There comes a point in every designer’s life when it’s time to look for a new gig

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Photo of a woman in a baseball cap on a ledge looking out over a river between 2 mountains

That new position may be a promotion. It may be a hop to another company. It could be due to a downsize and a layoff. Or your role may have shifted into something you’re not passionate about, or that isn’t giving you the opportunity to grow professionally. Regardless of the reason, you can’t stay in the same role your entire life. (Well I guess you could, but where’s the fun in that?!)

When the time to jump strikes, and you’re ready to start searching, the job application process can be completely paralyzing.

Why? Because if you flip through designer job postings you’ll encounter bulletpoint requirements ranging from Graphic design to interaction design to front end development to user research to usability testing, IA and content strategy. What’s the result of this crazy range of requirements? Designers suddenly feel under qualified.

I had a chat tonight with someone who works at a huge corp. In the past year the person grew their design program from nothing to a fully functional design thinking focused org. This person is a legit rockstar.

Unfortunately their team was axed during a huge layoff, so this person was put in a position in which they could either accept a role building out a brand new product team in another division from scratch, including creating their entire design system, workflows and processes, or the person could take a few weeks severance and search for a new job.

This extremely experienced, incredible designer told me that they were feeling inadequate and not skilled enough to take the position. They also expressed feeling the same when they reviewed other job posts. I was STUNNED.

They said they didn’t have enough experience in all of the other areas of design to feel comfortable taking on the gig.

So here’s the thing. There are about 3 people in the entire design industry that are truly experts in every single area of design.

It’s crazy to expect that of any one human. If a company is looking for a single generalist who is an expert in every area of design, they’re nuts. At best people who specialize and have adequate knowledge in other areas will apply, and possibly kick out some rapid studying and learning to polish areas they’re weak in.

Experts in some areas of design with tons of experience in their specialty are feeling the same way that new and intermediate designers feel looking at new job descriptions.

Seeing all of those requirements tossed together makes a majority of people applying for the same jobs you’re looking at, even veterans, feel just as under qualified as you feel. Especially veterans who’ve been using older tech and languages. Don’t let it get you down.

If you’re really passionate about a gig with a wild job description, apply and then clarify the daylights out of the job requirements when you get into the interview.

Be clear about your existing skill set and the areas you hope to grow in during your interview.

Sometimes companies just rattle off a grocery list of buzzwords they’ve seen other companies use in their job requirements list without actually understanding what they mean.

Next up on the job application fear list: There will almost ALWAYS be something in the job requirements list that would push you professionally and that’s a GOOD thing. When you’re looking for a new job, don’t apply for a job doing only the things you’re amazing at.

If there is nothing in the job description that you’re a little uncomfortable with, you’re not applying for the right job.

Career progress takes professional growth opportunities.

If you’re always the most skilled designer in the room, you’ll never grow.

Apply for jobs that will help you reach your long term professional goals, not jobs that will only allow you to do the things you’re already extremely skilled at.

Last up, unfortunately for people in our industry, when you come into a company at an entry level salary, it can be nearly impossible to get an internal pay raise that matches your skill set once you’ve really grown professionally and gained more experience.

There are of course exceptions to this rule, but a majority of the time you need to job hop to land a raise that aligns with your enhanced skill set.

Obviously money is never the most important aspect of a job (unless you really need it), but being paid less than you’re worth is a garbage situation.

If you really like your team, give your company the opportunity to resolve the salary issue, but if they refuse, start searching for other opportunities.

The tech industry is a little weird in that job hopping is seen as normal behavior. A year or two at a company at the beginning of your career followed by a jump is the norm.

I could ramble on all night about this topic, but I’m going to wrap things up here.

Don’t get overwhelmed, just embrace the fact that you’ll never know everything there is to know about design — none of your peers ever will either.

It’s part of the fun of being a designer — you have to be firmly set in a lifetime leaner mindset to succeed.

Apply for jobs that will allow room for professional growth, not jobs you’re already an expert in.

Always push yourself. No one can move your career forward other than you, so own it.

If you’re willing to put in the time and hard work, the sky is the limit.

15 Tips To Help Your Application Stand Out

 

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Photo of a vibrant red leaf surrounded dead leaves by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

I get asked often what it takes to have a standout application when you’re applying at InVision, and what traits recruiters look for since they’re hiring for remote job opportunities. The hiring process at InVision has changed GREATLY since I interviewed here. Back then we only had 50 employees, so my interview was a chat with the director that contacted me about the job, then a chat with 2 VP’s then a chat with Clark himself, which I’ll fully admit was incredible. He’s just as awesome to talk to 1:1 as he comes across in interviews.

So, since I don’t have anything to do with our hiring now, but I know it’s something the community is really interested in learning more about, I sat down with a couple of our recruiters and hiring managers to find out what they look for when they’re reviewing candidates. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and there are always differences in opinion, but these are some common themes that came up during the conversations.

Here are 15 tips to get you started:

  1. If you’re applying for a designer position, do not submit a hideous generic resume and CV.
    You’re a designer, use your skills to make your resume and CV stand out from the rest of the crowd.
  2. For the love of all things holy, don’t submit an export of your LinkedIn profile as your resume.
    I had no idea that was a thing, but it is. The team here is hardworking, driven, and proud of the work we turn out as a result. Half-assery in your resume and CV are a no. Lack of effort in even applying here is a surefire sign that this isn’t the company for you.
  3. Make sure your portfolio is up to date.
    Update it BEFORE submitting your application. Many people applying at InVision haven’t applied for a job in years, they’re just so excited about the company that they’re giving it a shot, even if they’re happy where they are. I love it. And I get it. I haven’t touched my portfolio in about 900 years either, but having an out of date hideous portfolio will get you axed immediately. Clean it up and show what you can really do. It’s your one chance to stand out and make a great first impression. Make your mark.
  4. Give recruiters and hiring managers access to view your resume and portfolio.
    This completely blows my mind, but sometimes people submit portfolio links that are password protected (no big deal, people sometimes don’t want their current companies to know they’re applying elsewhere), but then they DON’T PROVIDE THE PASSWORD. 😑 Our recruiters are sifting through 1000’s of resumes and portfolios, it would be horrible if you were cut because you forgot to send your password. And don’t get me wrong, if there is someone who seems like an absolutely perfect fit based on resume, they may still take the time to fire off an email asking for your PW, but if your application was on the fence, this will push it into the rejection pile.
  5. Sending a resume that isn’t tailored to the job description at all is not a good plan.
    Don’t include a bunch of random skills that aren’t applicable. Skilled in Microsoft Office? That’s awesome if you’re applying for a role that requires that skillset. But if you’re applying for a design position, it’s not something you need to list in your things I’m amazing at section. Think of the recruiter as someone looking for a needle in a haystack. If you want to be that needle, you need to make sure you shine way brighter than the rest so they can find you.
  6. If you have past work experience that seems like it doesn’t apply, MAKE it apply.
    Flipped burgers at a fast food joint? Add a line about how it increased your ability to manage customer expectations in a high paced, intense atmosphere. Your past work experience has made you into who you are today. Explain how in a way that is applicable to the job you’re applying for.
  7. Don’t send a resume that is 987349875 pages long.
    These recruiters are scanning. Sending a 12 page resume doesn’t make you look impressive, it makes it look like you have issues communicating concisely.
  8. Inject your personality into your resume, CV and portfolio.
    Who are you? Obviously you can’t write a novel, so SHOW who you are. Think of your portfolio and your resume as a reflection of yourself. When they look at it, make it seem like they’re looking at you.
  9. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while so your projects aren’t recent, just explain that and show something you’ve worked on recently for fun in addition to your previous work.
    People have to leave the workforce for periods of time for a wide variety of reasons, it’s no big deal. Just make sure you’re representing yourself fully.
  10. If you worked on a project and it was terrible, don’t include it in your portfolio.
    You want to put your best foot forward. Your portfolio doesn’t need to contain every single project you’ve ever done, it needs to contain the best ones, that show what you can really do. Save talking about train wrecks for the interview process, since it’s often a question managers ask.
  11. In your cover letter, make it clear that you’re passionate about working here.
    If your cover letter sounds like a generic one you found on the internet, it will seem like you don’t actually want the job. Inject your personality, and tell why you think InVision is a great fit for you personally, and what we’re doing that excites you enough to make you want to join the team. What about the company mission resonates strongly with you?

The next question I’m usually asked is, “What kinds of traits do hiring managers look for?” Since I’m not a hiring manager I asked around to find out. These were the common theme:

  1. You need to be a self starter.
    Working at a fully distributed company means you have to be able to push YOURSELF forward. You’ll have a great team behind you as well, but there won’t be someone standing over your shoulder pushing you to get your work done at 100% quality. You need to have the personal drive to keep yourself accountable and on top of your game.
  2. You need to be able to ask for help when you need it.
    Again, there isn’t someone sitting next to you watching you struggle, if you get stuck, you need to be able to swallow your pride and reach out to someone for assistance. (This is something that is SO hard for me, both in my personal life and my professional life. Working remotely has really helped me grow in this area.)
  3. You need to have excellent written and verbal communication skills.
    Now, this one varies in weight depending on the role you’re applying for. I’m an introvert, but I’m able to communicate clearly and concisely when I’m writing. It’s a huge plus working at a company where a majority of our interaction happens over Slack, InVision, and in Zoom conference calls.
  4. You need to be a team player.
    At InVision our culture is one of supporting one another. It shows in everything from our team meetings, to the tools we use, to our charity donation matching, to the way the team comes together to support coworkers in crisis. A few examples: A co-worker lost her house in a fire, and within hours there was a GoFundMe set up by a teammate with InVision employees donating $, in addition to sending clothing and care packages. Two of our team members were stuck in Puerto Rico during the last major hurricane due to cancelled flights. Team members came together as a group to find passage for them to get out just before the storm hit, calling in favors from friends and family who work in the airline industry. My daughter ran into a really scary health issue last year, and a coworker immediately put together a GoFundMe to buy her an Apple Watch for fall monitoring. InVision just has a truly incredible, team oriented work culture. We work cross departmentally often. Sometimes people come from cut throat environments where they’re used to people having to throw knives to succeed. That’s not our thing. People here work hard to help each other succeed, and pitch in when help is needed. If you’re a “Me” person and not a “We” person, the company culture at InVision probably won’t be a good fit for you.

I hope these tips help, and that you decide to apply! You can check out our job listings and apply at http://www.InVisionApp.com/jobs

Just Build It

1*NXMN5dYXkx3wRDIrRHgayw@2xRaise your hand if you, or someone you know has ever run into this scenario… Everyone? Yep, it happens often, and it’s the worst. In some orgs it doesn’t matter how many red flags you wave, or if you wave them so hard and so long that your arms fall off. There are stakeholders who flat out refuse to invest in the research necessary to ensure that you’re building something your audience actually needs.

And then getting blamed for the product’s failure is just the icing on the cake. If you run into this there are 2 things you should know:

A. You tried. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

B. It’s not your fault, don’t get down on yourself.

You can push and push and push but if the stakeholders in your org refuse to understand the power of design thinking and the value in user research and usability testing, there’s not much you can do other than bounce and look for a job at a more design centric org. Or at least an org that is open to learning more about the value of design.

You could build the best product in the world, but if there is no audience for it, it’s going to fail. If you encounter this situation, just keep your head up and continue moving forward in your current job or toward a new one, your choice. 🙌

(Or come work at InVision, because we don’t have this problem!) 🙂

Don’t Just Decline Opportunities—Pay Them Forward

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Over the last few years I’ve been given incredible opportunities to contribute to all kinds of publications. Joining the team at InVision has opened so many doors for me—our incredible team is so supportive, and I’m grateful to all of them for all that they’ve done to help get me to this point in my career! (I’m looking at you Clark, Clair, Kristin, Leah, Stephen, and so many others!)

At one point I started to get overwhelmed with press requests coming in. I couldn’t keep up, but didn’t want to let anyone down by not contributing. I talked to my mentor about it, expressed how grateful I was, but how I was running out of hours in the day (and night).

He said something that SHOULD have been obvious and top of mind, but it wasn’t. I was so embroiled in stress over the thought of not being able to keep up when so many other people weren’t given these chances that it didn’t even cross my mind. He said:

“It’s awesome that you’re being asked to contribute in so many ways, but you’re only one person. Don’t feel guilty about having to turn these opportunities down. In fact, it’s a chance for you to share the opportunities with others. When you’re tapped out, it’s ok to pass them along to someone else in the company.”

The lightbulb went off in my head, my stress level rapidly declined, and from that point forward, I started passing along opportunities to coworkers as they came through. It was so much fun being able to help insanely talented people who sit back and quietly kick major ass at their jobs every single day get their names out there.

One of the first PR reps I ever worked with, Leah, told me once that her favorite part about her job was having the opportunity to help people launch and grow their careers through press channels they wouldn’t otherwise have had access too. She is not only insanely talented, she’s an amazing human as well.

Contributing a post, guest starring on a podcast, speaking at a conference, or contributing quotes to a publication can change the entire trajectory of a person’s career. (It certainly did mine!)

So, what’s my point here? This mentality applies to all kinds of situations, not just press related ones. Asked to work on a big project but can’t contribute? Is there a mega talented, super driven junior designer who you know would crush it? Pass their name along. Get a call out at a major meeting for something you worked on with a team? Follow up with a “this wouldn’t have been possible without XY & Z”. Something that takes 2 seconds and seems incredibly small to you may be a huge stepping stone for someone else.

If you’re a person who is regularly given channels to push your career forward, give someone who might not have access to those opportunities a chance to shine. Don’t just decline an opportunity—pay it forward if you can.

People Who Get Hired Don’t Get Hired

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Photo by David Werbrouck on Unsplash

Recently a number of my friends in the industry have been applying for new jobs. Some get those jobs, and some don’t, but they’re all insanely talented.

I noticed a trend in the people that got the jobs. They had all been shot down in the past.

A majority of people don’t get every single job they apply for. In fact, I’ve never met a single person in my life who got every job they applied for over the course of their career. I’m sure they exist in small pockets of the universe, but it’s extraordinarily uncommon. Little known fact, I didn’t get the first job I applied for at InVision. 3 months later an incredible opportunity opened up here that I was a much better fit for, and I got a “call back” to reinterview.

When you get shot down, don’t burn bridges. Don’t go on a social media rampage. Don’t give up on your dream. And most importantly, don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt.

It drives me crazy when people are upset about getting a rejection letter, and others tell them to suck it up and just learn from it, and use that rejection to motivate them to move forward. Is the second half good advice? Absolutely. But the first part is garbage.

Don’t just “suck it up” when you’re rejected—let yourself be upset. Feel devastated for a bit. Just don’t get stuck in that state and let it consume you.

Questioning your skillset and your abilities is an absolutely, 100% human response to rejection. Don’t feel like you’re all alone in that feeling. Millions of other people ALSO didn’t get a job they really wanted that day and feel the same way you do, whether they show it and/or admit it or not.

Get that feeling out of your system, THEN pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and move forward. Don’t feel like a weirdo for being upset and hurt, and feeling less confident than you did prior to receiving that rejection letter. Own it. Everyone goes through it. But the ones who are successful keep moving.

Once you get through the feeling like garbage stage, THEN move on to the “what can I learn from this” stage. Shoot the company an email and see if they have any feedback. Many of them aren’t able to respond to a majority of applicant followup emails due to the sheer volume of applications they receive, so don’t feel bad if you don’t hear back. But other companies can respond, and appreciate you requesting that feedback.

There are some situations where not getting through to the next hiring round is due to something completely random/out of your control, that has nothing to do with your skillset. For example:

  1. Some companies use automated check lists that scan resumes to check for keywords to get them through the first application round to the “speak to a real human” round. Make sure that your resume is customized to very specifically align with the job description of the job you’re applying for.
  2. You may be OVER qualified for the job. Some companies know after a glance at your resume that they could never afford you.
  3. Titles can trip you up. As a freelancer, adding “CEO of XYZ” may seem like something that will give you a leg up in the hiring process, but it can get you instantly axed as a candidate if you’re applying for a mid level or managerial position.
  4. The company may be posting the position as a legal requirement, but already have someone internal in mind for the gig.
  5. They may only hire people with referrals, and if you don’t know someone internal you have no chance. Lame, but it happens.
  6. They did a terrible job creating the job description, and the skills listed and terms they used aren’t actually what they’re looking for. This happens way more often than you’d expect.

So what I’m trying to say is this: Not getting a job you really want is terrible—everyone goes through it at some point in their life, typically many times. And it’s going to hurt (a lot) regardless of the reason. But don’t throw in the towel when it happens. I knew a person who applied for 125 jobs over the course of 3 months before being offered a position. Giving up is the ONLY way to 100% guarantee that you’ll never end up in the career you truly want.

Just work hard and push ahead, even if it’s a millimeter at a time. Even if you hit a rough patch, run into people trying to block your path, or trip yourself up with a poor life choice, you ALWAYS have the option to get up, brush yourself off, and keep moving forward in the direction you want to go.

The tools don’t make the designer, but they do make the designer’s life easier

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Photo of a laptop glowing by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

I was chatting with a couple friends tonight on Twitter, and the subject of workspaces came up.

I used a stock photo of a desk in a post I published, and a friend thought it was mine. He posted a photo of his absolutely gorgeous desk noting how similar ours were. (Seriously though, his desk is goals.😍) Another friend commented and said he was working on an old PC on an Ikea table and would therefore not be posting a photo.

The convo got me thinking about a design I came across a couple years ago. An insanely talented designer couldn’t afford design software, but was so passionate about starting a career in design that he was creating his work in MS paint on an ancient PC. And his work was mind bogglingly incredible.

Then THAT got me thinking about the fact that there are unbelievably talented designers in 3rd world countries. They don’t design using software, they design improved ways to transport water safely. Design is a universal language—it knows no boundaries. Throughout history, designers have used whatever tools they’ve had available to create incredible experiences.

Technology is progressing at breakneck speed, and the tools available to screen designers are getting more advanced every day. Photoshop was the gold standard for ages, but it was a roadblock for so many talented designers who couldn’t afford the cost. They struggled to build out their portfolios because they didn’t have access. Comparing their portfolios to the portfolios of people who DID have access to Photoshop wasn’t fair. Who got the jobs? Historically it was the folks with the incredible Photoshop riddled portfolios.

Part of the reason I’m beyond ecstatic about InVision Studio being free for all users, is that people who have incredible talent and passion that couldn’t afford software previously, will now have free access to best in class software to showcase their talent and launch their careers. Financial standing will no longer impact accessibility to the design field. Passion, drive, and talent will be the forces that move design into the future.

I for one can’t wait to see where the next generation takes our industry.

Working Remotely for a Fully Distributed Company

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Photo of someone holding a coffee cup in front of a laptop. By rawpixel on Unsplash

I’m regularly asked questions about how working remotely for a fully distributed company compares to traditional office life, so I decided to write a post about it. 🙌

What is working for a fully distributed company like?

In a word? Amazing. I can work from ANYWHERE with a wi-fi connection.

Some co-workers use the freedom to live their best digital nomad lives, traveling the world.

As a hardcore introvert who is easily distracted by office chatter, being able to sit in my office or living room and focus 100% of my attention on work tasks is phenomenal. I’m not suffering through an open office floor plan with people tapping me on the shoulder interrupting my workflow and focus, I don’t have to find an empty conference room to meet with coworkers—it’s glorious.

Recently my daughter encountered some really scary health issues. Working for a remote company that allows work/life integration in addition to work life balance was life changing.

She wound up having to go to a slew of medical specialists, and being able to make myself available during normal work hours by working from waiting rooms and making up any time in the evenings (though my boss was incredibly supportive and told me not to worry about making up time, I did it anyway) kept my stress level away from losing my sanity high.

I was able to devote my undivided attention to her when I was by her side, and worked during the tests that I wasn’t able to be in the room for. I didn’t lose any productivity, and my mind was kept off the fear of her test results.

During less intense periods of life, it’s also awesome to be able to take coffee breaks that include puppy cuddles. My 3 furbabies enjoy this benefit very much.

Doesn’t working for a remote company make you feel silo-ed and lonely?

No, it’s actually the opposite. Since InVision is fully distributed, the entire company is centered around remote culture. We aren’t trying to loop in one remote employee during meetings, we aren’t forgetting to update that lone employee on side convos and decisions that are made between meetings, the ENTIRE company is remote. All day long we use tools like Slack and Zoom to chat with coworkers water cooler style, as well as for meetings and to have access to team members for questions. We can snooze notifications when we need focus time, and turn them back on when we’re ready to address them.

One of my very favorite aspects of Slack is that since we’re located in 31 countries around the world, we can leave messages during our own working hours and team members around the world receive them and respond during their working hours. We don’t have to constantly try to coordinate meetings in different time zones (though we can when necessary) we can just communicate freely on a daily basis.

As far as team bonding and feeling lonely, I feel closer to my coworkers at InVision than I have been to coworkers in traditional offices.

The primary reason for that feeling of closeness is that we have better lines of communication as a remote company than I’ve ever experienced in-house. We have channels for every interest imaginable. One of my absolute favs is the #invision-pets channel which I visit daily.

Photo of Jennifer’s 3 white Bichon Frise dogs.

Photo of Jennifer’s 3 white Bichon Frise dogs

We also have a channel called #house-swaps-invbnb where team members trade homes to see new places around the world. Live in New York and want to see London? There’s likely a team member who would love to switch things up for a week or two and crash at your place while you crash at theirs.

Individual teams also have private channels where they can chat about life and share links, family photos, and gifs if they feel so inclined. (And chat about projects as necessary of course.) We also have a #Team channel for company wide announcements.

As an added bonus, we have arguably the best party parrot emoji selection of all time. (This is just a teaser—the list goes on and on. And yes, that is indeed a Guy Fieri parrot. 😂)

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A screenshot of 63 party parrot emojis

Since I’m able to work from my house during the day, I’m more motivated to get out to see friends and enjoy hobbies after hours. As an introvert, I’ve found that working remotely for InVision has actually made me more social.

Don’t you lack team culture as a remote company?

Honestly? We have a more positive team culture at InVision than I’ve ever experienced in a traditional work environment. Our entire company culture is centered around employee happiness. (Seriously, I’m not trying to be cheesy, its amazing.) We have an actual official Director of Employee Happiness (his name is Avi, and he’s one of the very best humans). He’s a certified life coach, and is there for team members and leaders in the company who need support, at all times.

We have amazing benefits. All employees are offered stock options, so we all “own” a piece of the company. We have usual HR support with additional services like an anonymous ethics hotline. It’s not used much, but it exists in the event that someone experiences or witnesses something they think wasn’t handled properly, but they’re uncomfortable contacting HR directly to report it.

Our team does annual compensation reviews to make sure that there is equal pay balance amongst team members, with special attention make sure that compensation is equivalent for employees regardless of gender and ethnicity. (This is a HUGE deal for me. It’s very rare for tech companies to make this a priority.)

And of course there are fun perks like monthly coffee and fitness stipends!

We’ve scaled insanely quickly. When I interviewed 3.5 years ago we had 50 employees. Now we’re 800+.

The last startup I worked for had a culture crash when we doubled in size. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop here at InVision. We hit 100 employees, and I thought, “Oh, here it comes.” But it never did. The culture remained fantastic. Then we hit 200 employees and I thought, “This will DEFINITELY be it. We’re going to crash and burn.” But things just got even better. The crash never came. Why?

Because our CEO and senior staffers put employee happiness at the core of the company from the very beginning. It changed the entire rapid growth dynamic. Instead of experiencing a culture tank and trying to toss perks out to course correct like most startups, they made taking great care of employees the foundation of the company from the very beginning. And for a remote company, maintaining positive company culture is especially imperative.

Recently a designer reached out and asked if I feel that working remotely negatively impacts the UX of our products, due to lack of collaborative interactions in office.

I would say it has the exact opposite effect.

Since we’re fully distributed we have the luxury of being able to hire literally the best talent in the world. The caliber of the employees here at InVision is mind boggling. People I’ve idolized my entire career are now my coworkers.

Hiring people all over the world means that we have perspectives from people from all kinds of backgrounds tied into everything we do as a company. It’s especially impactful when it comes to our products.

Design is a universal language—it knows no barriers.

Photo of a person staring at the night sky by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Photo of a person staring at the night sky by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I’ve seen design community members from warring countries share tips and tricks with one another on social media regularly. Design transcends boundaries and brings people together.

Being able to incorporate voices from around the world into the very DNA of our products strengthens everything we create.

And as far as collaboration goes, we use tools that allow better collaboration than I’ve ever experienced in office. I mentioned that for communication we use Slack and Zoom, but we use departmental tools that allow for clear team collaboration, as well as tools to collaborate company wide. Just a couple examples are InVision (of course), G Suite, Confluence, Asana, and the list goes on. These tools keep us all in the loop. And when you think about it, people have to use collaborative tools in offices just as often. The last traditional office I worked in used Slack, InVision, GoToMeeting, Asana, and others.

Working for a fully distributed company has changed my life for the better in so many ways. Remote life isn’t for everyone, but don’t knock it till you try it!

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Sometimes life sucks. Stuff happens. Things seem overwhelming and like they’ll never get better.

You have 4 options:

  1. Curl up in the fetal position and give up on your dreams.
  2. Whine about it for the rest of your life and blame all of your problems on it.
  3. Ignore how you feel and eventually explode.
  4. Let yourself grieve. Wallow in it. Feel all of it. Then get it together and keep moving forward, one tiny step at a time. You can climb an entire mountain one step at a time without even realizing it’s happening until you look behind you.

I’ve hit some hurdles in life. I’ve gotten really, really, really down. I hit a point that I felt like I was in a pit I could never get out of, and focusing on my career of choice was pointless because it could never happen due to everything else going on in my life. And you know what my mentor said to me when I said I just couldn’t do it?

“ You’re right. You can’t.”

It snapped me out of darkness mode long enough to get REALLY annoyed and I shot back, “Wow, thanks for all the support.”

The response?

“You are standing in the way of your own career. Get the hell out of your own way, and you’ll be able to achieve incredible things. In fact, I think you’ll be able to go further than your dreams are even targeting right now. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. Standing still is a cop out. Take one step at a time and you’ll slowly move forward toward your goals. And then you’ll surpass them. Go ahead and feel bad for yourself for a while, but don’t get stuck there. Inch your way forward crawling, then start walking, then run. It’s possible, just stop standing still.”

I’ll admit I was kind of pissed. This person had no idea how much I’d been through, how low things had gotten, how much pain I was in. And you know what? After a while I realized that it didn’t matter. It was the best advice, both career wise and life wise, I’d ever received. So, I slowly got it together and started pushing. It felt like I wasn’t making ANY progress for years. but I kept moving. And slowly, snail pace things started to move in the right direction. And I kept taking small steps forward, a few back, and then bigger steps forward, and then all of a sudden I was on track, going for it. I’d finally gotten out of my own way.

So what I’m saying is this: If you’re feeling discouraged right now, and you’re losing hope, go ahead and feel bad about it. Cry it out, get angry, feel all the things—then slowly put yourself back together while you start moving forward. Even truly horrific circumstances can lead the way to incredible things if you just keep pushing instead of giving up.

So my challenge for you is this: Regardless of your current circumstance, get up (if you need to, do it slowly, but do it nonetheless), get out of your own way, and get back on track toward achieving your goals. You’ll be surprised how much easier the second step is after you’ve made that tough, draining, future defining first one.

It only takes one step to start moving in the right direction.

The Career Building Power of “No”

I was chatting with some friends this week, and we got on the topic of how hard it can be to fire clients.

I mean, they’re giving you their money, and you obviously want to keep a strong freelance following and your good reputation.

Here’s the thing. Keeping a client who is a holy nightmare to work with is counter productive on soooo many levels.

Give yourself full permission to fire terrible clients, guilt free.

If you’re considering firing them, one or more of the following are probably true:

#1 They suck as human beings.

#2 They’re taking advantage of you by trying to make you feel guilty about your fees/the amount of time it takes to finish their project.

#3 They’re the actual worst at communicating, which means you’re wasting time you could be working on other projects waiting for them to respond/wrestling decisions from them.

#4 They’re paying you late/refusing to pay for something you’ve already completed.

#5 You’re just not vibing, and it’s frustrating both you and the client in a big way.

Toxic clients are detrimental to ALL of your design work—not just the work you’re doing for that one client.

If any of these issues are occurring, give yourself 1000% permission to fire them, guilt free. Why? The stress they’re adding to your life is taking away from the other awesome clients you’re working with. They’re negatively affecting the quality of ALL of your work, not just the work you’re doing for them.

Keeping a toxic client will not have a positive impact on your career.

Choosing to keep a toxic client around to “keep your good name” isn’t going to have that effect. The rest of your work back sliding is going to damage your reputation, and there’s a high chance that they’re not going to recommend you to their peers anyway after the fact.

It’s always ok to respectfully fire awful clients.

When firing a client needs to happen, don’t just tell them to take a long leap off a short pier — have an open and honest conversation about your concerns.

Sometimes that conversation on it’s own will resolve the issues you’re encountering. If it doesn’t, tell them that you’re sorry, but they’ll need to find a designer who will better fit their needs for the remainder of the project and issue a refund for any project work you haven’t completed yet. That way you’re not “blaming them” for the issue, and you’re not saying you refuse to work with jerks. You’re just peacefully parting ways.

Fear of bad press isn’t worth destroying your sanity and your career.

Even if they rage out and try to blast your reputation afterward, there is a good chance that others in the industry will already be aware of how awful they are to work with. And if people aren’t aware, they will be when they see the client publicly blasting someone. Consider it a public service if that happens. Other designers will know to steer clear. The benefit of removing the negativity from your life is worth the gamble regardless.

Sometimes you can finish the current project and just gracefully decline additional work with the tried and true, “I apologize, but I won’t be able to take on this new project.” You don’t have to make up excuses, you don’t have to lie about a huge workload (especially since you’ll be looking for additional work), it’s ok to just say no.

Don’t get me wrong, you need to pay your bills. And you’ll always have clients that are difficult, it’s just part of being a freelancer.

But you need to know where you draw the line between difficult and toxic (and that line will be different for every freelancer). ID that line and stick to it. Saying “no” and firing awful clients will save both your sanity and the quality of your work (and your career) long term.