How to approach your (design) career

Reading time: 7 min

Published: 17-02-2016

I’m writing this blog from the backyard of my apartment in Sydney during my 5 months visit for work. I started working for frog design in Amsterdam at the end of 2014. Seven months later I moved to Munich for work and now I’m working in Sydney. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m still here for work so there is enough that needs to be done during the week. Luckily i love my job! But on the weekends and evenings I can do whatever I want.  Not a bad deal is it?

The reason I’m writing this blog is because I’ve been getting a couple of questions from a few designer friends lately: How come that you are traveling around the world and do work that you love? How did you do it?

I’m gonna answer this question through 5 main points and elaborate on them one by one. This is still my personal experience so feedback is always appreciated!

1. Aim rather ambitious

I was enjoying the Sydney skyline with a colleague the other day and the following thought popped into my head: There are probably a ton of designers that are equally skilled, if not better then I am but they are “stuck” in smaller local agency. Yet I am here. 

Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with working for a local agency but for the sake of answering the question“How did you do it?”, I had to leave the local agency behind me because they where not able to offer me the opportunities that I’ve got now.

Every designer starts as a junior designer so don’t be afraid a company is “too senior” for you. This mindset blocks you from taking actual steps to come closer to that position at that design firm you have always been dreaming of.

There are a lot of design firms that hire juniors and you’ll get the responsibilities of a junior. Don’t think you’ve got to do client presentations on day one. They’ve got creative leads for that and you will grow towards that position. 

I’ve seen creative leads present my design work to a client with the words that I would never be able to find. Every time I see them do it, I’m getting a clearer picture in my head on how they do it. You see: You’ll grow into it.  It’s a matter of expectations. As long as you can keep up with the work that is expected of you, the more senior people will take care of the work that you don’t know how to do (yet).

So just apply for that job that you want. If you get a no, simply ask them why. This will give you valuable information on what to improve. Or maybe you’ll find out that the position is not really what you expected from it anyway. At the end of the day you’ll learn something.

2. Give back to the community

Design, write, meet-ups, public speaking. There are so many things you can do to contribute to our awesome community of designers. People will notice it and even the bigger companies will pick up on it. Let me give you an example.

At my previous job I was starting a side project with one of the iOS developers I was working with. We were building a little app to keep track of what you lent to people. I decided to blog about my creative process. You can read it here. That simple blog got picked up by the recruiters at frog and they invited me to swing by their office and have a chat. Little over a month later I was working for them.

These efforts take time and you will have to put some spare time into it. But believe me it will be worth it. Every time I’ve done something like a dribble post, a blog or a presentation the overall feedback and responses have been very positive. Those responses will make it worth every second of your time.

3. Do the work

A while ago I felt stuck in the position I was in at a start-up I was working for. I was the only designer in the team and there where no designers around me I could learn from. Then I bumped into this video:

It explained 2 things to me:

1) Find a place to work where there are people around you to learn from (this is the reason I decided to work for frog design)

2) You’ve gotta go through a ton of work before you are actually good. Don’t expect to be a design lead when you haven’t got that much experience under your belt. Rome wasn’t build in a day. Do the work you love with people that are better than you. That’s my favourite way of getting better.

4. Be honest

Let’s talk about expectations again. As long as you haven’t been lying when you where applying for the job you should be able to handle you’re job. But you are gonna be pushed out of your comfort zone in order to get better. A good manager will give you those opportunities. Don’t freak out when you are facing a challenge that seems out of your league at first sight. Just be open and honest whenever you feel something is out of your comfort zone. Ask questions to the people you know are able to give you answers. Block some time in their calendar and sit down with them. They will help you through it as long as you are being transparant. you will feel awesome once you pull it off. Make sure to thank them afterwards.

5. Be nice

Be a nice guy to collaborate with. Keep an open mind and be able to handle feedback. Positive energy is contagious so as long as you radiate that, people will love to work together with you. That also means they don’t mind to book some time with you to make you smarter.

I hope this article was of any help. Feel free to shoot some feedback or ask me any questions.

On that note, frog Munich is looking for a bunch of visual designers. Send me an email and join me on this adventure called life!

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