This past fall, I was really itching to find a design job that would give me a bit more experience on my resume, while also allowing me to say goodbye to my retail job. Before the pandemic hit, I really enjoyed working retail — I liked interacting with the customers and I didn’t mind working those super long shifts that sometimes dragged on. When things started to open up again forcing me back to work, I was dreading it. Having to tell people 20 times a day to wear a mask over their nose began to take a toll. So, I decided to start my job search, praying that something would come along that would pay my bills for the time being.
The first job that I stumbled upon was an internship for a start-up. Their design work seemed nice enough from looking at their website. The interview went well & all — but during my interview was when they told me that this was not a paid position, but instead a “learning experience that would lead to future opportunities.” I decided to decline in the hopes that a paid opportunity would come along.
The second job that I interviewed for was a remote position in Boston for another start-up company. This time they were attempting to launch an app & website related to online gaming. Since I am a gamer girl myself, I was quite intrigued. What would follow was the most AWKWARD phone interview of my entire life. The interviewer asked me very few questions and I ended up taking the opportunity to clarify things myself since the interviewer was being very vague about what the job entailed. I straight up asked him if this job was a paid one, to which he replied, “At first no, but I promise that if things work out I will make sure that you get paid.” I was confused about his answer and to top it all off the interview ended with lots of unanswered questions. The following day, I received text messages from the guy who interviewed me saying that I got the position and that he wanted me to start straight away. He started sending me screenshots of logos from Google that he wanted me to take inspiration from. I politely declined and in the words of Simon Cowell, I told him that this job was also a ‘no’ from me. I mean, I never even accepted the job in the first place and was not about to work for free.
I was starting to give up hope at this point. I wasn’t hearing back from the other places that I had applied to and the ones that I did hear back from were complete duds. Then one day after I had thought all hope was lost, I got an email from the manager of Lawn Summer Nights, asking for an interview. I had applied to their job posting and their organization really intrigued me. They are a not-for-profit who organize lawn bowling events to raise funds for cystic fibrosis research. I had never designed for social good before, but I had a really good feeling about it; not to mention that in the job description it was stated that it was a paid position! I scheduled my interview with the manager and straight away, things clicked. It was a breath of fresh air having an interview that went so well and felt like a perfect fit. A few hours after the interview I got an official job offer and I could not have been happier.
I was very excited to help them launch their online store, as a large focus of the position was to design merch for them. I was also responsible for creating social media posts and working on graphics for their virtual trivia event, which was super exciting. As for the work experience itself, I really enjoyed designing for social good as it gave my work a greater sense of purpose and it felt fulfilling to me as a designer. I was also working on a team with a few other girls who were responsible for marketing and social media, as well as reaching out to potential sponsors. We all enjoyed the collaborative aspect of our work and bouncing ideas off of each other during our weekly meetings. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, as this was a contracted design position. I truly hope that I have the opportunity to design for them again someday. Either way, I learned a lot about time management and what to do when a creative block strikes during a tight deadline. I was tasked with coming up with new merch concepts each week, and sometimes I would struggle to come up with a design I was confident and proud of. Sometimes, I just had to go back to the drawing board and sketch out a bunch of ideas that came to my mind, even if I felt they would go nowhere. What resulted from this were designs that I ended up being very proud of. As for time-management, I really got into list making and colour coding the different tasks and deadlines that I had based on urgency. This helped me to plan out my weeks and to keep me from stressing too much about my deadlines. Sometimes when facing a creative block, it can feel unmotivating and overwhelming; however, I constantly had that drive to keep on pushing my creative juices forward because my work was for such a great cause.
This job opportunity has caused me to see design from a completely different perspective and I am very thankful for that. In the end, this was an experience that I will treasure forever, as it launched my passion to design for social good and allowed me to learn a lot about myself as a designer. The moral of the story is: when going through the interview process, trust your gut. In my experience, all the jobs that have worked out for me gave me great first interview vibes. And please, for your own good, do not take jobs that are unpaid for the ‘experience.’ You are so much better than that and with patience, more opportunities will come along that will treat you with respect and fairness. With graduation approaching, I hope that you all find a rewarding design experience like I did (if you haven’t already) that you will look back on and treasure forever.
Emily Zathey is one of the graduates of the York/Sheridan Program in Design class of 2021. Catch Emily’s work showcased at the online graduate showcase on April 20–21. Visit ysdn2021.com for more details.