AMA – Career advice, crossroads in your design career

So this is a topic that hits pretty close to home. It’s about being at crossroads with your career and choosing what to do next. I’m sure many of us have felt this way at one point within our careers. Due to the sensitive nature of the information I’ve kept most of the names anonymous. The email is as follows.

 Hey man,

I'm in need of some advice and I think that you could help me a lot with the experience you've had. I'll go straight to the point: I'm working full-time at an agency called [Anonymous], and I feel demotivated... the lead designers here have already told me that I'm one of the best here, but they still resist to give me more responsibilities (I'm quite sure it's a competitive reason or lack of delegating skills), and the tasks I'm assigned are not challenging me anymore.
My question would be: when do you know that it's time to spread your wings and try new things? What are the questions of hints I could look for to know if I need to look for a new job or try something on my own?

Thanks for your time, and for sharing your knowledge with the community! Your work is always inspiring!


My response:

Hey [Anonymous]

Thanks for getting in touch buddy and hope you had a good weekend. This is definitely an interesting question. The best advice I can say is only you could know the answer to that question, it is to just trust your gut. Think about what is the worst thing that could happen if you left (It's never as bad as we think) and what is the best thing that could happen?

I've written about my own experiences and the reason I left was because I wasn't learning anymore and the work I was outputting wasn't the work I wanted to be doing. I wasn’t proud of my work anymore.

So identify what is it that you personally want. Break down your goals/dreams and desires and reverse engineer the steps you need to get there. If you stay in your current position could you achieve these goals and if not what can you do to make it happen. The key is to remember it's all about the journey, have some fun along the way. Things are going to get tough or are going to be different to how we imagine things. But that will also allow you to grow. Some things to consider.

1. Do you have enough fuck you money? (Money saved up to last you enough time to pursue other things like freelancing or starting your own venture. 3-6months is a good amount to have)

2. Are you creatively happy? If it is all about the work and wanting more responsibility can you ASK the design lead for more responsibilities. Or at least let them know how you feel. And if the agency doesn't have the capacity to give you more stimulating tasks then it might not be the place for you. Granted you have enough money saved up to survive for a while.

3. You don't need permission from someone else to create something great. There is an audience out there who is willing to listen,admire and follow you if you do something great. We've reached a time when we don't need an authority to tell us what to do. Want to create a great website or app? We don't need a client to give us permission we can just go out there and do it now. We don't need book publishers or movie studios to give us permission we can reach people by ourselves and its all because of the internet. 

This is a great talk by Seth Godin on that topic which may be of use to you.

Also to give you an example. I started Verse as a way to do something different and to challenge myself which when working at a studio I didn't have the time or capacity to do something like that. I wanted to teach people about design and mentoring others. Because that was one of my favourite parts of my previous job. And I now I'm trying to create something kick ass, that can help many people at once. Something I can really pour my heart and creative energy into. 

So it's up to you to think about what you want, what you'll need to do to get there. Just know that whatever you decide it's as much as how you see the world than what it is that you are doing. Find joy and gratitude with the little things. Design and life is a journey so it's best to take a step back and enjoy it :) Whether you stay at [anonymous] or move on I'm sure you'll do great. If today sucks then tomorrow can be better if you want it to be. You are a designer, which means you can also design your life to how you would like to live it. A tad philosophical but I hope it helps mate.  PS. I think some of your work is great you latest portfolio exploration and [blank] are fantastic. So you've got the skills buddy!  And all the best.



A few months later I received this great email. 


Hey man,

Wanted to let you know that recently Huge and R/GA reached out, and as of monday I'll be starting out at R/GA :) Thanks for the advice, it really meant a lot. Now I'm sure about what my goal is: to enrich other people's lives adding value to them and helping them reach their highest potential. And that's what has helped me accept the job offer at R/GA, because it includes the task of mentoring others and be mentored in how to do it. I'm really happy!

Also, awesome last blog article on the whole process for that e-commerce site. So insightful, and I'm sure it will help you show other potential clients that you're the man.

I admire your humbleness, your ability to communicate (you're even getting better and better with each article), your values, and how you are designing the life of your dreams. 

Keep up the awesome man!


Stories like this are awesome, it makes everything I do on Verse worthwhile. This designer was a talented guy so it was great to him go where he could reach his potential and be satisfied creatively. So have a think about what you want out of your career and use this as an example and go for it.