I had the opportunity to go speak to a group of students last week at UW (thank you, Halli and Professor Ozubko). The audience consisted of about 60-70 students, mostly seniors and some juniors, that were deep in the throes of finals and, looking a little sleep deprived and frazzled – but engaged none-the-less. They are all prepping for a career fair late next quarter so lots of the conversation focused on questions like “How do I stand out from a sea of applicants? What are some of the most common resume/portfolio mistakes that are easy to avoid? Should I do an internship? (side bar: emphatic yes here – do as many as you can!!!) What advice would you give a recent grad entering the work force?” These are all totally fair and pretty expected questions, from my vantage point.
But there were a few questions that were a little deeper, a little more philosophical – and I wanted to address them for the broader audience that may (or may not) be reading my little blog post. They get at some of the things that are a little less straight forward, and that can be even more stressful than the basic portfolio and resume development stuff.
- What do I do with my life????? Now, I expect that the phrasing of that was a little in jest and a little more dramatic just for effect – but it was a real question, one that I think a lot of students (and lets face it, most of the rest of us) have pretty often. Now, to be clear, I was privy to a few of these burning questions ahead of time – so I chose to introduce myself in a bit of a different way than I normally do at these kinds of talks. I’m not a designer – so I’m usually pretty quick with my background as it doesn’t apply directly to design students even though that’s the world I live in. But last week I shared more, because the path I took to where I’m at now wasn’t necessarily direct, and it wasn’t necessarily intentional (at least in the beginning). And that’s ok – not everyone has a plan from the get go. Really. So I thought it would be helpful to talk about that in the context of the question, – “what do I do with my life?” It’s ok if you don’t have a plan right away – most people don’t. Figure out what you love to do, and be open to opportunities; they come at you in many ways. Be open to finding things you’re good at, that you didn’t know you would be, and use those to help get you closer and closer to the job and career that you love.
- Personally, have you envisioned a career away from design? Me personally? 15 years ago – sure. (A girl’s gotta work!) But now? Never. 5-10 years from now? Maybe. Point is – things change, what you love to do might change, sometimes just a little – sometimes a lot. Just like you have to keep an eye on the design industry to stay relevant, you’ve got to keep an eye on yourself and constantly be evaluating if you’re still doing what you love. And it’s ok to change your mind. Whether that’s to leave the business entirely, or whether it’s to change the way you engage with it. Maybe you start out as a designer and end up as a strategist, or in client service, or you start out working client side or at a firm/agency and move to running your own shop.
- Do you expect to stay at Hornall Anderson the rest of your career? Eek – let’s change HA to Company X – don’t want the CEO to catch wind of my response… wait, he reads this blog. J But seriously, Truth – I probably won’t be here the rest of my career. Lots of people have worked here for MANY years, it’s a great place to work – and I love it, and I hope I’m here for a lot longer. But reality is, that’s likely not the case. It’s a different time than when my parents were working; we’re a couple generations away from the standard of sticking with a company for your entire career. All that said – you might find a place that you love and will stick with for the long term, or you might find that you work at 10 or 15 different places, more if you freelance a lot. I think the important part is to understand that out of everywhere you work, there will be no one perfect place. Every job will have pros and cons, pluses and minuses – you need to find the balance that works for you.
We’ll leave it there for now. Hope you all found this interesting, maybe comforting, and *gasp* even helpful. Now get out there and kick some ass!