Its getting closer… closer to reality. Panic begins to set in.
Its November 2001. I am graduating college in a month with a degree in graphic design. I begin to imagine my dream job with an artsy cubicle designing beer bottle packaging and logos all day while attending AIGA meetings every week. I hand cut some business cards and print them on a crappy printer and start mailing them out along with an overly designed resume with nothing significant to put except for awards from school and my senior art exhibit projects. I sit anxiously by the phone waiting for the dream job to land in my lap.
A few weeks pass and I quickly come back down to earth and realize I have to put on my big girl panties and make something happen. Where do i start? Should I move to another city? How much money do I ask for? The next month I decide to pack up my stuff and move to Austin, Texas, which would be the best decision for my career.
I got to austin to find a job working at a Title Company, basically making copies and boring flyers for houses. SHOOT ME. Fortunately, I got laid off. At the time it felt terrible and life was over as I knew it, but it was exactly what I needed to get off my ass and find a job where I can learn and grow as a designer.
I eventually landed a job at small design agency which I stayed for six years. This is the time period where web design was emerging more than ever. I knew nothing about about designing a web page let alone how to code one, but when you have a client that is willing to pay a couple of thousand dollars for a small site the boss says yes. Being the only employee for a large chunk of the time it was all on me. No pressure.
Eventually I decided to continue down life’s path and have a baby. A designer was hired to help before I was on my super short maternity leave. Panic and fear took over again. Am i being replaced? Is she better than me? I had a choice. Show this person the ropes and help train her or let her figure it out and fail miserably. I chose the morally correct thing to do and helped, knowing I could be left in the dust.
She ended up being a great employee for the brief period she was there. Shortly after I had my baby she put in her two weeks notice, which really sent the boss in to his own panic mode. So I ended up going back to work three weeks after having my daughter. We made arrangements for me to bring my daughter to work and make my own hours. This worked out perfectly. I wasn’t being replaced and I wasn’t going to be at home watching soap operas and Judge Judy all day. Even though my body was depleted and tired, I put on my breast feeding bra and granny panties, packed my giant breast pump and sucked it up.
Six months later I get a call the former employee. She was letting me know about a web designer position where she is working. This is where being nice pays off. Karma is real deal folks.
I took the underpaying job thinking I had won the lottery making five thousnads more dollars a year. Six years later and four job titles later I am still here as a UI/UX designer. I am back in a challenging, underdog situation. But I now have the confidence and the balls to go after what I want. I own what I am good at and accept my weaknesses. Ok, accepting my weaknesses may be exaggerating a bit. Most of all I know that it isn’t just me in this world but it is me and my daughter. I cannot always go to the fun design outings, happy hours and community meet ups. I have to be picky about where I want to work and what I want to do in this ever changing design world. I have to push my self to learn on my own and ask for advice from my fellow coworkers and friends.
I am at the ultimate peak in my career and it feels great.
This is what you can take away from my journey.
Make yourself valuable.
Know that everyone is disposable (including yourself).
Let go of the ego and know there is always someone better than you.
Lean on friends and family and let them lean on you.
Listen to yourself and others.
Most of all… don’t forget that you are in charge of your own destiny.