Design your career: Insights and inspiration for junior designers

July 27, 2023
Jack Sturzaker

As someone who can’t draw a straight line (on lined paper!) and with no background in the creative industry, I think most people I know find it odd that I’m employed as a designer. Still, it’s been the culmination of a year of studying and many ups and downs. 

After doing a self-paced UX ‘boot camp’, which gave me an awareness and appreciation of some of the fundamentals of design and a portfolio of work to my name, I started looking for jobs in the industry. 

A part of this was reading * a lot * of articles on what’s needed to get your first job in UX. Not all of these were helpful (some were probably unhelpful on reflection!). Still, they gave me a pretty good idea of what I needed to do to get myself into a job-ready position. To some extent, they worked because I was offered a job at Code!

I’m now two months into my role, and it’s been a steep but enjoyable learning curve. It made me realise that while there is a pretty established toolkit on the internet of how to navigate the job market as a job-seeker, there’s much less content on how to navigate the actual job you’ve spent countless hours working towards.

Advice to my junior self

With that in mind, I was encouraged by the design team to take this issue to Design Club. During this twice-weekly surgery, the design team at Code bring forward problems (usually work-related but not always) with the view that a problem shared is a problem halved and, in this case, further divided by 12+ people. 

I was given entirely free reign in organising the session, partly to give me a taste of facilitating a workshop, which Code does a lot of. This was quite a nerve-wracking prospect, but I wanted to take advantage of our massive amount of experience in the team (people are also really friendly here, which helps!).

I gave the session a title, ‘Advice to my junior self’, as a way of focusing people while also being broad enough to encourage free-flowing ideas.

The first step I took during my design club was a simple brainstorm, allowing people to write down any and every bit of advice they could think of onto a Miro board of (virtual) post-it notes. 

While there was some initial hesitancy at the broadness of the task, people soon got into it. What resulted was a really fun session which was part ideation, part therapy session with people relaying some of their experiences of being a junior designer and what they’ve learnt as designers.

Design workshop with designers round a table

Brainstorm to brain...calm?

The next step was to group/theme all the advice on Miro. Only some of the advice fit into neat categories, but we decided to subdivide the ideas into four categories; learning, collaborating, imposter syndrome, and general (maybe a bit of a cop-out!).

The last part of the session was focused on prioritising the ‘best’ bits of advice (although all of them were helpful!). I did this using a ‘dot vote’, where people vote for their favourite ideas by placing a dot on them. This is usually used in the early stage of design research to establish consensus in a group.

Miro board with suggestions from the team


Even though the steps to the end result are essential for designers, you might be reading this hoping to get some actual advice in your first design job. I’ve put some of the most popular suggestions for each theme below and my interpretation of them too. 


  • Always ask why from everyone - it helps them to learn what they know as well as you.
  • Don’t define yourself on what you can do today but try and take small steps to learn what it is you want.
  • Some things you’ll just learn as you go. Time and exposure are where you’ll develop the most.

These bits of advice are somewhat related, but all are helpful to junior employees. Firstly, it’s essential to understand that you don’t have all the answers and to try and seek help and advice from people that have been through the same things before, but also not to be too hard on yourself for not knowing everything, you’re not expected too, and all you can do is try and get better which isn’t an overnight process!


  • Don’t be precious about your work. Design is subjective. It’s ok not to be right.
  • Remember to give praise too when critiquing other people’s work.
  • Get to know what other people are doing outside of design.

What I took away from these points is quite an obvious but sometimes overlooked point, especially if you’re nervous or keen to make an impression - it’s important to try and get on with people you work with and a big part of this is treating them with respect and making an effort to understand them as human beings!

I particularly like the advice about positively critiquing others. There’s a temptation to show off your new-found knowledge as a junior. Still, it’s essential to do it in a way which respects the work that people have done before. This is particularly important when you’re working in a cross-functional team.

Imposter Syndrome

  • It’s normal to be nervous about stuff, but when you’re nervous about a situation, try to fix all the stuff around the edges you can so you can keep as clear a head as possible.
  • Don’t fear asking for help or an opinion from someone else. They’ll probably be honoured to help as they probably feel the imposter syndrome too.

Imposter syndrome is definitely a thing, especially when you’re new to a job. I speak from experience in knowing how debilitating it can feel. Seeing that talented and outwardly confident seniors have been through it is reassuring!


  • Don’t get too hung up on the word ‘design’ - try to find things you think are interesting.
  • Be clear about which ways of working work for you and let others know. It’s ok if someone’s method doesn’t work for everyone all the time.
  • Don’t wish to grow up too fast - Constantly getting more senior may seem nice. But in reality, the more you do, the less design you will do and the more meetings you’ll be in!

The takeaway from these for me is to try and enjoy your job daily and not get too hung up on your career trajectory. Learning and exploring what interests you is more sustainable in the long term.

Lessons learned

Overall, it was an enjoyable session, and it was cool trying to apply some design thinking methods to a non-design problem.

Although there probably isn’t a ‘secret sauce’ to being a successful junior employee, I feel fortunate to have all of these significant bits of advice to look back on in times of difficulty and also that I’m in a team and company that allows us to voice our insecurities and face them together to come to solutions.

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