This is another great blog post from Michelle, IIDA Student! Read her thoughts below on Student Mentoring Week, and why you should have hope going forward in your job searches.
This February marked my second year in a row participating in IIDA’s Student Mentoring Week, both times at the architectural giant, Gensler. Both years that I have visited this magnificent firm, I have had an exceptional experience and really gotten a great insight into how the “real world” design industry works. It is because of this experience that I really got to thinking about my imminent graduation from Illinois State University and entering into the industry myself (80 days and counting)!
It is undeniable that students in all realms of study are feeling major pressure entering the professional world in the current economic climate today. According to a recent article by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 52% of employers surveyed said they were going to cut back on hiring of recent college graduates this year, with the construction industry specifically cutting back up to 19.6% less than last year. So, opportunities such as Student Mentoring Week are especially invaluable to today’s interior design students. In fact, this year IIDA received 440 total student applications for Student Mentoring Week from all over the country, with one student traveling all the way from Oklahoma City to Chicago! (Thanks for the info, Christa!)
But, all is not lost. There are still opportunities for recent graduates, and things that college students can do to prepare for graduation. Interior Design magazine recently published their annual “Top 100 Giants” of the design world, while reporting that among the Giants, earnings were up 13% from last year (including 9% more than their own predictions). Another hopeful finding: the second amongst the Giants’ concerns coming into the new year (after the economy, of course), is recruiting high-caliber staff members and proposing “competitive salaries and benefits, diverse projects and collaborative work environments” to hang on to employees once they’re hired. If these companies continue to do well in the new year, then we might be able to see a light at the end of that tunnel we call college.
While doing some of my own research for the job search, I stumbled across a great document that IIDA and ASID put together as a collaborative effort a last May. Conveniently enough, it is called “Tips for Graduates Entering the Interior Design Profession: What Employers are Looking For” – how perfect! The guide itself is based on a survey taken by Syracuse University of over 300 practicing interior designers – most of whom are responsible for hiring new designers in their firms. Some of the highlights of this guide for me, were:
- Top considerations when hiring new designers: technical design skills, ethical and moral character, eagerness to learn, outgoing personality, good work ethic, professionalism, and being a good fit for the firm.
- As for portfolios, 9 out of 10 employers want to see at least one project from concept to completion, while more than seven projects in total is not encouraged.
- Employers find the overall graphic layout of a resume to be very significant in the hiring process, although this is not the place to demonstrate design skills – the portfolio is.
- Cover letters should only be one or two paragraphs long and clearly state why you want to work for that firm.
- General interview advice includes: rehearse beforehand, smile, have a firm handshake, look people in the eye, remember names, be prompt, and wear professional dress.
Overall, I think the best advice for interior design students looking to graduate is to stay positive, take any and all opportunities that come your way, and never give up! You never know where you might land. In addition to these tips, you can also check out the following article I also found during my research for some more helpful tricks:
Finally, I’d like to use this blog to thank IIDA sincerely for setting up Student Mentoring Week for interior design students this year, along with all the participating firms (and thanks to everyone at Gensler, Chicago for hosting me). I’m sure a wonderful experience was had by all and hopefully many students were really inspired to continue and pursue their dreams in working in the wonderful industry of interior design – I know I was!