AMA — Advice for those starting out and at the beginning of their careers

This one is for those starting out. It was sent in by Spencer a young 17 year old looking to make a dent in the design industry. I get somewhat nostalgic when I think about someone at the start of their career. Definitely reminds me of my own early days and what a crazy ride it's been. In almost a blink of eye 10 years has passed already. I'm sure a few you reading this have been in the game already for a few years too. After all these years what have you learnt? And what advice what would you give out to someone starting out today?

Anyway here is Spencers email.


My names Spencer Thurston, I'm 17 years old. I've been working in design for about 5 years, more or less 2 years professionally. I've had the opportunity to work with some great start ups and VCs, but I feel like I've hit a plateau of sorts with my work. I have a lot of quality WIP projects, hopefully trying to hit the next level with my design work. Next year im moving out to L.A. to do design as full time gig, Any advice on how to give myself an edge? How to put myself in a good financial position with design? Seeing that I'm around the age where your professional career began, I'd like to see what you can tell me about developing my name as a designer and problem solver.


P.S. here's my dribbble (I need to be more active on it)


Here is my response.

Hey Spencer,

Thanks for the email. Yes I am more than willing to offer some tips and wish you the best of luck. 

Here are some tips for when you are in LA looking for a full-time design position

1. Show only your best work

2. Create the kind work that you want to do – even if it has to be fictitious or do pro bono work. 

3. Show that you are willing to learn.

4. Show that you have great taste. Start a blog, tumblr or pinterest. Show the people who are potentially hiring how good you aspire to be. Particularly if your taste resonates with them as well. They’ll be able to understand and see your potential. 

5. Show that you know and understand the people you want to work with – do some research first. 

6. You will have an edge by being earnest and having a thirst to learn. People worth working for can see that. 


To put yourself in a good financial position try to focus on the work. When I started I never really thought too hard about making great money. I was just stoked that I was even getting paid to do what I enjoyed. Sure there were definitely tough days but overall this journey of being a designer has been amazing.  

If you are driven start to think about not only the work you do, but where your work fits into the big picture as well. Try to understand the overall goals of design and what you bring to the table.  As much as you can try to learn from the people around you. If you want a good financial position offer people VALUE and become indispensable. And then from then on your earnings will become higher. Sounds like hocus pocus but it works and I personally think its the best way to do it with integrity. 

Good luck on your journey Spencer, I was in your shoes 10 years ago. One day you'll be offering your own advice to someone similar. Enjoy the ride.