I’m a designer, and I happen to have started a few companies. But now I want a normal job, and employers are hesitant to bite.
Four years ago, I moved to San Francisco to seek fame and fortune. After working with Fuseproject, I cofounded a design partnership, Design by Seeing. We did all sorts of fantastic work, from apps to motorcycles to underwear. After a time, I returned to my freelancing ways and moved to Buenos Aires, where I started Affinity, a lifestyle brand for spiritual youth. It was a fantastic failure and invaluable learning experience. My friends convinced me to return to SF to cofound Changemakrs.com, a network of inspiration and wisdom. One year later, I’ve left that company for all the uncomfortable and difficult reasons that one normally leaves a company they’ve helped to start.
After years of striking out on my own, learning the hard way, and having a incredible time doing it, I’ve grown tired. I’m tired of the poverty, the uphill battle, and the uncertainty on my shoulders. There’s no shortage of stressed out, ulcer ridden success seekers, and I’m not interested in becoming another one.
Go Directly to Go
The truth is, I rolled the dice and went directly to Go, purposely avoiding the well-beaten, game board path of my peers. But in doing so, I missed some valuable steps one reaches by joining a larger company or apprenticing under someone more experienced. I’d like to learn from people better than me, to join a team with a mission! And a steady paycheck, a solid direction, and benefits wouldn’t hurt either.
I’m finding that founders and managers want someone who’s young and hungry, yet talented and experienced. Someone who’s been around the block, and wants to join them for the long haul. Does this unicorn exist?
My experience seems to be weakness, not an asset. Founders and employers I’ve interviewed with wonder aloud if I’ll stick around, worried I’ll be drawn away. The book How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul addresses recruitment with this rule: “Any employee who is any good will leave.” A harsh pill to swallow, yet I’ve seen this hold true in startups and studios alike. It continues with this advice, saying,
“People who want to start their own studios make the best employees. ..Think about it, it’s what you did.”
The employers who’ve expressed their concerns are right. I can’t remove this compulsion to start and strike out on my own, the gene is in my bones. I can’t promise I’ll stay, we’ll do some bad ass work for a couple years and then who knows.
But I can say that I’ll bring all my perspective, network and experience to their side. Perspective from going places others haven’t. Network from making friends and being interested in them, and experience from doing it myself. With a broad base and battle worn brow, I’m ready to pledge myself to a banner. For better, for fun, for now.
Is that not valuable? Is that not the lesson of the Traitorous Eight? Or the legacy of the Valley? To merge, grow, divide, and conquer?
Someday, when I’m on the other side again, I’m sure I’ll encounter this challenge while hiring. Will I have the same ideals, the same vision I expect in an employer today? Maybe, but… I’ll think about it later. Right now, I just want a job.