What happens when you aren’t compelled to design anymore

Should I further this pursuit?

I’m at a real crossroads here, and have been for the past few years, really.

I got laid off from my last position that had “designer” in the title back in November. Since then, I have attempted to go the more traditional “graphic designer” route instead of the “production designer” route I’ve been heading down for the better part of my career. What I’m discovering, and perhaps what I had suppressed during school and internships, is that I’m not compelled or driven to pursue design in any meaningful way.

I have a lot of people, including past co-workers, and even present-day managers, ask me if I’ve done any freelance. I maintain composure, but my head is nearly cringing at the thought of doing such things. I technically have a few days available to me outside of my current warehouse job to get a freelance career started, but the thought of doing it makes me sad, and possibly fearful.

I guess the problem is two-fold: 1) I don’t see myself as fitting a typical design mold; speaking flowery language, discussing “manifestos,” having a large library of books, posters, and ephemera to draw from to inspire me; and 2) My initial internships were nearly complete busts.

The first one, I barely did any real design work; I pushed out a monthly newsletter on an IBM backend that only the art director sort of understood, until I was working out of the owner’s house at the very end, the company having collapsed. The second one, I was to be interned on web design work and aesthetics, but the web designer there was shallow and wanted all the work coming out of the place to be his and not waste any time nurturing an intern. I ended up doing mostly print work for these guys until it dried up, and my internship was over in three months.

I never really got a full grasp as to what it was like to work in a real design house, a real agency, an institution. The first internships were agencies, but were either not run in a great way, or I didn’t bring enough to the table to make the internship what I wanted it to be. I saw peers and friends get far better opportunities, and were able to use those to leverage future possibilities, like starting their own firms or moving out of state for greater pursuits.

As I’ve attempted to get a proper design job post-layoff, I’ve found that in the twelve to twenty interviews I’ve had (anywhere from an informal phone conversation, to a full multiple stage interview process), no one has wanted to take a chance. Granted, I’ve only been trying for in-house positions, but still. I’ve found places I definitely would like to be, and some places that I’d definitely not want to be at, whether it’s the attitude of the owners, or the lacking pay due to “lack” of experience.

I’m not really sure what would bring the recruiters around, or what would make a company or agency pay attention. I’ve thought it may be as simple as doing more work and posting more to my Behance portfolio; to make it look like I’ve been working hard in all this downtime. Or maybe it’s returning to school to get more experience in something more specialized, like UX or branding. It could also be that the quality of work they are seeing is not up to snuff either, and that may be in part because I wasn’t compelled to do it, when I did it.

At this point, I’m kind of in a state of limbo, a constant low-lying depression, about what I should do next. The night shift is becoming undesirable, but if I have a skillset I no longer want to pursue, what better thing can I do or go after? I’m starting to look at new jobs, new job titles, and such like that, to see what might compel me, what I might be passionate about. I’m very nearly going after almost anything that would get me back on a day shift, and open my weekends up again. I’m also worried about the stress I might have through the holiday season, working at one of the biggest retailers during the holiday rush. I also have a fraternal group I’m a part of that I no longer want to be a part of, and I’m managing a website for those guys that I don’t want to do anymore as well.

It’s been a tough year for me, and I simply hope there something worthwhile that opens up for me, a guiding light if you will.

Let me know what your honest opinion is, and I’ll try to get back to you about it.

Best regards.