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Brian Lin - When a Bootcamp doesn't lead to a job

Highlights

Brian Lin shares his advice on where to focus your energy as you prepare to look for a job, whether or not you have gone through a Bootcamp! This episode covers so many hot topics in the product design industry today, from how to take it upon yourself and get prepared for the job you want to what hiring managers expect from junior and senior-level designers. Read the article below and listen to more of Brian's great advice in the full episode!

🔥 Stop comparing yourself to senior-level designers and give yourself the green light to start!

Brian shares the biggest pitfall he sees in aspiring or new designers: reading and consuming information without applying anything they have learned. He also believes people hold themselves back by comparing themselves to senior-level designers.

💡 Don’t expect a Bootcamp alone to prepare you for a potential job.

Bootcamps can be great, but most miss the essential aspect of foundational design. To be a good product designer, you must understand color theory, hierarchy, and other fundamentals. Do not forget that when you are busy learning to talk to customers and work on wireframes.

🚨 Get to the point in your portfolio.

Hiring managers do not have time to dig for the highlights of your portfolio. Make it easy for them by showcasing exactly what you want them to see first. Encourage them to dig deeper if they are interested in what they see at first glance!

When a Bootcamp doesn’t lead to a job

In episode 25 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Brian Lin, Director of Product Design at Lunchbox, where he oversees product design and product research teams.

Brian has been in the game for over twenty years and has witnessed the evolution of product design firsthand. This episode brings tons of advice straight from a hiring manager's perspective, which will help you regardless of what level you are at in your product design career path.

How Brian got his start in design

When Brian was in middle school and high school he was part of the first or second cohort of a pilot program in Toronto called CyberArts. He found an early interest in design because this program injected art and technology into the core studies like geography and history. The curriculum was advanced and provided him with college-level skills at the high school level. When he realized this, he began working right away and had a steady flow of work coming in when the industry was just emerging.

Over the years, he recognized a shift in focus to creating experiences through the web and spacial interaction, which eventually led him to become a product designer. At one point, he opened a boutique agency with one of his partners, which brought even more experience for Brian. Within about ten years after they closed the agency, he moved through several other areas, including gaming, fintech, health tech, food tech, and culture tech.

How to level up and get noticed

Brian saw an opening when he first started, so he hit the ground running and has been able to collect so much valuable advice during his 20+ year career. He shared some things that he tells aspiring and junior level designers so they can follow in his successful footsteps.

🏁 Just get started!

So many new and aspiring designers spend so much time reading and consuming information, but they get stuck when it comes time to apply their learning. Start creating and building and know that it is ok if it sucks because that is part of the process!

🚫 Stop comparing yourself to influencers.

With social media and the immediate access to so many senior-level product designers and their work, it is easy to be discouraged in the early stages of your career path. Instead, have realistic expectations for yourself and your ability to grow. Realize that as a practitioner of this craft, you will always be learning and growing, and over time your skillset will improve and expand accordingly.

💡 Don’t expect a Bootcamp alone to prepare you for a potential job.

Bootcamps tend to focus on processes and topics like talking to customers and how to wireframe. Something that is missing is the visual component and design fundamentals. You need to fill in those gaps and learn as much as you can on the visual side of design. Learn about things like color theory and visual hierarchies and understand how to put things together in a way that looks nice and is sustainable.

“The biggest pitfall I see a lot of young designers or aspiring designers fall into is they don't start. They're just constantly reading and reading and consuming and consuming, but it's like none of that has been applied.”

🚨 Make your portfolio stand out!

Hiring managers could be looking at hundreds, if not thousands, of portfolios during the hiring process. Think about how you can make yours stand out based on your work, regardless of whether you are a junior or senior level designer.

What to avoid: -Cookie-cutter portfolio with a linear design process will not help you stand out. -Writing essays in your case studies. Hiring managers don't have time to dig for the highlights.

What to embrace:-Blow out the main points you want the hiring manager to look for and encourage them to dig deeper into your portfolio to learn more about you. -Take the extra step and build something that demonstrates your competency to catch the eye of a hiring manager and make it through to an interview.

Hiring Manager’s expectations for juniors versus seniors

Brian has been involved in the hiring process for several companies and has some excellent advice for those looking to get a new job in product design. Whether you are just starting or have been in the game for a while, here are some things to keep in mind regarding what a hiring manager expects from product designers who want to join their teams.

Junior-level designers are expected to learn and execute.

You must demonstrate a solid foundational understanding of design, including color theory and hierarchy, to be considered for hire. When you land your first job, you will be expected to continue learning through execution. You will receive direction on what is expected from seniors and managers, and you will need to execute. You will also need to gather information to execute what is expected to the best of your ability. You will do this by working with other functions, including sales, customer support, etc.

👏 Senior-level designers are expected to be the champion for the intermediate and junior designers on their team?

Senior-level designers have a greater scope of impact. Over the years of their career, they have collected a more extensive range of situational awareness. This awareness allows them to be hyper-attuned to looking for opportunities to help and lead other senior and junior designers. In addition, senior-level designers can hop into a project and quickly assess what needs to be done next and how to get to the finish line most effectively. They also have the trust and the influence to decide when to break the design process. They can articulate the value strategically, tactically, and experientially why it makes sense to break the mold.

Thank you so much, Brian!

This episode was fantastic and packed with such valuable advice straight from Brian. Hearing what he has to say will help so many people to take a step back and evaluate where they need to begin working to fill in the gaps they have as they continue along their product design career path. We are so grateful that Brian took the time to share his perspective and advice on so many hot topics in the design industry right now.

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes an in-depth overview of Brian's career path and perspective on what design looks like in an agency versus big organizations with high design teams. Don't forget to follow Brian on LinkedIn and Twitter and keep an eye out for what else he has to say about the hottest product design industry topics!

Where to find Brian

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