Liz recently took part in the BIID’s live ‘Life After Graduation’ webinar. Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion-
Q: How did you start your career in Interior Design?
I studied BA Architecture (part 1) at Kingston University, graduating in 2010. I decided to travel following my degree, spending the next 3 years travelling, living and working around the world. I worked many different jobs along the way – from kiwi grading (the fruit, not New Zealanders generally…) to bar promotion to telemarketing. Fortunately, interior design as a career choice utilises many of the varied skills I picked up on my big life adventure.
On returning to the UK, I produced a portfolio of work based on my university projects, photography from my travels and home projects I’d set myself. I started applying for entry level jobs across the industry whilst working full time in a different sector.
I began working at Absolute Project Management in 2014, progressing from Project Management Assistant to Design Director. During my interview with Cat the Director, we’d discussed her business marketing goals at length. After I’d been appointed, but before starting, I researched social media marketing and website design then presented her with my findings and possible solutions during my first week in the job. This gave her the confidence to task me with a new marketing campaign and website design for the business, which lead to further responsibility within my role and quick progression in the business.
Q: What skills/ qualifications should I have if I want to embark on a career in the Interior Design Industry?
Interior design is an extremely varied industry with a multitude of specialisms. If you have no design training, my advice is to enrol on a design course which includes key skills such as CAD, surveying, design development and design presentation as these will be required for most Interior Design roles. You may also consider whether the course you have in mind will count towards future goals such as master’s degrees or registration with the BIID if these are of interest.
Other useful skills are marketing, interpersonal skills, time management, accountancy, office skills, and project management. Many of these you can gain through experience in other industries/ roles.
Q: Following my studies- how do I go about getting work experience and/ or targeting job opportunities?
Firstly, prepare a CV and portfolio ready for applications. Ensure your CV highlights your achievements and any relevant, useful or interesting past experience. You may have a few versions of your portfolio; a short version which you send when applying for a role and a longer printed version to go through during the interview. Carefully choose your best and most relevant work to show. Remember the person viewing portfolios will have little time so keep it short and impactful. (Make sure there are no mistakes/ typos/ misspellings!)
Next I recommend looking on the BIID website, Dezeen and other job advertising sites for available roles. You can research companies you admire and contact them directly to ask for any available or upcoming roles. Go to networking events such as those organised by the BIID to meet prospective employers or get further advice/ help with your search.
The BIID & Dezeen job advertising sites are both good places to look for openings.
Q: How should I prepare for an interview?
Read the job description thoroughly and think about how you can demonstrate your ability to meet the criteria during the interview. Additionally, do your research on the company and ensure you have knowledge of their work which you can reference and can explain what you think you can bring to their team (rather than just why you’d like the role). Ensure you come fully prepared, well presented and on time. Be friendly and confident with your work and ability.
Lastly, I advise preparing a number of questions which will help you determine this is a company you want to work for- remember the interview is also a chance for you to decide if you want the job.
Q: What are your top tips for success when starting a new job?
- Complete all work diligently and to the best of your ability.
- Be forward thinking- offer to help/ take on new tasks/ responsibilities.
- Carefully consider what you’re asked to do and why. Don’t be shy to ask for help when needed.
- When doing this try to ask closed questions- such as “should I do something like (A) or (B)” rather than- “how do I do this”. You then show that you have considered the task at hand.
Q: If you could give three words of inspiration what would they be?
- Listen (to the client and your own experience),
- Adapt (yourself- the design, your style, how you work to fit the project)
- Inspire (be the best- design amazing spaces, go the extra mile, make it a good experience for the client!)