Stifled at work? Here’s how “boss shopping” could help boost your career

Image via Vodafone Medien

Working in the design industry is about so much more than just turning up and getting the job done. Happy designers are creative, enthusiastic and get a firm sense of fulfilment from the projects they spend time on. Bosses play an important role in creating the environment for designers to find this level of happiness at work — and if you’re feeling stifled in your job, it may be time to start “boss shopping”.

Research from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last year found that 60% of UK workers are not happy in their jobs, and that a staggering 17 million people are considering a change of employer. With more than half of those surveyed also reporting that job satisfaction is more important than pay, seeking out the right boss has never been more important for achieving happiness at work.

The whole idea of shopping around for a boss might sound a bit selfish, but working in a creative industry requires designers to make decisions and express themselves with confidence. A bad boss can seem like a tyrant or a soul sucking vampire, while a good boss will provide inspiration and make you feel valued. By ensuring that you’ve found the right boss, you’ll work more effectively and make everyone’s life a lot easier.

The first step in shopping for a boss is to figure out what you need from them — even the best boss in the world might turn out to be the wrong boss for you. We’d all like to have a stress-free boss that buys every round at the pub. But realistically, finding the right boss is as much about assessing your own strengths and weaknesses as anything else. If you’re a super creative but laid-back designer, you might need someone to give you a sense of urgency to keep you on track. Or maybe you’re an obsessive nitpicker who needs someone to keep you focused on the bigger picture. The key thing is finding someone who understands your strengths and allows you to do what you do best — but is willing to acknowledge your weaknesses and, better yet, can constructively manage them.

Deciding on what you need from a boss is the easy part. Next you need to find someone who actually fits the bill. Use interviews to ask questions, find out how they talk about their staff and whether they themselves love their jobs. Be sensitive and reactive to what they say, and consider carefully how that complements or contradicts your own values. Come away from the interview with a broader understanding of what this role means to them and take time to reflect on how the work dynamic would affect your work.

Some work environments are better for your career than others

In doing all this, it’s really important to trust your gut. If something grates on you or rubs you up the wrong way, it could be a sign that things wouldn’t work out with that company or boss. Be sure to pay attention to your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what kind of work environment and team the person in charge is trying to create.

Finding the right boss could give you the opportunity to design your perfect career development path. It takes time, work and someone to guide you carefully — so be smart about how you pick that person. Instead of considering which company you could work for, ask yourself, ‘Who are the best people for me to work with?’

Having the right person to guide you is often the difference between feeling trapped and unfulfilled rather than building a portfolio of projects you’re proud of. Designers who feel empowered in their jobs are much more satisfied, engaged and creative than those who feel like they don’t have enough say over their work. Shopping around for the right boss could be crucial to taking your next steps as a designer.

So when you’re next thinking about a change, remember that the best jobs are jobs that mean something to you. The right boss will understand this and share your vision to build something special. And if your boss isn’t inspiring you, then it might be time to trade them in for someone new.

Lucy Painter is director of Studio, a design industry recruitment company based in London. Follow her on Twitter @Studio_Lucy.

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