in those tools was very less. That’s when I decided to go with Webflow.
2.2 Learning & Building with Webflow
If you don't know about Webflow, it's a tool for writing HTML, CSS and JS in a visual and interactive way. I won’t go too much into detail on what it does and does not but I will link a few helpful resources down below:
So at this point, I didn't know how to use Webflow but I just knew what it does. I had seen a few tutorials before and I felt it was something that would be suitable for my needs and desires.
It also had its themes and templates but I didn’t use any of them. I decided to build from scratch. This would help me learn Webflow along the way as well. So this was both an advantage and a disadvantage. The reason is it took a much longer time to complete building my portfolio. And every time I had to make an iteration or change the design it just took an even longer time. But retrospecting on it, I don’t regret doing any of it. I am glad that I learnt the tool and so many other fun stuff along the way. I recommend that you learn it because it is such a powerful tool.
But if you're in a hurry and want to put together a portfolio in a very short period, then I won't recommend that you build from scratch. You could use any templates or go with other website builders. You could always come back and redesign the portfolio after you're done with your job search.
I did have my demotivated days during building my portfolio. If you are a designer you might know that we are never satisfied with the first design we create. So that was the same case with me and I kept on iterating it for months at a time.
So I started this process of building my portfolio around December 2020 and after three or four months I just had a very basic site without any case studies. And case studies were the most important part!
The reason is that I prioritised the other pages such as the landing page, About Me page etc over the case studies pages.
I don’t regret this because, though the case studies are important, the other pages are also important since one would be able to judge your capabilities and your personality through it. I did consider going back to a normal template website since this was taking too long. But it was just a temporary feeling. I knew that I wanted to deliver a portfolio that could portray the designer in me which a PDF or a template website could never do.
Landing Page, About Me pages etc are also as important as your case studies. They capture the viewer's attention, helps to portray your design skills indirectly and helps build credibility.
2.3 Putting together case studies
So I set some limits for myself and after arriving at a decent landing page and other pages, I started doing my case studies. I did spend some time in putting together a list of case studies which I found engaging. Some of these were recommended to be by industry professionals. Here's a list.
So writing case studies personally was stressful because all this time I was working in the enterprise industry which meant that I could not disclose any of my projects. So I had to cherry-pick and use some projects which I had done for some of my freelance clients and some in my previous jobs.
It was also baffling for me on having to structure my case study in the best manner for all possible use cases. Some resources prescribed a typical long structure and some advice to have a short case study. More like a story. But believe me, there is no perfect structure. Do your research and describe the work you have done in a manner that delivers the nuances of your effort in a few minutes. So this was the time I decided I wanted to get some expert feedback on the first draft of my case studies.
2.4 Talking to mentors
I reached out to several designers out there with a lot of expertise in this field. There is a platform called Amazing design people list (ADPList). Through this platform, I got to reach out to several designers and directly book a call with them. So this was one crucial step in my entire journey of career transition. I met with a lot of cool people.
Through them I got to learn from their own interview experiences, get feedback and tips. This was not just concerning the portfolio. It was regarding everything from presenting, telling a story, talking to recruiters, projecting myself better etc. I talked to almost 6 to 8 people and will highly recommend them to anyone looking for some guidance. Linking their ADPList profiles below:
Apart from the 1-1 sessions, I kept an eye out for group mentoring sessions which were also mighty useful.
And how did I choose these exact people to have a conversation with? I knew what kind of industry and what kind of company I want to go to next. So I chose my mentors who were working or have worked in such industries or in specific companies. So getting to know the type of industry or company you want to work in, not only helps you streamline the companies you apply to, but also helps you build your network with the right people.
2.5 Narrowing down on the company/industry I wanted to work in
So as mentioned before I wanted to shift to the consumer industry from enterprise. And after deciding the industry now I needed to narrow down on the type of companies I wanted to go to. I was sure that I wanted to work in a product company. And another criteria which I had in my mind was that it had to be a well-known company. This would help me a lot in gaining the exposure which I wanted and also might open a lot of doors in the future.
So these are all the requirements I had:
- Well known Consumer brand
- Product company
- A big design team going great designs and innovative solutions.
- Established company and not an early-stage startup
- Good culture and work-life balance
It may sound like a lot of criteria but with tons of companies out there, deciding exactly where you want to go next will help you a lot.
Again if you’re not sure what company you would want to go to next, just start researching all the companies out there. Understand what they do and know which one you find it interesting. Here again, talking to mentors industry professionals out there would be useful for you to know and gain that exposure.
So with these criteria in mind, I put together a list of all the companies which fit under this umbrella. I prepared a Kanban board with this list so that I could track my interview process.
Now that all the preparation has been done, it's time to hit the ground! Even if you think you're not ready, just start interviewing and improve along the way. Don't wait forever!
3.1 How did I land my interviews?
Now I have a list of potential companies I would love to work at. Now to the next stage of actually landing an interview. This task can be very difficult if you follow the traditional and old age methods such as applying on websites or LinkedIn. It doesn’t work. Especially if you’re applying to a huge company that might have tons of potential candidates, applying through websites will not get you noticed. As for Naukri and all the other job portals, I did not even try it.
After seeing a lot of helpful articles and videos, I understood networking and referral might be the best card I could play to land myself an interview.
Now let me tell you, I did not have much of a network. In the beginning, I did not know anyone who could refer me to the companies I wanted to work at. I was just starting to build my network.
There were two groups of people whom I approached. One group were design mentors and the other were designers through LinkedIn.
Mentors were the people with whom I were already in touch with to get feedback and guidance. I did not talk with them just for landing a referral. But they eventually did refer me to their companies. Or they circulated my profile with their network! I will always be grateful to these wonderful people and the community.
Be genuine about your intentions, your strengths and weaknesses with the mentors in this community and I can guarantee that they will mould you into a better person and finally help you get a job too!
Now to get referrals with some of the other companies, I texted few designers through LinkedIn. I was open with my request for referrals and did not beat around the bush. Make sure to attach your resume and portfolio along with your messages. Because how else can they know that you’re a designer worth referring to?
Don’t be afraid to approach designers however senior they are, whether they know you or not etc.
If you don’t ask for it, you will never get it.
You definitely won’t get replies to all your messages. But you can definitely optimise your messages for the maximum possibility of getting a response. Just do your google research and you would get tons of best practices and templates message which you can customise for your need.
One of the interesting experiences I had was when I texted a director of design at a huge company. I did not get a reply from her but instead, she directly forwarded my profile to the recruiting team. And I got the call the very next day!
Also don't forget to update your LinkedIn status to 'Open for new opportunities'. A lot of recruiters got in touch with me as a result of this.
3.2 The scheduling stress
The timing of your interviews plays a crucial part especially when you’re interviewing at multiple companies at the same time. Let’s say you end up getting selected in Company A and you’re also interviewing at Company B. Typically a company gives you just 2-3 days to consider their offer and give your acceptance. If Company B’s interview rounds are taking time and yet you have to reply to Company A’s offer, this is the time that might stress you out.
And I frankly did my best to streamline the schedule.
In an ideal world, you would start interviewing at companies starting from the company you want to work at the most, get to know the result and then move on to the next company. But practically, that is next to impossible unless you're ready to wait a long time.
The problem is you won’t necessarily get the interview call immediately. You can’t wait forever for your priority company to reply. And even if you get called for an interview, there’s no saying how long the interview process might take. It can be a week, a month, two or more. If this is not your dream company and the only ever company you want to move to next, then it’s not efficient to wait around for the process to complete. You do have to try your hand at multiple companies simultaneously.
I ended up interviewing at companies I wanted to take up last, right upfront. I had to interview at some of my 2nd option companies first just because I did not get the interview calls from my 1st priority companies soon enough. In the end, I had to turn down their offers which were hard. In a way, this was not fair to the companies and as well as to myself. This is one thing I would try to do better whenever the same time comes up again next.
3.3 Interview Rounds
From the experience of interviewing at some great companies, these were the rounds that were typically conducted:
- Portfolio Review (Conducted in all companies)
- Design Assignment and Review
- Whiteboarding Round
- General Discussion
Depending upon the company, there might be some more additional rounds such as PM discussion etc.
Linking some resources which were useful in helping me prepare for the interview rounds:
Gojek it is!
Finally, after many months of portfolio building, preparation, interviewing, I’m over the moon to receive an offer for a Senior Product Designer role at Gojek!
Tying back to my initial needs:
- ✅ Well known Consumer brand - Gojek is one of the biggest consumer brands in SE Asia
- ✅ Product company - With multiple products in its kitty, Gojek is a Product company!
- ✅ A big design team Doing read designs and innovative solutions. - I had been following their design blogs and their designs for quite some time. I knew there were a lot of designers and I had been generally impressed by the importance they give to design.
- ✅ Established company and not an only start-up - It’s been around for more than a decade and is a decacorn.
- ✅ Good culture and work-life balance - I did my due diligence, talked to some of my mentors, did online research etc & felt that Gojek was a company I could count on for a great culture and WLB.
Here’s hoping for a wonderful journey at Gojek filled with learnings, new experiences and some great designs. Wish me luck!
- If you’re curious and always wondering about how is it to work for your dream company, then the only way you can satisfy your curiosity is to take the jump and see for yourself.
- When I first decided to switch, there were certainly a lot of things running around in my mind. The positives in my then company far outweighed the areas wherever I felt it lacked. So would I be switching just hoping that the grass is greener on the far side? Or is it a good decision to switch for the reasons mentioned above? If you’re in a confused state of mind, then I would suggest that you follow a simple approach to take the right decision.
Consider whether the decision you’re going to make is reversible or not. For example, if you do decide to switch companies and you find that it was a bad call, how far would it affect you? Would you be able to reverse the decision and get back on track quickly? If you think you can, then the decision is certainly reversible and you can very well go ahead and switch. This is after you know the company you’re switching to ticks all the boxes at least from the outside.
Regarding it being irreversible, there are very few instances where a career switch can be irreversible. If you don’t burn any bridges and not behave unprofessionally in any instance, that is. However, it can be considered irreversible if the time/resources taken to reverse it is huge. Let’s say you cannot survive even a month in your new company and decide to resign. If it takes 4 months for you to get another job and you/your family cannot handle those 4 months without your income, then it can be considered irreversible.
So, consider all the pros and cons, do your due diligence and consider this simple decision-making approach.
- The Design community is a wonderful group of people helping one another out. Find the right people & converse with them. Work with them if possible. Give yourself a chance for growing leaps and bounds in your career and life.
- If you won’t ask for it, you will never get it. Ask for that salary bump. Ask for that referral. Ask for whatever you think you want to grow more (as long as it’s reasonable). Don’t expect people to come over and give you opportunities. Meet those people and carve out opportunities for yourself.
Thanks for reading this really, really long article folks! If you jumped straight to this section, thank you to you too! ;)