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What Does Mentorship Look Like for You?

business of interior design business tips for interior designers career advice emerging professionals interior design leadership leading interior designers Sep 16, 2021

Video Script: 

Hi, Jackie Green here from GAI’s Behind the Design, where we are helping build a stronger design community by reimaging how interior designers are educated, trained, and supported. 

In the past, I have written several articles about mentorship and professional development for emerging designers. I believe in any industry, more experienced professionals have the responsibility to help younger generations for several reasons. My reasoning is that by working together, helping others, we are building a stronger design community. But, there is more to it. 

Not long ago, I came across a blog post from a designer who was essentially saying the new designers need to go through the struggles and pains of learning it on their own. She then went on to say that why should she give away her experience and knowledge when this person is competing with me. It is such a close-minded way of thinking, and to be quite frank, it is absolutely selfish. 

I wanted to comment that type of thinking is like never telling a child to watch out for strangers or not touch a hot stove. Should children just learn those lessons on their own? Yes, absurd thinking, but seriously, if senior designers go around not sharing their fails or advice, what kind of community would we be building. What happens to being kind and helping others. This mindset of no one helped me, so I am not going to help anyone else is ridiculous.

Here is the thing, it is our duty as experienced designers to share knowledge, whether in-house with your employees or with others in the community. This fear of not sharing what we have learned is silly. To win in life, we need to look at life with abundance rather than scarcity. I have heard that saying from many great women podcasters, so it isn’t my wisdom. 

It is true, there is plenty of work to go around. The truth is someone who will pick you as a designer isn’t necessarily going to pick that other person anyway. This is a creative field. You are chosen as the designer for a reason, because of your talent and the experience you offer your client. As we build a bigger, strong design community, it will help us all. If we have inexperienced designers failing, what does that say about our community? It gives us all a black eye.

There is something else to consider. When you share your knowledge with others, it actually pushes you to be better. I had a mentor tell me that as I learned more, it encouraged her to grow. So not only is it good karma, but it is also essential for your own growth. 

I am not telling you to go out, buy a billboard announcing your secret design sauce, but I am telling you that it is vital that we share with the next generation of designers as a community. So many of us were thrown into a sink or swim environment, which doesn’t mean that was right. As an industry, we need to better develop everyone’s skills and promote one another. 

Now, you may find that what you have to share is worth a consultation fee, and that is okay too, but to just sit on your high horse and not share because you feel someone will take your clients or not show appreciation is just ludicrous. 

I want to remind you that your ability to gain clients has absolutely nothing to do with another designer. Your unique ability to understand the client and deliver on their needs and wants is what sets you apart. There may always be someone who undercuts your fee, but you probably don’t want that customer any way if all they are looking for is the lowest price. Let’s face it, penny-pinching customers always cost you more time and money in the end and aren’t worthwhile. 

So, here is what I want to know. How has someone helped you in your career? What does mentorship look like for you? Do you think we should work together to build a stronger design community?

I have had amazing mentors throughout my entire career, and I guarantee none of them lost a job or client because they mentored me. Those mentors not only stick in my mind but in my heart. I am so grateful that others take the time to share their experiences with me. Have mentors helped me not make inevitable mistakes? Absolutely, but I have made plenty of other mistakes along the way that I learned from. To not share with others or provide mentorship is just wrong. It doesn’t have to be formal. It can be as simple as asking someone how they are doing and any questions you can answer for them.

I would love to hear from designers on your best mentorship. Also, don’t forget to check out the Behind the Design blog and sign up to join our community. Together, we are building a stronger design community.

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