3 things I learned as a recent design grad in the workplace

Melissa Recent Design Grad

As a recent grad and newcomer to the field of design, my first year out of school has continued to be full of challenges and surprises.  Here are the top 3 lessons I’ve been working on mastering for the past year as both an intern then full time designer at Usability Matters.

Don’t stop learning

A cliché? Perhaps. However I don’t think it occurs to the majority of recent grads how many opportunities for growth exist beyond your undergrad and how necessary it is to take on these opportunities. While school is a great place to establish a foundation of skills, your first few months in a full time job will push you farther than an entire year of studies in most programs. In order to find fulfillment, it becomes crucial that rather than treating your job as a stepping stone to the next one, you treat it as a continuation of your education. Focus less on climbing the corporate ladder, and more on improving your soft and hard skills. Most importantly, embrace this awkward stage of your life as you stumble through to adulthood.

Learn how to communicate ideas

So you’ve just spent four years with people your own age (and most likely a close knit group of friends) where 80% of the conversation stems from inside jokes. When you do attempt to speak professionally, it’s generally for a couple minutes at a job interview or during a presentation (at least this was the case for myself). Practice pacing your speech, adjusting your style of speaking for different audiences, and expanding your vocabulary to include industry lingo. Overall, become more conscious (but not self conscious) about how you convey your thoughts to others, and practice relating to people.

Don’t sell yourself short

Sure, you’re “inexperienced”, but you’ve been hired for a reason! Proceed with confidence. Don’t let your age, level of education or number of years in the workforce decide whether or not your ideas are valid. Remember that while your coworkers will acknowledge your age on occasion, they also see you as a member of the team and expect you to have the confidence to carry your weight.

All in all, take your time, appreciate where you are and take advantage of new opportunities just as you would have at the beginning of your studies. There are a million resources online to help you with this, but the best place to start is with the coworkers you surround yourself with!