Advice for Young and Aspiring Designers
What an experienced designer wants you to know before and after they hire you.
You work hard in school, you graduate in a field you love, and you are ready to find a position in the interior design industry. With today's economy, jobs are not as available as they once were, so how are you going to make yourself stand out in a group of applicants?
As an employer, there are certain characteristics we look for when hiring. If you can incorporate them into your interview and follow these tips, you may just find yourself on the road to a wonderful career.
For the Interview
- Bring visuals of your work. You may look great on paper, but we want to see what you have learned and what you are capable of doing. Choose a few of your favorite projects, bind them together, and take them with you. We are also looking at your design aesthetic to see if it is comparable to ours, and if not, can it be trained to be like so.
- Emphasize your strengths. Are you a hard worker who takes the initiative? If so, don't be afraid to highlight it. Bottom line, the interviewer is looking for someone who can make their life and business run more smoothly, and so let them know what you have to offer if hired.
- Wear something appropriate to the interview, and if you are hired, make sure your dress is always professional. What someone fresh out of college may wear may be a little different than what someone older may choose, so remember how you present yourself to clients is a reflection of your employer. Better to dress more conservatively than not, as we cannot send you to a bank or law firm in jeans, a short skirt or even dressy shorts.
- The same goes for wearing strong perfume. Remember, what smells good to you may not to someone else.
On the Job
Now that you have secured that new position, how do you gain the confidence of your employer and make yourself indispensable to them? Here are a few good tips:
- Follow through with a task. If your supervisor turns something over to you, they expect you to complete it in a timely manner. If you make a phone call and have to leave a message, it is your responsibility to follow up until the assignment is complete.
- Take good notes and write down everything. If your employer is like most, we multitask and can have ten different things going on at one time. We may delegate many responsibilities at once, and you need to be able to take it in as fast as we can hand it over .
- Go above and beyond what is asked for you, and become indispensable to your manager. Once something is assigned to you to complete, your employer does not want to have to worry about it being handled in an appropriate manner. Build their trust by following through with a task and taking the initiative on problems that arise. The more dependent you can make your manager on you, the more secure your job will be.
- Ask questions. It is better ask a dumb question than to make a mistake that could result in a loss of money and/or time.
- Have a sense of urgency about the tasks at hand. While you may not see the urgency in finding out an answer to a question a client has or taking care of a problem that arises, your manager does. Again, service to clients is vital, and promptness is key to good service.
- You are a reflection of who you work for, so represent them well. This is so important, as how you dress, the grammar you use, and your attitude are all a representation of the firm who employs you.
- Professionalism is vital when working with vendors, clients…everyone! Some vendors are easier to work with than others, but it is not your place to send a short email criticizing them for how they handle a situation. Always be as professional as possible when dealing with anyone associated with your line of work.
- Have a thirst for knowledge. Take every opportunity that comes your way to learn as much as you can, as your employer wants you to grow personally and professionally.
[Photo credit: Sylvia Martin]
Dana Wolter is a designer based in Birmingham, Alabama who has worked on residential and small commercial projects across the United States. She is known for creating custom interiors that are naturally sophisticated yet truly functional. Dana also contributes television segments on the home for NBC-13 Daytime Alabama and the Mountain Brook, AL television station, MBTV. Her website and blog can be found at www.danawolterinteriors.com.