Tricks and Treats of Starting Your Career in Design

As a child, were you fascinated when you walked into new buildings? Did you notice things like floors, ceilings, and lightning, that no one else did? While an eye for design may start at an early age, becoming an interior designer is not always a linear path. Reflecting on my experience and career path, I can vouch.  I left a stable paying job working in sales to pursue her dream of designing interiors. My secret was having great mentors along the way, who gave me the chance to do more than I thought possible.  I’ve been paying it forward since then. This month, I’m sharing some career tips written by my own intern, Chloe.

She is paying it forward by offering some career tips or “tricks” about transitioning into hospitality design from landscape design.  For Chloe,  it wasn’t simple. She had to move from Colorado to New York City, go to graduate school, and start all over again in a new city and industry. Despite the challenges, she is so glad she did.

Trick 1: Don’t be afraid of getting ghosted

Most of us have had the experience of reaching out to someone, starting a conversation, then never hearing from them again. It may be difficult to approach someone again after that happens. However, breaking into a new industry or career requires talking to people you’ve never met before and asking them questions about their career and how they got there.

How to do it: Start with people you already know to ask for an introduction.  Be clear about how they can help you.  Most people are  happy to offer their advice but first you need you be specific about how they can help. Is it for them to share about their day-to-day challenges? Or advice on what professional associations they belong to?

Trick 2:  Find a mentor that energizes you, not scares you

After the initial conversation, you might find that you enjoy talking to one person more than another based on similar interests or personality.  The moment Chloe met Alicia, they instantly clicked. Chloe was drawn to her high energy and kindness. She loved how Alicia could go into a room and both connect with clients energetically and kindly yet be able to push back firmly on clients on design ideas that were impractical.  She knew she would enjoy working with her. When the opportunity presented itself a few months later, Chloe gladly accepted the part-time opportunity.

How to do it:  Repeat Trick #1 and talk to a bunch of people until you find someone that you connect with. If someone offers continued support, explore the possibility of talking to each other at least once month and think about how you’d like to use this time. Having a mentor should be taken seriously. You have to carve out the time and honor your commitments.

Trick 3:  Be prepared to learn,  and ask questions

Unlike what they teach you at school, doing an internship gives you the real experience of a career. It also exposes you to dealing with different types of people, working under deadlines, and solving problems.  Even though she had no prior experience, Chloe had to quickly learn the unique coding system for hospitality design as well as how to speak to vendors and clients. Initially, she made some mistakes as anyone new would make.  Before long, she has been able to take on more and work more independently. She knows that there are no questions too small or insignificant and through every question, comes a new learning.

Being a mentor has made a huge impact in my business.  I’ve been able to combine my passion of sharing design with others with the practicality of having someone to lighten the workload, so I  could focus on other aspects of the business. The good news is that with a dream and determination, it’s definitely possible to change careers at any point in your life. Career changes may not be easy but having a mentor can definitely help.


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