The real title: Career Advice from a cranky old man
He has spent most of his life working. Sometimes it’s absolutely wonderful… you feel like you’re inventing the future, you’re excited, the projects are great, your boss gets you, your colleagues get you…
Sometimes it’s not so great. Sometimes it’s just work.
3 phases of work:
1. “Artist” – 25% of his time working. During this time he had “artist” jobs to try to support his ‘art.’ Wrote 3 books couldn’t publish any of them because had no life experience… Was a dishwasher at a vegetarian restaurant. He was a security guard at a condominium… He got lots of customer service experience and learned how to work really really hard for honey. It’s great experience, because after that, client services seems easy… being a designer or developer seems easy. He was in a band called the Insect Surfers (post-punk techno surf band) and played a Casio piano, 2 notes at a time, and was ROCKING OUT.
2. “Creative” – 25% of his time working. His time in Advertising. After failing at a bunch of other stuff, if you have talents and don’t know what to do with yourself, you could become a heroine addict or go into advertising. Advertising seemed to pay better so he went with that.
Best interview story of his life: Nobody in New York cared about his portfolio because he didn’t have national clients, so he threw out his portfolio and created a fake one. He stood at the reception desk (empty) for a while, then the receptionist came out and cried and ran away. Then the co-founder of the company came out to interview him, and told him that his partner had died the night before running a marathon for charity – heart attack. He stared into space and flipped slowly
3. WEB – 50% of his time working, current.
Learned about partners who support each other and those that don’t. Learned about meetings that are held for the sake of holding a good meeting instead of
Work never sells itself.
If you’re a great coder and you write amazing code but you never speak up at meetings and don’t share what you want to achieve, the best you can hope for is someone will accept your work and pass it along because they don’t understand it.
A lot of creative people need to recharge by being alone or just with family. It makes it hard for us to be sales-type people that push work through, but if we don’t do that we’re going to have a limited career. We need to talk to the boss or the clients in language they understand and talking about benefits they understand
Question: How many of you present multiple options of a design? (A lot of designers raised their hands). How many of you present only one option? (Very few of us raised our hands). He said this is the best way to go if you can do it.
Jeffrey had to learn to stop doing safe. If you do the safe/expected thing, people will buy it because it’s what they understand. It’s what they’re used to.
In big companies, politics trumps work.
In a small company/agency, your work is what matters. In a larger company, it’s all about how you fit in to the organization chart. If you’re never going to be happy playing politics, you need to look to transition to a smaller company or a smaller team within your company. If you’re getting overlooked, it’s because you’re not playing the political game, and you either need to step up your political game or transition yourself to a different environment.
Attitude trumps work in most companies.
He got fired a lot… he had grumpy resting face. Lots of companies tolerated him but didn’t promote him. His work was great, but he sat in his office WITH A DOOR (that used to be a thing) smoking and yelled “What?” when someone knocked. Great work + bad attitude = fired.
First impressions are forever. FOREVER.
If you’ve been at a place for a really long time, and they hired you as a junior, and you’re wondering if they’ll promote you to a leadership role, changes are they won’t. Most places don’t want to raise you up and give you the wings to be a leader in the company… Most places will continue to see you as the person they hired. He’s seem super talented people languish at a low level spot because the organization can’t take them seriously. If that’s you, think about moving yourself.
We all have things we can work on internally. We all need to constantly work on ourselves.
Design is at the heart of everything we do. This is a slogan from Shopify. He loves it and he hates it. It’s true, but it also is everything that is bad about designers – that they put themselves above others. Designers DO care about stuff that other people cannot see. It’s very off-putting for normal people – if we just talk design, if we talk like we are in love with ourselves, that is a big problem.
Never make the person who hired you feel dumb because they don’t know about semantic markup, responsive design, or whatever. Find a way to translate the concept to them and not make them feel stupid.
You are what stands between you and success.
We have to work on ourselves before we ask for anything. We are what is in the way between us and joyfully succeeding in what we do.
How can we approach this?
Prayer, Meetups, Therapy
Find something that works for you that can help turn off those negative parts of you. There’s always a little part of you that can be improved.
Especially for shy people – go to meetups. Talk to people. Use this event as an opportunity to do this. Go to the happy hour tonight and talk to your peers here.
This is the most important thing – this is the product you put out into the world and how it looks to others.
Adaptive Path is a UX consultancy that recently got purchased. They still put on events independently… Jesse James Garret was a co-founder. They invented this when nobody was using the term “User Experience”.
If you’re a generalist, you can do pretty well financially if you move into the very high level they were in.
HappyCog was hired to redesign Fonts.com. They proposed this radical redesign…. the problem was the project took 2 years, and during that time, Monotype purchased new companies so new people kept coming in and the client kept changing. By the end of the project, none of the same people were in the meetings. The client’s business needs, wants, projections had all changed. The project didn’t come out how they wanted it to, so what HappyCog focused on was the most important thing for the clients – that was selling webfonts. This was new for the company, so that’s what they focused on in the write-up.
Example of what to do:
“There’s so much we could talk about but I just want to show you how we simplified navigation and what that did in terms of retention.” “We simplified navigation and increased conversion by 25%.” THIS IS WHAT THE CLIENT WANTS TO HEAR. Tell the story of the client’s success, of the project’s success, how you solved business problems, and how design can solve business problems.
- Rachel Andrew wrote a great post on A List Apart on the business of web development.
- 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations by Mike Monteiro
- Design is a Job (Book) by Mike Monteiro – what we are responsible for as designers.
- You’re My Favorite Client by Mike Monteiro – you have to be bold, and have the right kind of client to give this to… This is a great book to give to all your clients. It explains how to evaluate design.
That last book will help the boss NOT decide the fate of the work based on their own taste.
Things you can do to improve your career
The most important thing you can learn to do is UNLOCK YOUR VOICE. Dare to speak. Start a blog, that is a really easy way to do this. You’re not writing for readers, you’re writing to discover your own voice and what you think.
As a freelancer, the best thing you can do is alternately raise your rates and say no. Eventually you have so much work from word of mouth that you can’t actually do them all. Then, pick and choose the projects you care about and that can really grow your portolio.
You can double your rates. You work from no clients to more than you can handle, you become more selective, then when you have really good stuff to show, you raise your rates. Then you have fewer clients because not everybody can afford your new rates, then you start over (grow your client base, raise rates, rinse repeat).
Zeldman has never hired someone that didn’t have a blog, because if you can’t write, how can he be sure you can sell?
He reached out to Jason Santa Maria, and asked him to do some really boring work on a tight deadline, and Jason Santa Maria had a great attitude and did it and the project went well. Zeldman discovered Jason through his blog! Jason was the first real hire at Happy Cog.
Sometimes you just want to show your beautiful work, even if it doesn’t sell to the client, so you can show that off in a place like Behance.
A blog is a great thing but if you don’t want to do that, you could participate in a community project like Fonts In Use. The people that contribute to this because known, your name gets out and you become associated with that type of work.
Github is the equivalent for coders. AListApart recently put its entire front-end code base on Gitub and you can make recommendations there.
Codepen is another place where you can check out other people’s amazing stuff.
You can do side projects (use 20% of your time to make something cool that you can share with other people. You never want to be in a position where you’re doing great work and nobody can see. You also never want to be in a position where all your work is bad (either because of you or your boss).
Don’t wait for someone to hand you a dream project or a dream job. Create it yourself. That’s what A List Apart was for Zeldman.
3 LESSONS FROM TODAY:
KNOW YOURSELF AND CHANGE YOURSELF
MANAGE YOUR MANAGERS – it’s not your boss’s problem if your boss doesn’t know how to evaluate your work.
BLOGS & SIDE PROJECTS SHOW YOU CAN THINK AND WAHT YOU CAN DO