When starting off your career your long term goals must feel like an eternity away and full of difficulties and growth pains. All of these aspects are true, but you can always start on the correct foot to be able to make the most of your time when you are trying to learn the profession specific vocabulary, as well as all of the firm processes and standards you must adopt.
These 8 tips below will give you a wonderful place to start in order to grow and reach your highest potential.
1.YOU OWN YOUR CAREER… NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING
It is important that you know what you want and make a plan to go get it. If you are and experienced designer looking for a new opportunity make them want to hire you. Make your goals, both short and long term, as clear as possible from the onset. By doing this everyone is on the same page and you can insure you have mentors around you that know how to help you. You obviously must also work hard to make these goals happen. At times this may mean extra work, taking on a new skill, or getting out of your comfort zone. Do not wait around and expect and opportunity to come to you.
2. LEARN YOUR CRAFT FIRST
No one comes out of school a “Strategist”. I am so tired of interviewing entry level designers that tell me that they want to do “Design Strategy”. You cannot do design strategy until you understand your craft. You need to go through the process and understand how products are designed, manufactured, influence consumers, and impact the business. Without these experiences everything is theoretical.
Take the time to get your hands dirty, pump out thousands of sketches, build prototypes and CAD models. It’s what you went to school for and what you are good at. If strategy is your thing, it will come after you learn your craft and truly understand the entire ecosystem of product development and how design influences other functions of an organization such as R&D, Marketing, Finance and Sales.
3. YOU WERE HIRED FOR A REASON
We have all fallen victim of thinking we need to over prove ourselves when we are hired. Coming in guns blazing and start laying out our resume at every chance. Spouting out “at xyz firm we did it like this” and consistently trying to show “better” ways of doing things. Bringing past experience is a good thing, but consistently quoting your past can comes across as insecure, not being a team player, and having doubt in the team’s capabilities. Remember you were interviewed by the team. They know your past, know your skills and they hired you for a reason. Find constructive ways to bring your past into the team, but don’t be patronizing.
4. TAKE YOUR TIME – IT’S A MARATHON NOT A SPRINT
This may be a bit cliché, but it is the total truth. Be patient with your career. Put the time in to learn. If you work hard and put in the time, you will move up, you will take on more responsibility, and you will get to where you want to be. Let it happen! That’s how you learn. Without this learning, you will fail and fail hard. Foundation is always needed to build a solid structure.
5. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE NEGATIVE PEOPLE
On the flip side of point five, there will always be obnoxious and negative people in the work place. We all know them, the ones that complain about the boss, or think that they always know best. Don’t let them get you down. Don’t let them drag you into their negativity. Negativity only breeds unhappiness and drags you into a dark hole. Shut it down as quick as you can.
6. KNOW HOW TO GET OUT OF A FUNK
Funks happen, even to the best of us. You may be very passionate about a design direction and feel deep down it is the right direction to go, but it gets shot down by the client. You may have been moved on to a business that you have no interest in. Whatever triggers the funk, you have to learn how to get yourself out of it. A funk is self-induced negativity. You create it, therefor you control it! Take on special projects that you are passionate about or go to the gym and lift heavy things (my remedy of choice). Whatever it maybe, make sure your get out of the toxic mindset.
7. DIVERSIFY YOUR EXPERIENCE
A well-rounded design leader can wear many hats. They collect those hats by taking on responsibilities outside their design “discipline”. If you are an Industrial Designer do not be afraid to take on roles in Graphic Design, POP, Manufacturing, UI/UX, etc… In my career I have done Industrial Design, Package Design, Graphic Design, Food Design, Toy Design, POP, Workshop Facilitation, and Innovation Strategy. Without taking on all these experiences, I do not feel that I would be where I am today.
8. WORK IS NOT EVERYTHING – DESIGN IS A LIFESTYLE BUT IT’S NOT YOUR LIFE
This is the MOST important point. It is way too easy these days to let our careers consume us, especially as industrial designers. We are surrounded by our work and have a passion for beautiful product design. We have a love for solving consumer problems and making the world a better place through design – it’s what drives us.
With that, there are much more important things than work. Don’t let work cause you to miss putting your kids to bed, going to soccer practice, or having dinner with someone you love. Work will come and go, but your loved ones will be relationships you will keep well beyond work. Nurture and grow them, they will be the ones that will be there for you in the good and the bad times.
When considering your next career move, plan proactively and create Portfolios that include your best work. Consider looking into finding a mentor with Architect-US, and improving your Portfolios with our Portfolio Plans and Career Advice Program. We provide coaching and personalized mentorship, so you can have a professional and experienced take on your next steps in your career, as well as a great team to confide in.