Growth hacking

Is your design career stagnating? How to pivot and find your true calling

In this post, we'll explore the experiences of designers who have felt the need to start over with something new and what they have discovered along the way.
June 2023 · 6 mins read

by Roman Kamushken


Reflections on the career path of a Designer

Are you a graphic designer who's been working in the field for a while, but are now experiencing a feeling of dissatisfaction with your career?

Are you currently updating your portfolio and looking to switch jobs, only to realize that you may not be as passionate about this line of work as you once thought?

You're not alone.
Many designers, even those who have enjoyed successful careers, have found themselves wondering whether there might be something else out there that would be a better fit for them. After all, the design industry can feel quite limiting and subjective at times, and with rising tech salaries in other fields, it's common to feel left behind. In this post, we'll explore the experiences of designers who have felt the need to start over with something new and what they have discovered along the way.
Table of contents
  1. Chapter One: Designing for Impact
  2. Chapter Two: The Designer's Ego
  3. Chapter Three: The Perception of Design
  4. Chapter Four: When Design Fails to Deliver

Designing for Impact

As someone who transitioned into design from a completely different field after a decade-long career, I understand how daunting the thought of starting anew can be. However, it doesn't have to be a decision filled with regret.

Before embarking on a new journey, it's essential to take a moment to reflect on your reasons for considering a career change. If you've had a successful career in your current field, it may seem counter-intuitive to pivot into something entirely different. However, as I've learned firsthand, a sense of stagnation can ultimately lead to dissatisfaction.

Personally, I felt that I had reached a plateau in my previous career and wanted to explore something new. While the risk was substantial, it was worth it. I believe that a key factor in finding success in a different industry is the willingness to take risks and embrace change.

Of course, transitioning into an entirely new field can be challenging. Coming from a background where there can be a vast learning curve, it's crucial to have a growth mindset and be open to learning and adapting to new challenges. I had to acquire new skills and adapt to a completely new environment, but ultimately, it was all worth the effort.

The beauty of a design career is that it often involves working on creative projects and regularly creating new works, which can be a stark difference from traditional business careers. The ability to work on a project from concept to completion can be incredibly rewarding and can lead to a sense of fulfillment that was previously absent.

The Designer's Ego

As a designer with 20+ years of experience, I have had my fair share of ups and downs in the industry. While I do not regret any of my career choices, I admit to feeling nervous about the future. The issue of career progression and the creation of illusory promotions are all too familiar to me.

As my previous employer struggled amid the pandemic, I experienced a sudden surge in job titles without any substantial pay increase. However, I knew I needed a change to pursue new challenges and opportunities.
Tips for selecting the UI / UX agency for application design and development
One of the most significant limitations in the design industry is the lack of understanding of what "design" truly means. I have seen job postings where the designer was simply managing a Wix page, which hardly encompasses the breadth of a designer's skill set. Employers demand that designers possess expertise in every aspect of their field, even when it seems unreasonable. The future of design looks like a homogenous cash-grab that requires the designer to go with the flow and follow trends.

Nonetheless, I believe that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. I believe everything is cyclical, and soon we may see a large push back to traditional media. The younger generation, while they may be immersed in technology and information, are still searching for something more authentic and real. There is a growing desire for more genuine experiences, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

As a veteran in the industry, I know the difficulties of being considered too experienced or costly to employers. However, instead of letting this discourage me, I choose to remain hopeful. I untiringly look for opportunities to pursue my passion and make a meaningful impact.

At the moment, the future may seem uncertain, but I strongly believe that designers have the power to change and shape their industry's future. It will take patience, resilience, and creativity, but we can overcome career plateaus and find hope in the design industry.

The Perception of Design

In today's market, being a designer doesn't always come with the same level of respect and job security as it did in the past. As someone who began their design career in 2000s, I have seen firsthand how the industry has evolved. It's not just about new technology and trends, but also the overall employment climate. These days, designers may find themselves competing with marketers and non-designers who claim to have design skills, thanks to automated cutting software. In addition, wage progression can be slow, and there is often a flood of cheap competition from abroad or young people willing to do anything to get ahead.

As someone who is approaching 40+ years old, I understand the struggle of keeping up with younger colleagues and ever-changing trends in fields like UX/UI. It can be exhausting to constantly reinvent yourself to keep pace with the latest developments. This has led me, and many others like me, to consider a career change. Something with more longevity and less reliance on technology and young upstarts seems like a good option.

However, I do believe that there is still hope for the future of design careers. As the industry continues to evolve, it's important for designers to stay adaptable and embrace new opportunities. Despite the challenges, there are still good jobs and clients out there who value the expertise and creativity of designers. By continuing to hone our craft, seek out new challenges, and advocate for our profession, we can ensure that design remains a respected and rewarding career choice for years to come.

When Design Fails to Deliver

Designers must find ways to stay engaged, motivated, and adaptable, seeking new challenges and approaches to their work
For some designers, the dream of a fulfilling career doesn't always match reality. Despite learning invaluable skills and sharpening their craft, a design career can end up being a regrettable experience. This is true for the designer who shared, "I regret the career- entirely."

Perhaps, reflecting on a career that seemed filled with promise but ultimately didn't deliver, the designer laments the time spent, the money made, and the colleagues encountered. 20 years gone and none of it contributed positively to their long-term goals.

In a moment of honesty, the designer wished they'd taken a different path and learned HVAC repair over design so that they could have designed for themselves. These regretful sentiments are a warning that a design career can be challenging and not always lead to the fulfillment one had hoped for.

However, for those who have dedicated their lives to the profession and have a passion for the craft, pivoting to something else may not be an option. Instead, designers must find ways to stay engaged, motivated, and adaptable, seeking new challenges and approaches to their work to ensure that it doesn't become stale and unfulfilling.

Final thoughts

Design career can be tremendously rewarding, but it is not easy.

Designers must remember that their work has the power to transform people's lives by creating meaningful, beautiful designs that function well. Putting ego aside, educating others on the value of design, and staying humble can lead to greater success in the long run. And, if a design career fails to deliver, it's never too late to pivot and find new opportunities that satisfy their passions and purpose.

Ultimately, design is where creativity meets innovation, and designers are key to shaping the future.
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