Coffee Chat Series #1: Getting Ahead as an Early-Career Designer

Julie Zhuo
Sep 11, 2019 · 13 min read
Image from https://myfriendscoffee.com/

Coffee Chat Series?

One of my favorite things to do as a design leader is to meet one-on-one with someone in my organization for what I call a “coffee chat.” It may or may not include coffee (sometimes, ice cream is involved; occasionally there is lunch; frequently, there are no beverages at all), but the concept is the same: let’s spend time informally getting to know each other. I want to know what you care about, how you got here, and where you want to go. And I want to support you however I can.

Are you an Early-Career Designer?

You think of yourself as “new to designing professionally.” Maybe you’re still in school, with an internship or two under your belt. Or, perhaps you graduated in the last 1–2 years and are in the midst of your first or second design job. Or, maybe you’ve decided recently to switch careers.

You’ve a long and adventurous career ahead. You’re just getting started, and you’re going to leave footprints.

Your superpowers

A lot of early-career designers I know don’t assume that they have any superpowers. They figure they’ve got a lot to learn, and not a lot they can contribute. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Pretty much everyone I know raves about working with these people. Why?

Habits for Success

What are the daily practices that have outsized returns for early-career designers? After hundreds of conversations and observations of their career trajectories, this is my short list:

Misconceptions and Obstacles to overcome

In my coffee chats with designers, we’ll often talk about what we wish we knew when we first got started. A few traps stand out again and again as misconceptions that hinder success:

Reflection Questions to Ask Yourself

The best thing you can do for your career is not to listen to what someone else has to say (this article included), but to get in the habit of regularly asking yourself deep questions. You’re the only one who knows your true heart and where you want your career to go, so keep these questions in mind:

The Year of the Looking Glass

A collection of essays by Julie Zhuo on design, building…

The Year of the Looking Glass

A collection of essays by Julie Zhuo on design, building products, and observing life.

Julie Zhuo

Written by

Currently: Inspirit. Former Product Design VP @ FB. Author of The Making of a Manager https://amzn.to/2PRwCyW. Find me @joulee. I love people, words, and food.

The Year of the Looking Glass

A collection of essays by Julie Zhuo on design, building products, and observing life.

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