After a decade of bouncing between minimum-wage jobs since high school graduation, Daniel went back to school in 2010. He first completed an ASL program at a college, then studied industrial design, graduating in 2018. He is now 33. “I loved the process of learning about a problem, developing an innovative concept and then creating it,” he writes.
Daniel has ADHD and dyslexia. His learning disorders made some elements of school, specifically the liberal arts courses, a challenge. “I dreaded having to document my designs, making presentations and any of the liberal studies classes.” It took him five years to complete a four-year program, but he’s hopeful that he can position his disorders to employers in a positive light. “The strengths associated with ADHD and dyslexia overlap really well with design,” Daniel explains. “People with dyslexia are creative, observant and are good at making connections. People with ADHD are also known to be creative and innovative.” Since graduating, Daniel has struggled to find a role that suits his skills and education. He’s interested in working for a tech company as a UX designer, but is also exploring roles in customer service as a way to get his foot in the door. Still, he struggles with writing-based tests often given by tech companies during the hiring process. “Do I risk discrimination, intentional or not, or do I risk failing the test because I didn’t disclose my disabilities?” Daniel wonders.
We consulted with career coach Dr. Jonathan Tam and Lenny Laurier, head of design at the financial software company Intuit, to review Daniel’s resume and provide feedback for his next steps.
What the career coach says
Dr. Tam commends Daniel’s clean and organized resume layout and appreciates his use of colour. However, Dr. Tam has some ideas for improving the content of Daniel’s resume. To start, since Daniel does have some experience, he should list this before his education. “I’d also recommend minimizing some of the bullets on the education side and selling himself more on the experience side, regardless [of] if it was in another career or volunteer and freelance work,” Dr. Tam says. “Employers increasingly care about your real-world experience over hypothetical case projects from school.” When describing his prior work experience, Dr. Tam suggests “reverse-engineering” his bullet points based on the job postings that he’s interested in. “Key phrases from job descriptions need to be sprinkled liberally in his resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile,” he says. Dr. Tam also recommends Daniel add his city and a LinkedIn profile link to his resume. As for Daniel’s learning disabilities, Dr. Tam advises removing mentions of this in his resume and website. “It introduces too much bias at the preinterview stage,” explains Dr. Tam. “After securing the interview, it is up to Daniel whether he wants to disclose or not.” If he does choose to disclose, he could frame it as a way he overcame adversity and how he used it to further his design work. In fact, Dr. Tam says that there are many forward-thinking companies in tech that would consider people with disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia an advantage for working on accessibility projects and would be more willing to consider applicants like Daniel.
Finally, Daniel has stated that the process of building a portfolio has been a struggle, specifically when it comes to describing his past projects in writing. But Dr. Tam encourages Daniel to make this a priority. “In the design world, it’s necessary to constantly be building a portfolio,” says Dr. Tam. “Every job posting for design work will be asking for it.”
What the industry expert says
Mr. Laurier also appreciates the layout of Daniel’s resume and commends his short bio. “It allowed me to connect with him as a person quickly,” Mr. Laurier explains. Like Dr. Tam, Mr. Laurier also recommends Daniel list his experience before his education. “Many positions ask for at least three years of experience, so anything you can do to highlight your track record would be beneficial.” As Daniel is describing his work experience, he should include the impact of his solutions. “Focusing on the results of your solution will help employers understand how you bring value to the business,” Mr. Laurier explains. To gain more experience, Mr. Laurier recommends that Daniel seek out an internship role at a tech company. “At Intuit, we often fill early-career positions with prior designers who have interned with us,” he says. To find an internship, Mr. Laurier suggests reaching out to past employers where he’s done part-time work in the past. “I’d also look into contract roles or roles at small- to medium-sized companies looking for someone to improve their web presence,” Mr. Laurier suggests. “The important part is to start getting hands-on experience.”
Mr. Laurier says that he would be willing to work with applicants that disclose their disabilities. “I think being transparent about his disability before the test will allow potential employers to help him,” he says. “It is also an excellent way to get a signal on the company culture and what it would be like to work there.” To overcome Daniel’s struggles with writing, Mr. Laurier recommends using verbal communication where possible. “If he is sharing his portfolio, he can use video to demo and speak to his work, coupled with visuals and diagrams to help him illustrate ideas,” he says.
As for Daniel’s career direction, Mr. Laurier thinks he’s heading in the right path by focusing on UX design. “A key component of being a UX designer is gaining empathy for the customer and drawing out key insights to help solve problems,” he says. As Daniel continues to seek out job opportunities and build his design career, Mr. Laurier reminds him to focus on finding ways to deliver solutions to end-users. “Whether it is through contract work, hackathons or non-profit work, getting your solutions in your hands of customers and solving a real need is what’s important.”
The new resume
Daniel has opted to take Dr. Tam’s advice by removing the reference to his learning disability in the intro of his resume. With the lines saved by that deletion, Daniel has added a few more interests to his resume, which will further help demonstrate his personality and hobbies.
As both Dr. Tam and Mr. Laurier suggested, Daniel has also moved his experience section to the top and has added more detail to his work experience descriptions. He has also added some experience from his previous work to help address gaps in employment, along with adding his city and a LinkedIn profile link. Daniel is currently working on updating his portfolio.
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Email us with your resume at email@example.com and we’ll ask a career coach and an expert in your field to provide their feedback. Names and some details are changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled. We’re especially interested in hearing from those who have had their employment impacted by COVID-19. On the flip side, if you’re a hiring manager interested in reaching out to the person profiled, we encourage you to contact us as well.
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