"I don't think this career is for you"
- Transcending Amongst Bias
This was a damning statement that has forever been cemented in my mind, at first for one reason, and now for another.
When I finally achieved my first design role after years of interviews and opportunities dropping away, this one opportunity was the one that stuck and I was determined to make it happen.
I worked for a local agency as a Junior Designer, excited for an opportunity to learn from experienced designers and to start my career journey. To me it was like Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory, except it was a design factory and my grandparents didn't live in a bed.
The role was not what I thought it would be. Projects generally were file corrections and adjustments at first, which is fine as I was still learning.
One day an opportunity came to design for one of the companies clients. I took the brief and was careful to note every request and answer fully in the first draft - what came out of my efforts was a high level solution and very happy customers. I could see my task list for the next day being filled with creative projects so I could be challenged and grow.
The next day, my task list was changed to general non-design tasks. One task to locate files for another designer, another to tidy up documents, others to answer emails. Then came the bizarre behaviour, the manager asked me to search for another file, the instructions they gave to me lead to nowhere which I informed them, then the manager in a huff showed me where the files where (which were in a completely different location to what was stated) then paraded around the office stating how useless I was. The day after, the manager asked me to take profile photos of the team for their website, I arranged with the team to do this, set up the camera and positioned everything for a head and shoulders shot - suddenly the manager blasted in, snatching the camera out of my hand stating to all the designers that the way I was taking their photos was "very rude" to make a display - truly bizarre behaviour!
It comes as no surprise that I was feeling undignified and embarrassed, day after day making comments about me. I grew more and more stressed as managers hung over my shoulder to watch me work until I made a single mistake on screen, only to point it out regularly. The next day another manager made fun of the way I spoke (I had issues with speech at the time). The day after they sent me off to make batches of coffees that they had no intention of drinking. Negative comments on the way I dressed and my physical appearance in front of customers and staff. It was relentless.
One day I was pulled into the office by the director, to my relief they said it was not working out and they would be letting me 'move on' as my skills were not what they needed (how would they know, they only let me design one project).
And then, the conversation ended with "I don't think this career is for you"
Despite my humiliation I thanked them for the opportunity and walked away, feeling at first the comment directly reflected my actual skill, my self esteem was so low I let myself believe that.
For days I considered not being a designer any more, if everyone in the industry was like that, how will I ever be able to show what I can do? Am I good enough? Did I leave the oven on?
Then I decided I was worth more than that, that same feeling of being lost was turned into a new fire - I knew I could do it, I didn't know how but I would make it work. I applied to roles that were a step up in position to what I had before while working on improving my skillset even more by studying other designers - YouTube was my friend back then.
A month later, I landed a role at a creative university as a full Graphic Designer. Since then my life has exploded into a wonderful career which has afforded me the opportunity to work with many talented creatives on many elaborate and thrilling projects.
Just think, if I believed that this career was not for me, I would have lived a very different life - never knowing what could have been.
So to anyone out there doubting yourself. Everyone is entitled to their opinion - whether it be truth or to support their own agenda or fears. You don't have to take them as an accurate measure of all that you are made of, you decide what you are capable of.
Only YOU know the extent of your abilities, and only YOU can bring them into being.
Also, being nice to people starting the industry wouldn't cause the universe to implode would it now?
That is why every designer and employee I deal with, I always treat with the utmost respect, everyone is equal:
"Always assume the person you are speaking to might know something you don't" - Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life
Kieran Stanislaw Mace