Dear New Design Grads

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This week at UC Berkeley, Jessica Ko, design veteran, former hiring manager at Google and Opendoor, and current CEO and co-founder of, met with new design grads who are about to jump into the industry.

“Today’s job market is on fire for designers, but it’s also getting more competitive than ever for new grads,” says Jessica. “All the companies and teams I know are trying to hire designers, and recruiters dedicate a large portion of their time each week sourcing potential candidates on Linkedin. 90% of companies are going after the top 10% of designers who have at least 2 years of industry experience, which leaves new grads high and dry.”

Today’s job market is on fire for designers, but it’s also getting more competitive than ever.

As a new grad, you might be getting anxious because you hear about your classmates getting internships and offers from prestigious companies. You’ve been working on your design portfolio and feel like it’s never good enough. You barely slept this entire semester. And you’re paralyzed by the overwhelming feeling of not knowing what else you can do to keep moving forward.

So what should you do as a new grad? Keep reading for Jessica’s expert advice.

✏️ Thanks to our friends at Playbook for writing and sponsoring this blog post!

Find a mentor

Find a mentor in your network or on Linkedin or Twitter. Preferably someone that looks and talks like an older version of you, doesn’t have a lot of followers just yet, and is just a few years senior. That way, you’ll feel comfortable around this person, and they’ll be more likely to engage with you.

“My mentor is Irene Au who was my old boss and now an advisor at,” says Jessica. “I’ve known her for over 10 years. Looking back at every big career decision in my life, she was there helping me get through it.”

Write a short message asking for advice — something that’s quick to answer. Be respectful of their time, be positive, and be friendly.

Where you start matters very little

“When I was in my early 20s, I was a chemical engineer at a bulletproof vest company. Then I got a job as a mechanical engineer in a warehouse, where I wore a hard hat and safety boots to work. At 25, I went to Japan and analyzed data patterns for a speech recognition device company. Then I got a job as a business analyst at a telecom company. At 26, I learned how to code in CSS and Javascript and took some night classes just in case I wanted to be a product manager. Then, I got a job as a web developer.

It wasn’t until I was 27 that I started working at a software company and discovered the world of UX design,” says Jessica. “You don’t have to have a grandiose career plan. Just go with whatever feels right at any time!”, says Jessica.


Keep improving your Linkedin profile and portfolio, and show your positivity

In today’s design world, resumes are like fax machines — no one uses them. Hiring managers are all about Linkedin. Bring out the friendly, competent, and warm side of you on Linkedin, because that’s what most people want to see in their future colleagues.

Also invest time in personal projects. If they turn out great, showcase them in your portfolio and on Dribbble. Hiring managers love that. “I hired a designer out of Dribbble,” said Jessica. “He was working as a developer in a small town just outside Lyon, France at the time. I flew him out to San Francisco to work for Opendoor because I really liked a personal project he posted on Dribbble.”