Design Students: How to Build a Successful Career
I’ve been teaching web design for seven years and working with students for just as long.
This is what I know about building a successful design career.
1. Practice, practice, practice.
If you want to develop a skill, practice makes perfect. So to be a successful designer, you must practice, everyday; period. While natural talent plays a role in building a successful career, practice, and a healthy dose of tenacity (and dare I say luck), will get you a long way.
2. Read and keep up-to-date.
Design and technology move so fast that you must keep up-to-date by reading the most current information and following online magazines and websites. Most of what you need to know to be successful can be found online, so take the time to find this information and read it, daily.
3. Get to know the community and develop a network.
“It’s not what you know but who you know.” Cliché, yes, but it’s often very true. To move forward in a career, you need to know the design community at-large, and network with the people whose world you want to be a part of.
4. Develop your soft skills.
When industry professionals contact me regarding students, they talk most about soft skills. Employers seek students who are problem-solvers, hard-working, good communicators, and team players. Professionals can train you in a variety of ways, but if you’re not a good communicator, or a poor team player, they feel this isn’t easily fixed. You need to learn how to communicate your ideas in front of groups of people and one-on-one, learn to listen, collaborate, and improve your writing skills.
5. Make a plan and follow through. Be open to detours.
“What’s your plan?” Without a plan, you can’t build a successful career. Your career is not made by others, it’s made by you. Do you want to work for yourself or for someone else? (These require two completely different plans and approaches.) What kind of design do you want to do? Who are the designers and studios who do this best? Do a “competitive analysis” to understand the playing field. Start with contacting the people on top of your list. And be ready to make a detour, or walk through a different set of doors, if the opportunity arises.
Finally, there is no better time to be a designer, so don’t sell yourself short… and now, my dear students, go out and get ‘em!