A “Shout Out” for Emerging Designers.

by Michelle Kraker

Sure, we’re in an era of layoffs and cut-throat competition for jobs. Recent grads are competing with those in the field with 10-15 years of experience under their belts. But companies can’t afford to lose the talent that the next generation has to offer.

Almost every other week, I get a group of students in our offices that are looking for advice, direction and tips on how to find a job in the current economy. Perhaps mostly, they might just be looking for hope. Hope that someone sees their talents and gives them an opportunity. Graduates are taking unpaid internships just to stay in the industry, working at restaurants just to make a buck, hoping their passion for design will sustain them long enough to hold out for their dream job. Many are starting to apply and accept jobs at companies where they will not utilize their Interior Design degrees at all, but they have no choice.  If they don’t broaden their horizons, they could be lost to the profession forever.

And of course, it makes sense that companies would focus more on their current employees as opposed to bringing on new talent. Existing employees have built up their repertoire with not only the company itself, but the industry as a whole. So how does a recent graduate compete with the already existing workforce?

The industry is changing, and we all must adapt. Students and companies alike. Students have to learn how to market themselves, how to get to know what companies are looking for, how to find the chance to convince them that they have whatever “it” is. Companies are re-evaluating their budgets, recognizing that this is might not be the year to have a company carnival. As our CEO and Executive Vice President Cheryl Durst pointed out, “most companies are investing in innovation, but a 23 year-old graduate might be more valuable in the long term, they appreciate the new world of design”. Not to mention that it can be good for company morale to have an eager young mind around the office.

Companies should also be nurturing their interns, helping them to get their foot in the door in as many ways as possible. This is the seasoned professionals’ chance to be a mentor to someone who will appreciate it for the rest of their career. After all, they are the next generation of design, and the few good ones will soon be colleagues.

Durst also points out that professionals should not shy away from the concept of “mentoring up” and letting these young people teach them a thing or two about new ways of doing things. Sure, they might be immersed in a visual, digital and social media world. But these students know more about how to connect with people than any other generation before them. They are connectors of ideas and traditions and people.

When the industry picks up and companies are hiring again, we need to keep these emerging designers at the forefront of our minds. Until then, help them out by offering to do mock interviews, or spend 30 minutes with them to paint them a clear picture of what your job looks like on a day to day basis. You’d be surprised at how much you yourself can learn from these young students. They are passionate, they are positively contributing to society, they have strong opinions on world issues and know more about how to build a better tomorrow than many twice their age. They want to get involved, they want to make a difference. They are paradigm shifters and unsullied thinkers. And they need the commitment from today’s professional community to help them reach their full potential.

Speaking of, let me take a moment here to give a special thank you to those of you who took the time to volunteer to be a Mentor in the 2011 Student Mentoring Week. Nearly 1,000 design students we’re paired with professional mentors, making it the most successful year yet!

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!


5 responses to “A “Shout Out” for Emerging Designers.

  1. Thank you for posting this amazing article. Coming for a design graduate whos been looking for a job since September its been tough and I know there are plenty more grads out there who have been looking longer. To be sitting at your computer looking through thousands of jobs for designers with 5-15years experience and then coming across this on your break is a welcome relief. Its hard not to get discouraged.

  2. Thanks for the “shout-out” for entry level designers. I received my MFA in Interior Design in 2010, and besides a little bit of design teaching, have not landed design work. Unfortunately, even some internships are unavailable to me because the design firms often want students who are still in school. But I will keep at it, no matter how discouraging!

  3. Thank you for posting this encouraging article! I graduated in 2009 with a BFA in Interior Design and I have been looking for entry-level design work ever since. Most companies tell me I don’t have enough experience (my internship for school credit only lasted one month). I can’t get internships either because those are reserved for students. How’s anyone going to gain professional experience?! I feel like my dream is just slipping further and further away and the years I spent in school aren’t amounting to anything.

  4. Don’t be discouraged. Soon all your hard work will pay off.

  5. Thank you for this article. I had a breakdown this past Monday and have been struggling with this problem since 2008, as well as my best friend. We started a blog together, as an outlet in the time being, but it is very difficult keeping the momentum, when you dream feels like it is slipping. You ache and long to express, your mind. The thing is it isn’t, it is just different. You aren’t a typical artist, you don’t express yourself with words or business/numbers and you aren’t just a decorator or an architect- YOU ARE A DESIGNER. You have the talent to image spaces that don’t even exist- restaurants, hotels, offices, retail, healthcare and the list goes on… I read this quote that truly expressed how I feel:

    “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off…They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.” – Pearl S. Buck

    The only thing I can recommend that keeps me going after losing my job in 2008 and with only a couple of years of experience and getting over 275 “NO” replies from job positions from across the US and around the world, is that God has a bigger picture for me. The things I have learned, the people I meet are me to do something greater. As a dear friend told me, I have been plucked from the chaos for something greater. The hardest thing is that I keep searching for it and forcing something that is natural to happen quicker that it is supposed to an it is just naturally going to happen. God has instilled in me a wonderful, beautiful, talented, giving, compassionate and creative mind – I and YOU can not lose sight of that! Take this time to USE YOUR SKILLS to do something different, to travel, to help others, to rebuild communities in your city in other countries. Remember the tools we learned – problem solving, drawing, computer programs, blueprints, materials, finishes, etc. USE THESE THINGS to create something greater than you can imagine. Trust me I am teaching myself these things daily. When we release the chains to the “typical” interior design jobs or whatever your skill you will no longer be confined. May God bless you and give you the strength and place the people and tools you need for the next season of you life.

    Dream Big!

    Jona Olivia

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