Building the steps to design career success

Some days it’s all you can do to keep up your demanding workload. It goes on day after day, until one day you lift your head up over your cubicle partition and realize you’ve been stuck in the same place for months, perhaps years.
What happened to those dreams you had when you started your design career? They haven’t vanished. In your effort to excel at your current job, you’ve inadvertently stopped pursuing them. Time to get back on track.


Careers don’t just happen. They have to be cultivated. Speaking of his own career, a successful CEO shared this piece of advice: “I give 90 percent of my time to the job every day. The other 10 percent I reserve for myself, to devote to career development and advancement.”
What can you be doing now to take you further along the path to the design career you envision for yourself?
In my firm, we work with a lot of job candidates. Most are talented, hard-working and ambitious. Unfortunately, many believe that is all they need to succeed. They haven’t taken the time to find out what else is required for the kind of positions they covet.
Here are some essentials:
Knowledge. Do you have the necessary training or education, possibly the appropriate degree from a certified program, to undertake the duties you aspire to? Is there specialized training you could get that would make you a more valuable employee? What other knowledge do experts in the field have that you need to become familiar with?
Experience. Do you have at least three months’ experience in a particular job, or two to three years’ experience in a particular specialty, that would qualify you to take on a more advanced position? Do you have an adequate portfolio of your own projects to demonstrate your level of experience and ability?
Certification. Are you certified and licensed as a professional? Do you need additional certification in areas like sustainability, healthcare, wellness or aging in order to meet the standards or needs of the firm(s) you want to work for?
Technical skills. Do you have training and experience with the hardware and software currently in use in most A&D firms, such as AutoCAD, Revit, BIM, Photoshop, Design Manager, as well as office administration and collaborative work software, like the suite of Microsoft Office, Apple iWork programs or GoogleDocs? Is your level of proficiency and efficiency with these tools sufficient to make you a competitive candidate?
In addition, I find candidates often have not done their homework adequately before setting their sights on a particular firm, specialty or market.
Is there — and more importantly will there continue to be — demand for the type of work you want to do? How much activity is there in the market, and who are the major clients? Who are the major firms serving those clients?
Once you’ve identified employers you’d like to work for, do some research to learn more about the types of projects they do, their aesthetics, their clients, the work culture and values, the leadership, who they have on staff, and their plans for growth. Ideally, try to meet casually with some current employees and clients or suppliers to get an insider’s perspective on the firm.
Finally, don’t overlook two of the most important keys to career development success, networking and continued learning. Industries, markets and skill sets are always evolving and changing. To keep advancing in your career, you need to stay on top of recent and impending developments.
You also want to keep building and cultivating your network. You never know when a contact may lead to your next opportunity.
Even if you do nothing else, devote at least 10 percent of your day to working on those two areas, and you will never find yourself feeling like your stuck in place again.

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