Tips to overcome obstacles and thrive at any agency
It takes a lot of work to land a great design job – multiple rounds of interviews, an impeccable portfolio, and stellar networking skills, to name a few things. But getting hired is only half the battle. Once you’re onboard, you’ll need to work just as hard. Succeeding at a new design job requires focus, determination, and an abundance of humility. Sadly, many design professionals make costly mistakes.
Some of these blunders are aesthetic, like typographical errors or designs that fail to match the needs of the target audience. Others have more to do with work-life balance; some designers work unnecessarily long hours to impress a new manager or tolerate poor behaviour and abuse to get ahead, ultimately resulting in burnout, job dissatisfaction, or both. There’s also the issue of attitude. Experienced designers may start at a new agency and assume they’re the expert, but this can cause friction with colleagues or lead designers to take on projects they’re actually unqualified to handle.
These stumbles might sound scary, but there are a few steps that all designers can take to not only survive in a new role, but thrive.
Whether you’re an agency newbie or a seasoned veteran, you should always be open to criticism. To shift your mindset, remove your emotions from every project once it’s done. Realize that the work is being critiqued, not you. Also, understand that the criticism is intended to help you. You may need to make tweaks to please a picky client, or you might have to make adjustments to align with the agency’s processes. View each piece of feedback as an opportunity to bolster your skills and learn more about your employer. If you’re seen as someone who responds well to critiques, others will be eager to work with you.
Like any other designer, you’re ready to get to work. You want to participate in high-profile projects that can demonstrate your skills and show management why they hired you. But you’re part of a new team now, and you need to invest time in connecting with your co-workers. These are the relationships that will make it possible for you to get those big projects completed. Try to set up 1-on-1 meetings with people from all areas of the business (e.g., customer service, sales, IT, etc.). Take time to understand the work they do and how you can all support one another.
Every design project has different criteria and serves a different client or audience. Thus, you’ll always need to learn new information, concepts, and ways of thinking. Never assume that you know it all, and don’t wait for a manager to force you to learn. Seek out books or trade journals that interest you and read about how other designers solve problems. Take courses that are relevant to your work, either directly through your agency or on your own. And ask lots of questions. The more you learn, the more versatile your problem-solving skills will become and the more value you’ll provide the team.
It's easy to think that the hard work is behind you once you’re hired, but succeeding at a new design job requires humility, relationship-building, and an ever-present hunger for knowledge.