September 04, 2013

To my younger self...

September is here! This entry is timely for that person entering college or design school. These are some words of advice for that recent graduate still looking for work, or that person who wants to shake things up and try something new in their career. A year ago I was jobless and still hunting for work, I did not have a decent portfolio and I would get really frustrated and dissatisfied with how things were not going to schedule – I felt like my life was at a pause. It is not easy as a recent grad to get your first job and you have to just go through the test of time and truck through grunt work step by step to land a job or create one. For some it can be a few months to others close to a year or more.  

Today’s blog post is a submission for #ProjectGYST by Raeallan with this week’s topic: To my younger self. If there was something that I would have told myself a year ago, or entering college, or entering work it would have been this:

Screw perfectionism. Embrace mistakes. Forget the past. Evolve.

Screw perfectionism.
At the end of college, I felt as if my design projects were all crap and every portfolio piece had to be redone.  You don’t have time to redo everything and the best thing you can do is to keep improving and working with what you have. Starting from scratch is time consuming and makes you stand still while job opportunities come and go. Perfectionists tend to have this “all-or-nothing” attitude. For myself, It came to the point that I was not looking for firms to apply, nor composing my portfolio. I was just focusing on trying to make every project “perfect.”  I should have been working on all three tasks in tandem – constantly shifting back and forth, working in parallel to be ready for any job opportunity. Perfectionism is dangerous when it is holding you back and freezing you from moving towards progress.  Keep pressing forward to that goal, design, or vision of where you want to go – there will never be a perfect time or circumstance to move and you will never move forward so linearly. Nobody is perfect which transitions to my next point.

Embrace mistakes.
If you are a new student – nobody expects the most perfect piece of work out of you as you need to build your baseline of sensibility and knowledge. If you are a new graduate – nobody expects that you have mastered everything to make you proficient and valuable to a company.

We all have been trained since childhood to be “perfect” and “right” and we have generated a intolerance and stigma to mistakes and failure. But in design school and from working at my firm – you only learn and grow from making mistakes and fixing them. For designers, we create iterations / different design options – testing out ideas, exploring different opportunities to create the right solution. But from those earlier studies– we look for the opportunities, errors and parts that can be improved and to evolve our design solution to another version that is more stronger and meaningful. It is through constant iteration and reworking when a design gets better.

Embrace that mistakes you make in life – all of it is informing you of how to move forward and evolve to become better.  

Forget the past.
The last part of this year-long journey of job hunting, I always felt like my academic performance would mean I would not be able to get a job. Who would want to hire the failed architecture student? On the contrary, I made it and it might not have been on time as I had wanted or planned. I could have easily overwhelmed myself with negative thoughts and gave up, but I did not. I was proactive to redefine myself - I made a blog dedicated to helping architecture students, I went to networking events, I met people OUTSIDE of architecture, I decided to try different things and become more spontaneous. Though I had some professors give me their blessing, I decided to move onwards from school by withholding professors on my reference list on the jobs postings that called me in for interview.

Who I was 7 years ago is not the person that I am today and it means letting go of the failures and blunders you did before. For any student or recent grad – you all have the opportunity to redefine and improve yourself. Be compassionate to yourself – everyone deserves a clean slate to start anew. So as you enter school or look for work, realize that you have the chance to iterate and improve. Your failures and your past do not define you. 

Just like any great piece of architecture or design, you are an iteration of all the experiences you have went through in life. it will help you evolve to become better and stronger. Grow. Evolve.


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