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Finding the Right Fit: What Job Is Right for You?

Finding the Right Fit: What Job Is Right for You?

Christopher Simmons

Lately I’ve been fielding inquiries from my former students, nervous about starting their first design job. Fortunately, many of them have multiple offers and the anxiety stems from trying to figure out where they’re going to be happy. Here’s some perspective for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

Your First Job Will Not Be Your Last

It’s not like the old days. People generally don’t work their way up from the mail room and retire from the corner office 50 years later with a gold watch. Typically you will stay in your first job for about 2 years. Consider it two more years of school (only you’re getting paid for it). Just like picking a school or picking a class, you want to choose a job that will challenge you and help you grow. This means you have to identify for yourself what you still need to learn.

Pick a Place Where You Are Valuable

You need to work in a place where you bring skills that others don’t have (even if the skills are just your perspective and thinking). This is kind of the converse of #1 above, but the more you are able to contribute the more you will learn. In smaller studio especially there are always gaps in expertise. At my first job I was the only person who could build a website. That meant the studio could start offering web design in addition to identity and print and it brought us a lot more business. It also meant that I got to work on all the web design projects. I met more clients, went to more meetings, and learned more as a result.

Know Where You’re Going

Get clear about your long term goals. Ask yourself where you want to be in two years. In five. In ten. You may not know exactly what you want, right out of school, but try to imagine your future as clearly as you can, and ask yourself if the job you’re about to take is going to help you get there. Often we get excited to have an offer from a brand name firm, or we get tempted by a flattering salary. These are worthy considerations, but they’re just part of your bigger picture.

Work for Nice People Who Care About You

Make no mistake, a job is a job and you’re being hired to do it. Employers really have no obligation to you beyond paying you for the work you do for them. BUT, the best employers also take an interest in their employees and want to see them grow and succeed. If you can, work for someone who takes an interest in you and your career. They will impart more knowledge, offer more opportunities, be more transparent, and may even help you with contacts and advice after you move.

Size Matters

Smaller firms tend to be more open and you tend to have more responsibilities in more areas. In a firm of six or seven people, the designer is often responsible for the creative work, production and project management of their jobs. Client interaction, presentation, and even new business may soon become a part of that equation as well. Larger firms need to create efficiencies with more segmented job roles, so you may be isolated to a more narrow job description. Larger firms generally attract larger clients, so if your dream is to design for major brands, you’re less likely to realize that dream in a boutique studio.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is you will not make a bad choice. Everything is a lesson and you will learn and advance no matter what. It’s just a matter of what you learn, at what pace and what cost. Ultimately we all make our own way.

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