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Navigating a Saturated Field with Unrealistic Expectations and Job Markets

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Hey there, future world-shakers and change-seekers! In the face of today's challenging job market and my decision to venture into the competitive and saturated field of graphic design, I believe it's the perfect time to discuss the art of navigating this dynamic employment landscape. My journey is still in its early stages but already yielding some remarkable successes. So, get comfortable, and hopefully I can offer some valuable insights along the way, or at least some great motivational quotes to keep you going!

Image of black background with title that says "join our team. We're hiring"> also has a magnifying glass hovering on 3 silhouettes of people.
Unrealistic Job Market and Crazy Expectations

There I was a few years ago, thinking - if genes can undergo mutations and lead to diverse new traits in a species, surely, I can adapt and evolve in my career path from genetic counselor (GC) to graphic designer in the GC world. So I took the leap. But then, reality smacked me in the face like a well-designed pie chart. I'm sure you're familiar with the scene - scrolling through job listings and seeing more ads for the job you want than there are cat videos on the internet. It's a jungle out there. The Challenge is REAL!

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

My first challenge? These job descriptions that expect you to be a unicorn with super design powers, time management skills of a Swiss watchmaker, and communication skills that could charm the socks off Oprah herself. I mean, really? I wondered how I'd ever measure up! (Cue the imposter syndrome orchestra and the "Who Am I Kidding?" choir.) BUT, like Amelia Earhart once wisely said, "The most effective way to do it is to do it." So, with that nugget of wisdom, here I am still pushing through with all the confidence of a penguin trying to take flight (I'm not going to lie, that's how it feels at times).

Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks

Let’s take it back for a moment to my first day of graphic design school. Imagine Marie Curie, except instead of discovering radium, she's trying to decipher Adobe Suite and other design software. Those icons might as well have been hieroglyphics, and I contemplated switching to Morse code. But hey, as Rosa Parks wisely said, "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right." And I felt in my core that this was the right path for me, even if Adobe's mysterious language seemed to be from another planet.


Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt

Now, in this crazy new design world, I'm learning valuable lessons.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you'll be criticized anyway." Oh boy, was she right! Criticism is as frequent as data points in an experiment. But I’m


learning to take it as a sign that I'm boldly pushing boundaries and trying new things. As for the imposter syndrome and the comparison game, well, I've decided to send them on a very long vacation. I doubt it’ll be permanent, they will likely always burden me with unwelcome visits, but my progress is incredible.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

Sure, the graphic design field is more saturated than a sponge at a car wash, but I found my niche. Following Maya Angelou's wisdom, 'You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have,' I've I put my scientific curiosity to work, blending genetics with graphics. It's like being the architect of design, constructing visuals that transform intricate concepts into crystal-clear blueprints. What's even more rewarding is hearing people exclaim, 'This is precisely what we need! A designer who comprehends the subject matter and scientific intricacies of her projects!'"

Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin

Now, networking… as an introvert – that's a whole adventure on its own. Picture me trying to solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded while riding a unicycle on a tightrope over a pool of sharks. Yep, that's how it feels sometimes. I've been seeking mentors and role models to help me improve my networking skills. In a field where 93% of workers identify as female, most of my mentors have been females. And as Rosalind Franklin once beautifully said, "There is immense value in women supporting other women in the pursuit of knowledge." I can't, however, continue without acknowledging that we have amazing non-female identifying genetic counselor colleagues who devote their time to patients and the field of genetic counseling. Having said that, I've been doing my fair share of research and consulting experts. It's been quite insightful! With over 2,500 applicants for almost every posted job, I (you) need a strategy. Imagine Cleopatra ruling Egypt with charm, cunning, and a touch of drama. That's how I approach my job and leads hunt. I personalize my applications, trying to showcase my unique style and background. Also, I've shifted my focus towards securing contracts as a freelance designer, allowing me to establish more personalized connections with potential clients. The key here is networking, actively engaging with people, and identifying ways I can be of assistance. While it may not lead to fast growth, this approach is extremely rewarding and exciting, and I absolutely love it!

Helen Keller
Helen Keller

As I continue navigating this job market, I'm reminded of Helen Keller's words: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." So, I say embrace change, be brave, stay persistent and strong, and remember that your unique journey is what sets you apart. And one additional crucial tip - don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you did not get a job you really wanted, ask why? Ask how you may improve or what was missing. You may not always get answers, but if/when you do, it is insightful.


To all you budding professionals out there, even in fields as crowded as a car in LA rush hour traffic, whether you're just starting or on the brink of a breakthrough, remember that success isn't always about the big leaps; it's often about the small wins that light your path. Your path might not be conventional, but it's uniquely yours, and that's what makes it remarkable. Embrace the adventure, and keep pushing those creative boundaries, because your passion and determination can take you far. Your canvas is waiting – go paint the world with your unique colors, even if you feel like a penguin in flight! 🐧🎨 Until next time! ~ Note: I would really appreciate it if you could follow me and share my pages on social media (mainly LinkedIn and Instagram - links below). It helps others find my content and helps increase my reach. Also, as I aim to always grow and improve, I would LOVE to hear your feedback! Please share your thoughts in the comments! Nira

Head shot of Nira Johnson, graphic designer and genetic counselor. Image shows her looking at the camera while she is at the counter sketching.
Nira Johnson, MSc, ASc

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