Hi all and thanks for the views,
I’m searching for your advice and perspective. The topic I want to talk about is hitting a ceiling.
I have some challenges I am mulling over at work and would be grateful to gain some wisdom.
Here’s the context:
(or skip down to the takeaway)
Holding a bachelor’s degree, I am currently 2 years into my first serious product design job at a multidisciplinary design consultancy, where I have stayed because the Principal (ID trained and an amazing wellspring of creativity) is so incredibly talented. Working with the Principal I observe and learn a LOT, some of the best lessons of my career so far, better than any class I ever took in undergrad.
We are growing, which means more middle managers and less one-on-one time with the Principal (much busier now), who I have always seen as my important mentor. I am glad for the firm, which I care about and have invested in, but feeling uncertain for myself.
Unfortunately, the middle managers are less than effective. While they are competent designers, objectively speaking, none of them has any managing skills (just not their background/strength), except for one, who is quite good at project management. Unfortunately, his background is in advertising and his design POV is very far away from the nuanced, ambiguity-friendly ideology I personally identify with. My ability to learn from these managers – who are respectable and great people, just not super creative, nor attentive to the growth or development of junior designers – is something I question a lot.
The dominant philosophy here on personal career growth and development seems to be “figure it out as you go along” and “put in the time (eg. multiple years of status quo without any concrete goals) and you’ll eventually improve.” Something feels wrong, but I am too ignorant to be able to put it into words.
I have studied ideas on core competencies such as Chris Conley’s
“The Core Competencies of Design: The Basis of a Broadly Applicable Discipline” ( http://www.idsa.org/sites/default/files/Chris%20Conley.pdf ) and very much want to prepare myself well for the future. I want to become a mentor one day who can inspire young designers as the Principal has inspired me. I need to learn and grow in order to become that person.
So for the past six months I have been struggling with these issues as I’ve begun to perceive a sort of ceiling on my growth here. Sometimes it feels clear to me that I need to escape this feeling and leave my company soon, but then the problem is that the picture of the next step – of what I would look for next or where I would go from here – feels fuzzy. Other times, I am enthusiastic to stay if changes can be made, but again, what would a new, better structure or better resources look like? How can I prioritize my “ask”. What is really most important for my own development as a designer? The picture is still not quite clear for me…
Would you have perspective to lend on, at the level of day-to-day work, what resources or attention should a young designer be advocating for?
What points should I make in conversation about design careers in general to best arrange assets around me for my own growth?
Particularly since I am two years in and feeling like I’m hitting a ceiling, do you have any advice on the the transition from Junior to Senior designer? What is the typical evolution? Sadly I feel school did not quite give me a good understanding of this.
For the quick TL;DR: What are the most important things a designer should do to maximize personal growth at work?
Thank so much! I value your perspective, and hope this might evolve into a good discussion on some of these topics. I will keep asking questions as I form them, and am all ears to hear anything you might be able to share from your experience.