The world of design is filled with an evolving list of opportunities for expansion, growth, and creation. We are watching the design industry adapt with every trend and style that floods the market. So how do up-and-coming designers break into the field, and more importantly, how do they choose the right path when there are so many?
It comes down to knowing who you are, what you want, and how hard you’re willing to work.
Recently, the former Facebook lead designer, Kate Aronowitz, had the chance to reveal a few priceless insights into her own experience finding her right fit. From starting as a PowerPoint administrator for eBay to her role at Google Ventures, each step has taught her the value of knowing what you want and to be open to the obstacles that will lead you there.
I’m a huge believer in taking charge of your career and intentionally planning every step from the start. When I moved to the Bay Area in 2001, I was a graphic designer with no web experience. The dotcom frenzy was over and there were very few open positions in design. After interviewing for months, I was offered a job at eBay to do PowerPoint presentations for their sales team. Was it exciting work? No. Was it a senior position? No. But it was a foot in the door at a company just starting their user experience team. After three months of PowerPoint, I made friends with the UX designers and started to hang around their area any chance I got. I begged for projects and took any and everything they would give me. Again, it wasn’t glamorous work. But it was hands-on experience with a great team and I was learning. Fast-forward three years and I was a senior manager, overseeing a large team of designers.
Her advice is to follow these five lessons she’s learned along her way – each one helped to build her own road to success:
- Choose your company carefully
- Choose your manager carefully
- It’s not about titles and promotions
- Don’t be the first
- Say “yes” when others say “no”
Her advice is to take the projects others may not want to do, test your limits, and push them for growth. Enjoy the growing pains, but don’t sacrifice yourself for a promotion in a place you don’t want to be in. These principles are built after years of running into brick walls and missteps, and can’t be learned simply by hearing someone say it.
Plot your course, but be willing to change it along the way.
Sometimes the opportunities have presented themselves, and other times I’ve had to chase them. Those very first steps in a career are especially critical, as they set the foundation and direction for years to come.