We started RookieUp earlier this year to create a simple and accessible way for anyone, regardless of background, location, or personal connections, to easily connect with high quality professionals in creative fields and get feedback and advice in unstructured video-based mentor sessions. Our mission from the start was to help aspiring creatives improve their skills and launch their dream careers, but we weren’t quite sure what form that would ultimately take. But after being live for a few months, we started to see themes in the types of problems that most aspiring designers were facing, problems that no current platforms were solving.
Here are some of the recurring trends we’ve seen…
From mentor sessions
While we expected that a majority of mentees would want to focus on asking technical and conceptual questions to their mentors, it quickly became apparent that an overwhelming majority wanted to discuss how to improve their portfolios and land jobs in their field. Most mentees seemed comfortable with their ability to learn creative fundamentals and technical skills from other services, and wanted to work with mentors to build better portfolios so they could actually land jobs in the field.
The takeaway here is that while there are hundreds of amazing ways to learn design skills online, most aspiring designers still feel like they need significant help building up their portfolios and understanding how to position themselves to land jobs (even after finishing intensive bootcamps or online programs).
We started talking with recruiters and employers in the creative industry a few months ago to understand their perspective on the current design job market. The main feedback has generally fallen into two categories. First, there are a lot of junior designers entering the job market. A lot. With the surge of new bootcamps and online courses teaching design, it’s easier than ever to learn basic design skills, which has resulted in thousands of new designers applying for jobs every month.
The second theme is that many of the people applying for these jobs have nearly identical portfolios. Online courses and bootcamps assign the same cookie-cutter projects to every student, leading to thousands of portfolios filled with the same projects for the same theoretical clients. Projects like this make sense in the context of a fast-paced curriculum because they let students practice basic concepts and skills quickly, week after week. However, they don’t focus on the types of comprehensive problem-focused projects that young designers will actually be working on in full-time roles, and they completely ignore each student’s actual industry and role interests.
The takeaway here is that most current design courses largely ignore the importance of helping students work on comprehensive projects that are customized to their specific industry and role interests in favor of the scalability of assigning one-size-fits all projects. Simple projects that focus on individual concepts are a great way to learn the basics, but they aren’t enough to stand out to employers. But how can students learn the right design process they need to work through to create detailed projects when they’ve never been taught?
The main problem has become pretty clear — while there are hundreds of platforms to learn creative skills, creative education generally stops short of helping students achieve their real end goals: starting a career in the creative industry. Even bootcamps that promote career placement opportunities generally stop helping students within a few weeks of graduating. Some graduates might land jobs quickly, but many are left wondering what they should do next. Those students then need to spend months on their own coming up with new projects and repositioning themselves to actually be attractive to employers. Even more so, programs that do offer career help only offer it to people going through their entire program. Once someone has already learned the basics of design and graduated, they’re on their own.
In a world where there are so many amazing ways to learn design, why, we wondered, were there no programs or schools that focused primarily on helping aspiring designers launch their careers after they’d already learned the basics. Why wasn’t there a program focused on helping new designers build up comprehensive portfolios, hone their skills, and learn to think like real designers?
So we built a product to help solve that problem. We’ve taken feedback from hundreds of people, spoken with recruiters across the creative world, and developed an affordable solution we think will be incredibly helpful to anyone looking to take the first step in their creative careers.
The Career Bootcamps
Our three new Career Bootcamps are 4-6 week programs where you’ll be paired with a mentor based on your specific career goals and then work with them to take major steps towards your career goals, whatever they may be. They’re built for people who have already started learning design, whether through a bootcamp, online course, or self-studying. The three bootcamps are…
- The Build Your Portfolio Bootcamp is 4 weeks long and is focused on helping you create your first in-depth portfolio projects and hone your portfolio site.
- The Get A Design Job Bootcamp is 6 weeks long and focuses on helping you build comprehensive portfolio projects, polish your portfolio site, practice your interviewing skills, perfect your resume and elevator pitch, and actually apply to jobs!
- The Become A Freelancer Bootcamp is also 6 weeks long, and focuses on the same comprehensive portfolio projects in addition to helping you take major steps towards launching your freelancing career, as well as finding and building long-term relationships with clients.
At the core of our new bootcamps are projects – you’ll choose a series of projects and then work on them over the first four weeks of the bootcamp, getting multiple rounds of written feedback from your mentor each week and then finishing each week with a video session to go over the projects in more detail and discuss next steps.
As we were starting to outline the bootcamps, we realized that most online design briefs and project assignments were too generic and not particularly useful for someone just getting started in their career. If you’re just getting started, how do you know what design process to follow for a particular project, what deliverables you should include in the final designs, how to conduct research, and even how you should showcase the final product on your portfolio site? So we built the RookieUp Project Framework, the most comprehensive project framework you’ll find anywhere, that guides you step-by-step through the entire process of building up comprehensive portfolio projects while still allowing you to come up with clients, products, and problems that match your unique interests. Every student gets access to our 30+ Frameworks, which include the exact types of projects, ranging from Branding + Identity to App Design, that hiring managers want to see in junior design portfolios (trust us, we asked them)!
We’ll also have monthly Real Client briefs that students can work on with actual nonprofits and startups, in addition to frameworks for everything from starting your own side project to crafting your personal branding. We recognize that working under constraints and working on real world work are important skills to possess, so we’re doing everything we can to provide projects based on real clients, real problems, and real student interests.
In addition, the bootcamps provide tons of exclusive resources we’ve created to help students find jobs, build their portfolios, find clients, and more! We’ve also curated hundreds of hours of curriculum from the best sources of the web to help students continue their education even as they work to build up amazing portfolios, as well as exclusive perks to design tools like Sketch, Balsamiq, AND CO, Skillshare, and more.
For people who want our portfolio resources but don’t need the structured mentorship, we’re launching a fourth new product called the the Portfolio Starter Kit. It includes all the resources and frameworks from the Career Bootcamps (in addition to 25% off RookieUp mentor sessions), just without the mentorship. We know that many people like to work through things at their own pace, so we made sure to build an offering suited particularly for them. And the Starter Kit includes 25% off traditional RookieUp mentor sessions, so that mentorship is accessible even outside of the Bootcamps.
We’re so excited to release these new offerings into the world to help aspiring designers continue to improve their skills after they’ve already learned the basics. We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, thoughts, or feedback on our new products.