How do I get promoted from intermediate to senior designer?

(This is one of a series of questions I received on Instagram prior to Portfolio Review Night 6.) 

I hate how the job market is right now, any tips on climbing up the ladder from intermediate designer to senior?

If you wanna move up a level, you have to know what the difference is between the job you're doing now and the job you wanna move into. So if you're an intermediate designer and you wanna become a senior designer, you have to know what a senior designer does.

The thing that changes as you move up the ladder generally speaking, is that the more senior you are, the less overseen you are. Juniors are overseen very closely by Creative Directors. Intermediate designers a little bit less, senior designers even less than that. And often as you go up to see the scales tip, where the senior designer might then oversee the junior designer a little bit. In other words, you’re given more autonomy and space for independent decision-making as you move up.

A huge part of that is simply down to how much experience you have; it takes time and practice to get better at anything. You also encounter a wider variety of situations the longer you work, which grows your problem solving skills in unique ways (within the design work, but also socially with your colleagues).

If you want a promotion at your current company, you should talk to your bosses and see what you can work on to make being a senior a reality there. They probably will have specifics for you that you can work on. But your promotion will also depend on if they have the need or space for a senior creative; you may have to wait until somebody else leaves or there’s a business case for adding another senior role.

Often, the easiest way to move up the ladder is just to apply for that role at a new company. To be hired in a senior designer role, you should do these things:

  1. Demonstrate your creative process and rationale in your portfolio and talk about it in the interview.
  2. Talk about the outcomes of your projects or what client reactions you received.
  3. Describe what your work relationships are like and how you collaborate and solve problems with others.

The higher up you are, the more your leaders will need you to make good, sound decisions without their guidance that they would be happy with. The more senior the role, the more it becomes about managing relationships. Demonstrating how you work with people and handle different situations will help interviewers understand what you’re capable of.