I don’t have a degree in product design, yet here I am — a product designer

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Myspace profile images of me
My Myspace photos from yesteryear. You’re welcome.

I was a mess.

I was still “hacking” away on websites the entire time I was in college. I became better and better at web design on my own. But, again, I’m still self-taught, and my passion for web design was a late-night hobby. It never occurred to me that these lessons learned from all-nighters spent fixing bugs would be the ones that would shape me into the product designer I am now.

Another company was willing to take a chance on me and allow me to learn on the job.

I finally worked up the courage to apply to companies I felt were out of reach for my skills and experience. I was always prepared to fail. Then I sent my updated portfolio to Hulu, and they called me back! Frick yeah! I still get fired up about this moment in my life. Finally, yet another company was willing to take a chance on me and allow me to learn on the job. I was surrounded by many people infinitely more talented than myself, and I loved it. Not to mention, I was working on a product I actually used daily—bonus points.

The most beautiful things can come from your biggest failures.

I revamped my portfolio and began my job hunt once more. The recruiting rescue boats paddled out to the sea of LinkedIn and saw the public implosion of Cyanogen online. They began to survey the wreckage for survivors. These recruiters were passing out emergency life jackets to everyone who was laid off. I just so happen to post my portfolio to LinkedIn, and a Facebook recruiter reached out to me for an interview. I didn’t hesitate and booked my interview for the next day. I was employed once again, just before Christmas.

TL;DR:

Here’s what I hope you’ve learned from my story:

  • You can expect your early years as a designer to be a grind. It’s incredibly rare to land a dream job out of college. So expect to put in hard work to succeed.
  • Everyone’s career path will be different. Some will struggle more than others. Some will outright fail. Build resilience to increase your chances of long-term success.
  • Don’t choose a job for a big payout. Instead, choose a job because you believe in the mission of the company.
  • Take risks and apply for jobs you’re not qualified for.
  • Your network is where you’ll find your next job. So connect with as many designers as you can. Share your work and look out for one another.
  • Finally, your portfolio is a living creature. Take care of it by continually updating it and seek feedback to help you improve it over time.

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