Here are words of wisdom for the next generation (tips I shared with Millennials at the Behance Portfolio Review in Indianapolis), and how they translate for the rest of us.
1. Learn Before you Leap
Next generation: I went off on my own too soon, and had to learn everything on my own. If I had to do it all over again, I would have spent more time working for an agency in order to learn the ropes. Even if the work is not exactly what you want to do—bide your time and learn everything you can while you’re on the Boss Man’s time.
Experienced professionals: Keep learning. Especially with today’s availability of online courses (MOOCs), education is more accessible than ever. Affordable (sometimes free) courses are widely available online. Check out Udemy, Skillshare and Coursera. We can’t forget to expand our minds, whether it’s for personal growth or professional.
2. Get a Mentor
Next generation: I didn’t have one, didn’t know how to get one, and didn’t know how to ask for help. There are people who have been in this business longer than you, and most people like to be helpful, to help out a newbie.
Experienced professionals: Ask for help. Don’t forget how. And always remember, people love to help. Even though we’re experienced, outside perspectives can move mountains.
3. Be Curious
Next generation: Try to be curious about the world—it will make you a better designer and a better communicator. If you’re curious about people, networking is easy. Just ask people questions, then sit back and listen. Research design firms and if you find one that seems really cool, ask for an informational interview, and ask lots of questions. People are busy, but they will be impressed by your pro-active attitude. That’s how you build relationships, which takes time.
Experienced professionals: Curiosity keeps us involved, creative, and helps us find new solutions. It’s one of the reasons I named my company, Stone Soup Creative, after the fable:
Hungry travelers arrive in a village. Food is scarce, and the villagers are unwilling to share what they have. The ingenious travelers begin a pot of soup by placing a ‘magic stone’ in boiling water. Curious villagers stop by, each sharing an ingredient to add to this stone soup. Ultimately, a delicious, nourishing pot of soup feeds everyone.
4. Change is Good
Next generation: Even if it comes about from something seemingly negative—like getting fired—life is too short to be unhappy. I’ve been fired, and while it seems like the world ended at the time, it always led to better things. I’ve moved around a lot. It’s an adventure.
Experienced professionals: Whether it’s scrolling websites or infographics, or cool new campaigns—there’s always something new, and we should explore it. When we stop exploring what’s current, we can become dinosaurs. Age has nothing to do with it. We can embrace change and learn from it. Yet sometimes, the time-tested way is the best option. And fortunately, we have the experience to know when those times are.
When it comes to learning, mentorship, curiosity and change—what have you learned over the years?
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