Eleni Swengler is a print and web designer located in Baltimore, Maryland. She has over 13 years of experience in the industry, including four years of teaching design as an assistant professor.
While building her freelance clientele, Eleni has held a number of positions in the industry. She worked for the Discovery Channel as a senior web designer on the interactive side and as a staff designer on the TV side. Her web design experience also includes a position at a start-up dotcom. Currently, she works as a senior designer at Towson University.
Eleni's freelance clients have included the New England Journal of Medicine, McKinsey & Company, USA Today, The Baltimore Orioles, AOL, and a variety of associations.
At one time or another everyone finds that a job they once enjoyed no longer offers any challenges or opportunities for growth. There are still ways to be proactive about career development and professional growth.
Here are some ideas that can help rejuvenate a stalled career:
Volunteering on the board of your local AIGA chapter is a wonderful opportunity to meet other designers, as well as an effective way to gain experience planning and promoting events. This does require a time commitment, but it shows potential employers you are passionate about your field and are willing to get involved in your community to promote your industry. You may also be asked to design postcards and other materials to publicize your events, which can be another way to build your portfolio.
Consult for other clients in your spare time. It’s a great opportunity to network and results in a more diversified portfolio. In addition, if you find that you are successful as a freelancer you may decide at some point to leave your day job and go solo. Many of those who own their own firms started out as freelancers.
Many community colleges and universities hire adjunct faculty to teach design courses. Teaching builds credibility and is a great way to develop communication skills. Inquire about teaching opportunities by contacting the chair of the graphic design department at a local college or university, or by checking the job postings on the school’s website.
If you have a knack for writing, consider writing articles for AIGA or other design organizations and publications. If you have a niche or specialty, consider writing about it. You’ll build your reputation as an expert, and it may generate more freelance projects or business for your design firm if you are self-employed.
Start a Professional Blog
A blog is another tool that designers are using to promote themselves these days. It doesn’t require updating every day, but it’s a good idea to add relevant content on a weekly basis. Remember to keep it professional. Don’t write anything on a blog that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to view.
Create an Online Portfolio
All designers need an online portfolio so potential employers and clients can view their work quickly and easily. Designers who design for print and web are more marketable. Most employers will also want to view an online portfolio before they schedule an interview. If your web skills are weak or non-existent, take a web design class to learn basic web design and programming skills.
Graduating from college doesn’t mean your education is over. Learning is a lifelong process, and it’s a great idea to continue taking classes that will help you advance in your career. If your design school curriculum didn’t include business courses, take a marketing class to position yourself as a strategic thinker, instead of a “brochure designer.” Or maybe you’d like to take some fine art courses to brush up on your illustration skills. The point is, always continue learning new skills to keep current and hone your skills.
No career path is without twists and turns. Being proactive in career development and having the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone will enable you to push beyond a job that has long since lost its excitement, and move toward the next rung on the career ladder.