I’m currently job seeking (as you might have heard before). Whenever people ask where I’m looking, and I describe what I’m doing, I consistently hear the phrase ‘You’re doing all the right things’.
This is comforting and frustrating at the same time. If I’m doing all the right things, why has it been two months with no paid work?
In those instances of frustration, I remind myself that it’s just a case of a Lior-shaped hole opening up in a service design agency somewhere – it’s a waiting game.
These are the things I’m doing that everyone else seems to think is a good approach:
Meeting people I’ve met before
I’ve already got a great network of contacts spanning product design, service design, social enterprises, critical design, and the positive psychology community. I’ve been getting back in touch with people I have met over the last few years, and meeting up and discussing their current challenges. I make it clear that I’m after work, and in the meantime, I signpost them to people and ideas that could help them in their work. I love to help connect up people – it brings me pleasure to help others on their journey – and I hope that in the future, some of those people might return the favour and connect me up with others – other people that have a job for someone like me.
Anything that’s free and interesting, I’m there. I’ve been to talks about robots, healthcare, radical democracy, social enterprises, and lots more. I meet a few people at every single event, and I always have plenty of quirky business cards on me. I go to an average of three talks a week.
I’ve been expanding my contacts network to activists recently, particularly those that want to redesign democracy. It’s noble and worthy cause which will take quite some time to realise. I’m interested in the role of designers in government.
Learning about new issues
I’ve taken an interest in open data and democracy and have attended multiple events on those issues. I’ve taken the opportunity to learn about these things with the extra time I’ve got. When I get back into work, I will be more informed about potential projects that come up.
This picture is of a talk by Roman Krznaric, a ‘cultural thinker’. I went because I am interested in how we as designers can use positive psychology theory to our advantage. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he is designing an Experience Museum with Service Design students at the RCA. Service design is growing! You never know where you might meet someone who could help you. I even met someone that redesigns public services in my yoga class.
Running a project that involves speaking to lots of people
I’m initiating more service design representation at the London Design Week 2014. This had lead me into situations where I talk to people that I might not have spoken to otherwise, and opens up opportunities for others. I hope it demonstrates my initiative. Currently I may have some opportunities up my sleeve that would interest you if you’re working as a service designer – please get in touch to find out more.
I can’t sit still and this project saves me from self-absorbed madness. I don’t like being all about self promotion – I want to create something of value to others.
Last time I didn’t have work, I made sure to get some graphic design commissions on a freelance basis. This meant that I could strengthen my graphics skills. I’m happy with my graphics skills at the moment – they’re at an appropriate level.
What I don’t know as much about is business strategy and coding. Knowing about both these things would help me communicate better with business people and coders. I’ve enrolled on a 10-day coding bootcamp with Skillcrush and I’ve bought Business Model Generation. I’m also reading This Is Service Design Thinking to refine how I articulate service design.
Asking for advice from many people
You know what they say already – you’re doing all the right things!
I’ve sought advice about how to pitch what I can do – some people like the tag ‘junior’ and some don’t. Also I have asked if there is anything I should be doing in order to get into a better position for work. The answer depends on the person: digital people tell me I should learn to code, business people tell me I should learn about business, service designers under other labels tell me to call myself a user experience designer.
Today I got a character assessment reflected back at me: can hold my own, work independently, personable, and bets I can be slightly scary. Humble and wise to point out areas I don’t have experience in and to look for work to learn. The scary bit made me laugh – while I have been told that I ‘step up’ to another level when I get challenged, it’s only my family and close friends that really know that I can be formidable!
Not spending acres of time on job applications
The more time you spend on job applications, the less time you spend meeting people and getting attention from a variety of places. Job applications are gambles with your time; with so much competition out there, it’s unlikely that you will get a job based on your application. There’s various figures out there about how many jobs are actually advertised: the consensus is that most jobs are not advertised, and found through networks instead.
Instead, I invest time in contacting specific people and organising meetings. Every so often I get told to apply to the company that my contact is working for. That kind of application – where they have already informally interviewed you – is much more likely to work. I’m afraid I don’t have any hard figures about that one, but it seems to be true from my personal experience.
Working from cafes rather than at home
Working from cafes makes researching, emailing and job applications feel like a job in itself. Yes I am buying coffee almost every day, which is not obviously money savvy for unemployed people, but in doing so I am buying the feeling of being at work. This helps me get a balance: it stops me from working when I get home, so I keep limits on what I do. I’m a jobless workaholic: I’ll create work for myself in the absence of work.
The alternative is to be at home all day, not be around people, and go crazy in my room. And it’s much cheaper than renting a studio, and I get to go on a coffee tour of London.
The other benefit of going out is that I frequently see people I know or meet new people when I’m out and about.
Lots of online self promotion
I have an events newsletter with a bit of news, I have this blog, and I live tweet like crazy at most of the events. That way I keep in people’s minds and hopefully when a job comes up, they let me know.
I’m vocal about what I want. I re-examine my ‘offer’ as an employee occasionally, and update my LinkedIn profile accordingly.
Enjoy things in the meantime
I don’t need to wake up super early and I completely control where I am, when. I control how much I spend time on various activities. So I make more time for my family, and allow myself pleasure in reading on occasion. I have flexibility to travel outside of London during the week. I can do things that make me happy without having to fit around a workplace’s time requirements.
I have to remind myself that I can spend more time not working, because I often have 12 hour days in meetings, events and research! I often don’t take an hour’s lunch break either…
So yes, I am using this time to learn how to not be a workaholic, as well as learn about new topics and skills, meet tons of wonderful people, explore London, have a think and shout about it.
PS if you think you have a job for me, or are also looking for new work and want to discuss strategies, or just want to introduce yourself, just say hi!