Be nice. Or else.
Senior Product Designer at Stack Overflow Joined over 3 years ago via an invitation from Matt G.
My 2 cents here: This isn't a problem relegated to junior designers. This problem exists no matter how much experience you have. While you might qualify for more jobs when you have more experience, you also will have more demands then you do right now (because you're older and possibly have more responsibilities to consider) and finding a match with an employer is still a problem.
My advise here piggybacks on what others have said:
First: Great goal! I hope you hit your goal. That said…
Second: If you haven't built reading time into your regular schedule, you might find reading almost a book a week a bit ambitious. If you have and you can read that much: awesome! Personally I'd love to read that many books but life gets in the way. My goal this year is 24 books.
Third: +1 for fiction writing. Writing which stirs the imagination can help feed your creativity.
Here are some books I've enjoyed recently (fiction, and non-fiction):
Devil in the White City is a great book.
Lack of case studies is a bummer though.
Story link? Never mind. Found it
Sam, "Product" here means "web products" such as the development of our Question and Answer communities and our Careers-related products.
Stack Overflow is ramping up its design team. You can learn more about our product design position here: http://careers.stackoverflow.com/jobs/24481/senior-product-designer-stack-exchange
If you consider yourself more of a visual designer, please contact me: hynes [at] stackoverflow.com. We're looking for a number of visual designers as well.
If you like working in an office, you can work out of our Denver, NYC, or London offices. We also offer remote working as well. (Note: 5 out of 6 design team members work remotely).
I've experienced this on both sides. While interviewing a few years ago, I experienced some who did white-board exercises and others who did a trial project. The only company who paid me was Stack Overflow, who I work for now.
As a Senior Product Designer I help the team identify potential projects for designers we're interviewing. A quick background on our hiring process:
I've been involved mostly in formulating the UX/product design tests. Our process is still rather new here, but we approach trial projects like we would any other project. We identify a something we would actually work on. We provide a project brief, a chance for the designer to ask questions, and a way for the designer to ask questions and solicit feedback throughout the process.
On that last point: that's big. It's highly unlikely someone will pitch you an idea in 10-15 hours that will blow you away. The tests are largely a way for us to get a feel for a person and how they work. A candidate wouldn't make it to a design test if we didn't already think they were smart, talented, or capable enough for the position. Now we're testing each other out. How communicative are they? Are they asking the right questions? Are they pushing beyond the main idea (i.e. do they solve the problem only or do they solve the problem and see the next 2-3 steps the solution potentially provides)?
It's a long process. Hires take about 2.5-3 months to come on board. Yet we're really pleased with the net result so far. Since January 2014 we've hired 4 designers using this approach. All 4 are still on the team. All 4 are super talented.
PS. We're hiring.
You can't take the way you might work in an office environment and directly apply it to remote working. It's different. You have to allow for greater team-member autonomy. You have to document more. You have to create asynchronous work patterns.
For better or worse, some people don't enjoy working remotely or can't make it work. It's a skill. You have to work at it. But if you're able to make it work, it can be a truly rewarding experience.
Nice write-up Colm!