Hello! Experienced designer in a career rut

Hi everyone! I’m glad I found a discussion group with other designers. I fell into my current graphic design job 5 years ago and am looking to get a higher-paying position, but “Graphic Design” is such a wide-ranging field that I don’t really know how to focus my job searching. I’ve been searching for months, but I can’t seem to find a position that lines up with my skillset that will actually respond to me. I think I need to focus my resume/portfolio in a clear direction, but I’m not sure what direction that is.
Has anyone else here experienced this kind of a block, and if so, do you have any advice?

I made my career as a design generalist specializing in one thing or another for several years and then moved on to something before moving again until I got bored.

Many people make good arguments for specializing and sticking with it, but I’ve made a decent career out of ignoring that advice.

What do you think your skillset is? Does it match up to what you’d like to do?

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My skills mostly lie in image manipulation, signage design and layout, and logo/icon design. I did web design years ago and can brush up on my WordPress and HTML/CSS skills, though id rather not end up in a position where i need to manage a website’s logistics and SEO, since im awful at that. Im intimately familiar with the main Adobe suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign) and am familiarizing myself with Affinity, and I’ve spent the last 5 years primarily using CorelDraw. Thanks to an NDA, i can’t use any of the stuff ive done from my current job in my portfolio.

I’m really looking for something stable just so my wife and i can upgrade from a small apartment to an actual house, even a modest one. I don’t think the freelance life is for me.

What you describe sounds like ‘sign shop’ experience. But you want to maybe aim higher in the printing industry if you go that route. The question there being, is design your life or would you be willing to do production art work? I know wide format printers are hurting for techs, but not a lot of design there. Some, but not a lot.

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I get it if you don’t feel like posting your portfolio, but, if we could see your work, skill level, and where your strengths and weaknesses are, we could give you much better feedback.

Ive only been on the design end of things, and have never actually run the wide format printers. I wouldn’t be opposed to learning how, though im not sure that the current tech or i can spare the time at work to teach me there. Do you know of any good resources for technical skills?

Sure! Here’s my portfolio site (I use Adobe portfolio)

New forum members can’t post links. It’s an attempt to keep the spammers away. I’ve increased your user permissions, so now you’ll be able to create links. Feel free to link to your Adobe portfolio.

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Let’s try that portfolio link again:


Firstly, I am afraid, you might not like what I am about to say, but there is little point in sugar-coating advice if it is going to be of much use. I apologise in advance if this is a little tough to take, but it is all said in the spirit of, hopefully, nudging you in the right direction, in order to improve.

When I first read your post, I sympathised. It’s a tough market out there, after all. However, now I have seen your portfolio, the lack of response you are getting makes a little more sense.

Unfortunately, that is not the kind of portfolio or quality of work that is going to land you a high-end position at this time. I’m afraid it would end up straight on the ‘No’ pile if I were hiring, for a number of reasons as it stands.

Firstly, and most importantly, in my opinion, is always quality of typography. When I first saw it, my initial thought was that you had obtained your qualification from an online ‘university’. So, I checked. Being from the other side of the pond, I don’t know it, but it seems credible at first glance. Then I looked at your CV and it seems your degree is not in graphic design. It shows. This helps explain the weaknesses in typography, both in understanding and application.

Your execution of ideas is basic, at best. To be honest, it all looks a little more Corel Draw, than it does pro designer.

This leads me to the CV (sorry, résumé) itself; Brown? It is not the first colour I’d have gone for. It all looks a bit 1980s velour car interior, that, polished professional designer, to my mind. Was it a template?

Why is Corel Draw above Adobe in your list of skills? That rings alarm bells. If that is because you are more versed with the former, than the latter, then you need to change this. Most good studios won’t be using Corel Draw and would need to feel confident that you really know your way around Adobe software for your CV to even get a sniff of the ‘Yes’ pile.

You mention 3D skills. In a graphic design context, I would expect that to fall more into the 3D modelling and character / scene rendering, etc more than I would want to see engineering modelling. The only 3D software you mention is very much CAD, rather than 3D rendering. To stretch a point this far, if your experience is only in CAD, leaves me wondering how much more is ‘embellished’. Of course you have to paint yourself in the best possible light, but it has to be rooted in fact, or else you risk being seen as not trustworthy even at CV stage. This is further compounded by the fact there are no examples of 3D work in your portfolio.

Again, on the CV, ‘Who’s this.’ Feels a bit juvenile. I stick with something more simple, like, ‘abou’, or ‘about mr’

I’d lose the title of professional designer on your about page. All sound a little ‘the lady doth protest’. If you have to tell people you are a pro, it makes you look like you aren’t.

The work itself; Most of your logos wouldn’t really work, in practical, real world applications. Too many fine details; the icon to type relationship is a bit ‘all over the shop’. How would you embroider some of them on to garments? Reduce them to business card size and some become illegible.

The kaur one; part of your job as a designer is to guide clients to the best solution for their business. Unless the owner of that business was working entirely with other Sikhs or his business model is directly related to Sikhism, then the turban motif is irrelevant. This is his ego playing out. I am guessing the fact he is a Sikh is irrelevant (apart from the fact, of course, that his moral compass is going to influence how the business is run. He needed to be encouraged in a different direction. I know, sometimes there’s no telling clients and want what they want. At this point, you have no choice but explain, that this is not what you would advice and just do it anyway (or decline the job)

So, where to go from here. Even a quick look at the Adobe portfolio examples page should show you the level you’d need to be it. I would say that you need more experience in a good studio at an entry level position to up your skill level. You really need to improve your typography skills. In fact, generally, all round, you have some way to go that would benefit from experience in a good studio.

I am aware that this sounds like a character assassination. As I said at the top, it is not intended that way, but to solve a problem, you need to first see where the problem lies.

I hope this doesn’t dishearten too much.


OK, so it was about 4am for me. Just re-read it. So many typos!

The most important skill for any graphic designer is attention to detial!!

I think @sprout gave an excellent evaluation. Without knowing all of the nuances of your situation, my advice would be to a) look for a job that leans more towards your university degree background or b) stick with your current job for the time being while you work to supplement your university degree with more graphic design-focused training and learning which should help bolster your portfolio.


@sprout did give a good assessment. I don’t even know if Graphic Design is the right career path for me. I went for it because of my familiarity with the software and the fact that that’s what my current job title is, even if i don’t do much from-scratch designing. Honestly, looking at listings, I’ve been doubtful of my qualifications as a Graphic designer.

Do you guys know of a different field i may be able to direct myself towards that focuses more on photo editing and/or technical drawing that doesn’t require an engineering background?

To be honest, you don’t sound like you have an awful lot of passion for much of it and if you are going to be successful, it’s the one thing you’ll definitely need, as it is a pretty competitive market.

Do you have any examples of photo editing. Before and afters, etc. The only things I can see are on the shop montages and a little on websites section. From the little I have to go on, even that looks a little basic and, despite the low resolution, I appreciate that those shop montages are a house-style, but you are going to need something altogether more polished to be able to set your stall out.

Again, it’s pretty competitive, so you have to have sit-up-and-take-notice kind of portfolio to make a decent living at it. Post some of your best examples and we’ll give you an honest opinion.

Overall, what drives you? What’s your passion; makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? From what I see and from what you are saying, design is perhaps not it?

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I think after this discussion, visual design of any kind really isn’t my niche, at least not professionally. I don’t have any current before and afters of photo editing at the ready, since i wasn’t really searching for that, but I’ve gotten a lot better than the examples shown. Most of the stuff in my portfolio is material from before my current job since i can’t use anything from there due to an NDA, and anything new has been made during my free time.

That said, my passion lies in tabletop game design (rpgs, card games, board games, etc.) I’ve done a whole bunch of unofficial content for a few games, and now that I’m considering it as a potential career path, i plan to sign up for some beta testing.

But actually making a living off of that passion is a long way off, and my current job just doesn’t pay enough to fully balance out my student debt, so im looking for a position that uses the skills i already have. I’d also really like to be able to spin my present work experience to appeal to my new applications so i don’t have to start with no experience. For instance, my title at my current job is Graphic Designer, but i do far more texture correction and technical layout work than actual design, so I could emphasize that on a resume.

All in all, i have a dream job in mind, but right now i need a higher income and have just realized that Graphic Design isn’t where I’ll find it.

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I commend you for taking this all under consideration rather than getting defensive and storming off. Good job.


I’ll second that. It would have been so easy to get defensive and lash out. Takes fortitude to take all this on the chin.


I won’t lie, it really sucked to read all of that, but you guys made good points and i’d be a fool not to listen. Plus, now that I’ve had some time to let it all sink in, I’m excited to really explore other career paths instead of feeling stuck and inadequate in Graphic. Thank you for being willing to tell me the tough truth.

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Have you ever thought of getting into sales?
you have a graphics background, so you already know what to look for with your clientele.
I tried my hand at sales in the graphics industry a few years ago and it was like second nature to me. I made a lot of commissions and had a great base salary. My clients were many and I retained their business.
Unfortunately I had to quit my sales position since it required me to travel out of town a lot, which put a strain on my family.
But, you’re young, give it a shot.
I did and it wasn’t in vain since it led to other job opportunities…