Career Benchmarks

Hi all,

Long time follower, first time poster looking for some design advice.

Graduated in summer 2015 and have been working in a design consultancy for about 18 months now. I’m beginning to feel a little low in confidence after being moved off two projects recently and so I’m beginning to think about my next career move. I don’t particularly agree with the firm’s design process, it takes ages to get projects up and running and they often run over the timeline, meaning unhappy clients. I also feel like I haven’t had much investment or help in enhancing my knowledge (as a recent grad). Due to the length of projects/confidentiality, I also haven’t got a lot that I could show in a folio.

Based on your experiences what would your expectancy levels of a designer with 18 months experience be?

I’d say hang in there until at least 24 months. It takes 12 months to bring most incremental products to market, 18-24months plus to bring anything really innovative with R&D, so I wouldn’t expect you to really have much production work in your portfolio yet.

Keep in mind you only get to quit a job once, so ask yourself have you learned everything you can from your current company? Before I left I’d want to know why they are taking you off projects? Is there a perceived problem with your work or your process? If so is there anything you can learn from the feedback they might be able to offer you?

In the past 20 years I’ve only had 4 employers. I’m not saying not to leave, but make sure you are selecting your next move carefully and not just running away from something.

I agree with the advice above.

Instead of trying to change a company, you can also look for introducing a few ideas for example borrowed from scrum/agile/lean/six sigma processes at the start of projects to get people enthusiastic in ways that are realistic.

  1. Totally agree with Yo and Ralph. Stick it out for at least 2 years. You’ve just started to scratch the surface of what you can learn, no matter how dreary the place is!

  2. Unfortunately, today, you have to invest in developing your own skills. Until I had kids, I was either enrolled in continuing education courses or working on projects at home with a different scope than my work. Identify some skill or knowledge that you either want to develop or is a current weakness and start working on it.

Good luck!

It’s good that your’e thinking about this, and not to discourage you, but when employers start taking work away or start giving you less to do it may be a sign that your days there are numbered, it is also a tactic that employers use to get employees to leaving willingly, but I agree that you should ask why you were taken off of these projects, it may have nothing to do with your performance and more to do with shifting resources to meet deadlines.

No offense, but you don’t have enough experience or time there to really disagree with their process. Try to remember that the processes that you learn in school are ideals and the processes that you encounter on the job are realities. Not every agency, consultancy, or corp design team will necessarily adhere to the ideal processes that you learned in school, for many reasons. In the working world I’ve found it helpful to identify when and where components of those ideal (or best) practices make sense to plug into a project, and where they don’t.

As far as the unhappy clients, that is typically the fault of the sales rep or account exec not working with development on realistic deliverables in order to set proper expectations. It may also be an project management issue in timeline and resource tracking.

I’d stick it out a while longer, ask questions about anything in order to keep learning, and bank that experience for your next gig if you decide to leave.

This is so true. I used to think that my ex-employers were totally incompetent. Now that I’ve been in management, I realize that it’s always a mixed bag. Now, I’m so glad that I worked at these other places. Upon reflection, I’ve learned so many good things along the way.

Also, back to the original post, people respond to incentives. Some places will reward being on time and on budget more than having a successful product. Early in my career, I thought this was just stupid. Now I realize it’s still stupid, but it’s one of the easier things to measure, so it ends up being the target out of default.

Also, it’s a challenge to align a team within a company. It’s even hard to align internally and with consultants. You would hope that your employer would reflect on these client’s feedback and try to see if they can work on that alignment, but they are busy entrepreneurs who are successful enough to bring you in. It’s hard to find time to improve when you have a lot of business to keep you busy.