One year ago was my first day at Exec. I was so, so nervous. Walking into the office building, walking into the elevator, pressing the 7th floor – it was scary. Somehow I had convinced these smart people to give me a job. And somehow I got a job as a designer with basically no experience and no design education.
But I had done it and now I had to deliver. I didn’t know if I could deliver. But I also knew I could – it was this weird mix of blind faith and insecurity. I walked out of the elevator and thought, walk in as if you deserve this job and you are the best designer in the world. Go in, play it cool. They decided to hire you after seeing your work and it’s irrelevant how inexperienced you are.
Before I joined Exec, I was a project manager at Microsoft Excel. Two years into this job, I wasn’t happy. It was easy to blame my dissatisfaction on the company. Blame it on politics. Blame it on senior management. It was hard to realize the problem was not just Microsoft, but the career I chose.
The moment you realize your career is not right for you sucks. Maybe at first you genuinely enjoyed it. Maybe for a while you were only convincing yourself you enjoyed it. But the moment you finally admit to yourself – this job is not what I want to be doing – that’s scary. Did you waste all those years studying the wrong major? Did you go 100k in debt to get an education in the wrong thing?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. If not project management… then what? I’d always thought I knew what I wanted, and not knowing was the worst part. I felt lost and purposeless. It took a few months to figure out what I wanted to do next. I decided to become a designer, but I had no design skills. I thought about going back to school for design, but the time and money commitment was too big a risk for a career choice I wasn’t totally sure of.
So I taught myself – everyday I would do my day job in record time and rush home to learn design. Super talented people go to RISD for 4 years and learn design properly. I hacked together my piecemeal design education in 6 months – there was no way I was ready to become a designer. But I was so ready to leave Microsoft. So I started the job search and got rejected a few times. Then I got the job at Exec.
The first few weeks were rough. Everyday I sat in front of my computer trying my damnedest and thinking it wasn’t good enough. But everyday I got a little bit better. Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot, made stuff I’m proud of, and gained a lot of confidence in my job. But I still have plenty of insecurities. The gap between me and the incredibly talented designers seems insurmountable at times, but everyday I close that gap just a little bit.
I enjoy design and I’ll probably do it for quite some time, but I doubt it will be my last career. I want to get better not just as a designer – but as a writer, a programmer, a marketer, a musician, a dancer. I see incredibly talented people around me in all these areas. They make me feel insecure about my own abilities but they also show me what’s possible. They’re a constant reminder of what is worth working for.
–Update: If you’re ready to commit to working towards your new career every day, you may be interested in a motivational experiment I’m running: 100.
(Comic by SMBC)