Only senior-level roles out there? Breaking into the design industry as an entry-level web designer?

Hi all! I made a career switch in the last year to web design.

I have a lot of transferable skills, having worked in the nonprofit realm, for-profit sector, and co-founded a startup. The pandemic made it challenging to continue the startup, so, I fell back on skills I learned in creating the business - brand identity and web design work. I took an intensive bootcamp for visual design in the fall while freelancing on the side.

I really love this line of work and I'm excited to continue digging in and growing as a designer. The trouble is, I don't see a lot of entry-level roles out there! There are so many companies looking for senior-level hires. I've been job hunting for nearly 4 months, applied to close to 300 jobs, had a few interviews, and have had no success yet...which isn't entirely suprising given I'm mostly applying to senior-level roles! I'm sure that eventually, there will be someone willing to take a chance on me. But in the meantime...

My questions are two-fold:

1. In other industries, are you seeing mostly senior-level roles? Is there a general shortage of entry-level roles?

2. Does anyone know of any companies specifically looking for entry-level designers? I'm open to internshipins and apprenticeships but I don't fall into the category of college grad.

Thanks for any feedback you can provide! :)

codev91's profile thumbnail
In my experience, almost all companies are more interested in hiring people with directly relevant work experience, for the simple reason that it is time consuming to train someone who hasn't worked in your industry before. In my experience breaking into tech from a non-tech background, the best way to get around this requirement is by networking and finding niche areas where your skillset from your prior job / training, align with what the company is trying to do. In your case, this may be trying to get in with a non-profit doing web design as a stepping stone or something like that. When I was trying to make the career leap, I set a goal for myself to go to one industry networking event / meetup per week. Though this was exhausting, it paid off. When you meet people, make sure to tell them exactly what you are looking for (even if you aren't that sure, say it with confidence), and ask if they know anyone in the area you are trying to get into that they could connect you with (this is helpful as it gets around you asking them directly for a job, making it less awkward for you and them) - if they are looking for someone like you they will probably tell you. Finally, ask for something specific. Don't say "I'm looking to get into web design", say something like "I want to do web design for a non-profit working to fight homelessness" or " I am really interested in this specific technology for X reason and looking for companies that will enable me to grow more in that area". Even if you don't want to do that thing exactly, it is helpful for people to connect you with potential opportunities when you make this specific ask, and also helps them view you as a person with a specific skillset, rather than a generic web developer. Also, if someone can't offer you a job right now, try to do informational interviews with as many people as possible. You never know when an opportunity might open up or what advice / connections they might offer.
kemikelsons's profile thumbnail
Hi @codev91-thank you so much for your advice! I like your thoughts on getting really specific with what I'm looking for. I've been trying to network and do as many informational interviews as I can which has been a great way to learn more about the industry. Less successfully, I've tried getting connected to live networking events/meetups. I'm guessing groups are just starting to slowly get back together in light of the pandemic. But I'll definitely keep looking out for groups. Anyway, I appreciate you chiming in! :)
codev91's profile thumbnail
Yeah definitely harder post pandemic unfortunately, but it does seem like they are starting to pick back up again! Another thought is that as a web dev you may be able to get contract work, so maybe you could build up 6mo - a year of experience doing that until you can find a permanent role
kemikelsons's profile thumbnail
Hey @codev91! Yeah my thought is if I don't get a job soon, I'll probably start working on my UX design skills. That seems to be a really hot market right now and compliments web design. I have a little bit of web dev experience but could certainly amp that up. Thanks for your thoughts!
maryannzykin's profile thumbnail
Do you have front-end web development experience as well? What roles are you specifically looking for (i.e. "Web Designer" vs. "Web Developer", "UI/UX Designer", etc.)?The visual design part is obviously super important, but many web designer roles require front-end development experience (or, at the very least, being able to build out your mockups in WordPress). If you have that front-end experience, try looking for front-end dev roles since they often require visual design skills as well. You'll find the visual design role separate from the developer role only at agencies or large corporations—most small to medium size businesses need someone that can handle both sides of the web coin (at least in my experience).I typically see entry-level roles at agencies, which would be a good way to break into the industry and get some experience working with a creative team. Big caveat though, a lot of agencies are mismanaged facades, so definitely be diligent in the interview process if you choose to go this route.By the way, I'm a former in-house web designer turned full-time independent. Feel free to DM me if you want to chat further; I'd also be happy to review your portfolio/website :)
kemikelsons's profile thumbnail
Hey @maryannzykin! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my message. I'll go ahead and DM you. I'd love to connect and chat more about this. :)