F ASKED TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF, you would
likely think of your work, your family role, and the place you call home. You
might think of your ethnicity or religion, your hobbies, or something significant
you’ve done. Would you identify yourself by your career experience? If not, you
might be overlooking a significant aspect of yourself—and, by extension, of your
profession. According to the 2016/2017 Outlook and State of the Industry Report
from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), career stage differences rank as a high-impact factor.
Experience is gained from exposure to a variety of opportunities over time
that shape who we are, according to the report. Career stage characteristics
reflect many factors, including culture, values, perspectives, lifestyles, work
styles, and preferences.
Emerging professionals are forming the workforce’s largest cohort, and
their perspectives on design, their values, and their work style preferences are
increasingly shaping the way firms work. For example, the emerging professionals’ attitude toward work-life integration can shape how they approach design
projects and manage the demands of their jobs. And their strong desire to do
meaningful work early in their careers can spur them to look elsewhere when
their design projects don’t align with their values.
To better understand the experience of this generation, ASID convened a
series of roundtable discussions with 65 emerging interior design professionals
from 30 large- and medium-sized firms to talk candidly about how their careers
have developed so far. In each of five major metropolitan areas, participants were
split into two groups based on their experience—entry level (zero to four years)
and mid level (five to 10 years)—to have intimate, guided conversations. The conversations focused on three kinds of relationships: You+ Your Career, You+ Your
Team, and You+Your Life.
The wealth of anecdotes and personal reflections about life as an emerging professional in some of the country’s top firms forms the basis of the recent
ASID white paper, “Career+ Emerging Professionals Roundtable.” Key findings
in the report illuminate the challenges of transitioning to a firm, figuring out
how to fit, developing business skills that weren’t taught in school, working in
teams with complex dynamics, coping with the demands of the job while maintaining quality of life, managing a career in design, and navigating cohort and
career stage issues.
The most remarkable finding from the You+Your Career conversations, accord-
ing to David Krantz, vice president of research and knowledge management at
ASID, pertains to “crossing the invisible line of self-determination.” About four years
into a designer’s career, there’s a subtle but significant shift: Even without a formal
promotion or new title, junior workers find they have more power. They speak up
more freely on design and team decisions, they feel able to set some boundaries
on their work, and they begin to steer their career in a more purposeful direction. IM
IBY KATHARINE LOGAN