Jed Bridges - The strategy of being a generalist


Jed Bridges shares his advice on pursuing a career as a design generalist. From how a broad skill set can open doors to what to do when you work for larger companies, this episode includes loads of tips to help you reconsider the meaning of jack of all trades entirely! Read the blog below and listen to Jed’s great advice in the full episode!

🏃🏻‍♂️ Looking to become highly employable right out the gate and flexible in your future?

Collect experience and knowledge in multiple areas of design to give you a chance to find a job that will allow you to grow in a direction that fuels you. Expanding your knowledge will provide you with the skills you need to move towards your passions in design.

👏 Don’t get caught up in the misconception of being a generalist!

It is a common misconception that being a generalist means you employ every skill on your broad skill set at one role at one time. That would be chaos, and the thought can be extremely intimidating! Typically a generalist would only employ 2-3 skills for a role at one time, but if you have the skills available to you, they will help you along the way to grow in new directions along your career path.

💡Get started now on finding the RIGHT mentor for you!

Only you know the direction you want to go in your career and life. By taking the time to find the right mentor, you can change the trajectory of both! Look for someone that you admire for their professional and personal life. Are they living the life you want in ten years in both of those areas? If so, they are probably the right mentor for you!

The strategy of being a generalist

In episode 22 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Jed Bridges, who is currently a digital designer working on products and digital experiences during the day. At night he works on traditional print design, graphic design, and personal projects.

During Jed's career, he has collected a lot of great advice to help product designers at any stage of their careers. He shares what to focus on during your education and what not to do in an interview. He also sheds some light on finding the right mentor for you and the best approach to different job opportunities. This episode is packed with advice to help you along your career path.

How Jed found an interest in design

When Jed was in high school, he was interested in music and played different types of music in several bands. To promote the bands he was in, he dabbled in design to create posters, cd covers, websites, and other promotional materials. Creating these designs for his bands gave him a good mix of digital and print design experience that came out of the necessity of helping run the bands.

During this time, he also worked at a restaurant washing dishes and took on some freelance clients where he found consistent, repetitive design work each month. He soon realized that he could make a lot more money doing design than washing dishes, so he went all-in on design and enrolled in the Art Institute of California in San Diego after high school.

Jed’s strategy behind pursuing a career as a design generalist

In the design community, there are a lot of discussions around becoming a generalist or a specialist. Jed came into his career in design with a varied set of skills in print, brand, and digital design and continued to expand his knowledge in numerous directions. He has worked freelance and for a range of different-sized companies, from startups to large corporations.

During our interview with Jed, he shared a few things he has learned along his career path and his strategy behind pursuing a long-term career as a design generalist.

👏 Becoming a design generalist makes you highly employable.

Having a broader set of skills is a great way to help you find a job when you start looking. Many startups are bootstrapped, and if you have the skills to support numerous efforts in that environment, you will become more valuable.

💪Give yourself the ability to flex towards your passions as they change during your career.

As you expand your skills, you will continue to be exposed to different design aspects. Along your career path, your passion may change from one area to another, and if you have exposure to print, brand, and digital design, you can flex your career path to follow what you enjoy.

“If you're a designer working at a big company, try and orient yourself to have some actual impact that you can speak to when your time ends there.”

🔥Being a generalist doesn’t mean you employ your entire broad set of skills at one time for one role.

It means you have various tools available to use for specific moments during your career path. Typically you would only employ 2-3 of your skills for any given role. Being a generalist allows you to be flexible to support your team and company with the varied skills you have collected that best suit the specific role.

🧠When you become a generalist, you establish a strong trajectory of learning.

Having a solid understanding of graphic design history, you know what preceded the medium in which you work. Establishing the base knowledge from previous mediums will give you the ability to understand and identify the patterns of emerging mediums. If you know how design has gotten to where it is today, you can figure out where it will go in the future.

What to get started on early in your career

During our interview with Jed, he shared countless pieces of advice, including how to overcome imposter syndrome and what not to do in an interview. Jed shared three pieces of advice based on what he wishes he would have done earlier in his career. These pieces of advice, if put into action, will get you started in the right direction early in your career.

Identify your personal morning ritual for the start of your workday.

Typically any individual process that exists for a specific company will not fit into what helps you get the best start to your day. Instead of starting a new job and asking how they get started each day, identify how you work best and set the flow for your day. Creating your own process will help you move to different companies since a process established at a specific company will not likely transfer to another.

💡 Pick the right mentor for you.

If you ask someone to be your mentor, chances are they will say yes, but are they the right mentor for you?

Best approach to finding the right mentor:

🤔 Think about what you want your life to look like in ten years, both professionally and personally. Do they have a happy life outside of work, in addition to the career goals you would like to have?

👉 Find someone who has the life you hope to grow into in both of those areas.

💡 Become financially literate.

The sooner you decide to understand how your money can change your future, the better off you will be. Getting a jump on your financial freedom will open up opportunities down the road.

Where to start:

💵 Save and invest money, ensure you have a rainy day fund if you ever get laid off.

📈 Understand how stocks work and plan your time at a company around vesting periods.

Thank you so much, Jed!

It was awesome talking to Jed about how his career as a generalist has opened so many doors for him. Hearing his take on his chosen career path will help so many other people who find an interest in multiple areas of design. We are so thankful that he shared so much valuable advice on finding your way in the design industry.

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes a deeper dive into Jed’s career path as well as his perspective on interviewing and what not to do in an interview.

Don't forget to follow Jed and watch as he continues to expand his knowledge in design along his career path. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, as well as dribbble and his website!

Where to find Jed

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