Do you REALLY want to work as a designer?
This story will resonate with some of you and to others it will sound like complete nonsense. And that’s ok.
I’ve always thought of myself as being a bad industrial designer. Not because I lack skills, but by choice. Let me explain.
Growing up I knew I wanted to do something creative. Every time I picked up a pen it wasn’t to write something, it was to draw. My textbook throughout elementary school, high school and college are all filled with doodles even if the subject was chemistry or math.
From the time I was 8-9 years old I knew that whatever I was going to do later in life had to be something creative. Maybe work as a designer. I also knew I wanted to live some place warm, ideally next to a beach.
Friends would ask me to draw their faces, teachers had me design flyers and boards for class events. Basically, I loved drawing and sketching. To this day I can’t pick up a pen and not doodle something.
Society has a tendency to set you on a pre-determined path from the day you’re born. You go through school learning exactly what every other kid is learning regardless of your personality or interests. You’re being molded to fit in and think in a certain way. I was no exception.
Go to school, educate yourself on matters you don’t care about and will never benefit from so that you can get a comfortable 40 hour per week job, make money, climb up the corporate ladder and maybe one day you’ll be lucky enough to get promoted and work 60 hours per week.
Sounds like a great deal doesn’t it? It has to be since everyone else is working so hard to get it.
At least that’s what I thought. And maybe that’s what you think too.
Fast forward a few years to my graduation from university in Sweden. I’ve got my piece of paper saying I now have a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design. Great! Throughout my three years in college I realized that I love sketching cars. I decided that car design is what I want to do so I apply to a masters degree in automotive design in Italy and guess what, I got accepted.
Everything seems to go as planned. I’m doing everything right and following what I thought was my dream. Later on, I’ll see that It just isn’t going to be what I’m looking for, I just don’t know it yet.
I graduated in 2011. Now with a second piece of paper in my hand saying I have a masters degree in automotive design. A piece of paper I spent countless hours, weeks and months working in a warehouse stacking bottles on shelves to be able to pay for.
Now what. Now the next step of the “plan” is to get a job, right? That’s what I’m suppose to do. By this time, I’m starting to realize this plan maybe isn’t for me after all. But it’s still too early in my story, I still haven’t found the alternative.
So I fly home, no money, stay with my brother in his one bedroom apartment and start applying for jobs like I’ve lost my mind. 100, 200, 300 emails are sent out. All personalized to the specific person or company I’m writing to. Maybe 35% replied back with a “we’ll keep your email on file” and 2-3 companies were interested in talking further. Horrible conversion rate. The reason is totally my fault. Why?
I’m focusing on my own needs and not what I can do for the company. My ego shines through in the emails, I’m not letting them know how I can help them become a better company with me being part of their team. Instead all I talk about is myself and what I’ve done, which nobody except your mom cares about.
Keep that in mind when applying for jobs or in any relationship in general. Nobody owes you anything. Remove your ego and focus on giving. Give and you shall receive.
Anyway, I got a job as an intern in Florida. I was actually going to work as a designer. They needed me there in two weeks time. Impossible to get a move from Sweden to the US organized in that time. We managed to get it sorted over about a month. Back and fourth to the US embassy and other institutions. Get all the paperwork ready.
I bought a one way ticket to Tampa, packed my bags and was excited to start a new chapter in my life living next to the beach and sketching all day. Just as I had envisioned all these years since I was a little kid.
Arriving here I didn’t know anybody, which was kind of nice. Like starting from scratch.
Fast forward a year and a half, the internship isn’t working out. I’m getting paid less than what my monthly bills are. It’s unsustainable. So I quit. By this time I’ve started listening to different podcasts where they interview entrepreneurs and people who’ve made an impact doing what they love.
I was hooked.
I now have 18 months of experience in the professional field. I’m sketching different products every day with a 5 minute walk to the beach. I’ve made new friends and met an amazing girl. I started a new job as a designer with an incredible company in South Florida. If you want a great job with great pay, great benefits and vacation, this was it.
By the way, here’s something that might be interesting to know for design students – I have never been asked to show my diplomas from any university from any employer I’ve worked with. All that matters is your portfolio and how you can help the company move forward with the skills you have.
Anyway, after a year or so I bought a red Mustang GT with white racing stripes, manual transmission and Brembo brakes. A beauty.
This is it right? Isn’t this exactly what I’ve been working so hard for?
A year and a half in on the job and I can’t stand it. Every day is the same, I don’t own my time, I sit in hour long meetings with clients who can’t make up their mind on what shade of purple a specific cap should be for their product. I bite my tongue and doodle some cars in my notebook and come to the conclusion that this sucks and I’m wasting my time.
It’s 2016 and I’ve started this site you’re on right now, TheSketchMonkey.com. Everyday while in the office I can’t wait to come home and create videos and posts helping people – design students, artists, mothers, fathers, people from all over the world improve their sketching and rekindle their lost passion for drawing.
I get back into YouTube where I haven’t uploaded a video in years. I focus on sketching and sketching only. Cars, products, concepts, random shapes it doesn’t matter. I don’t care about manufacturing, I don’t care about molds, suppliers, costs, colors, shades of purple or meetings.
All I care about is making the best videos and posts I can doing what I do best and keep doing that consistently.
I quit my job in August 2016. It was a tough decision to make, not gonna lie. Leave that comfortable job behind and step into the unknown. But in the end it all comes down to your time. I didn’t want to grow old thinking back what could have been. Money isn’t everything.
One book that made a great impact on me when I was trying to figure all of this out is Expert Secrets. In it, I learned that everyone has the skills and knowledge in a specific area or topic to create something of their own with the power of the Internet. This was the turning point for me.
As I said in the beginning, this isn’t for everyone. We’re all different. You might love your job and think all of this is just nonsense. If that’s you, congrats I’m happy for you.
But if you’re like me, I’d strongly suggest you read it. Maybe you’re not really sure what direction to go in or what you want to do. You can pick up the book for here if interested.
Today, we’re blessed with so many opportunities right in front of us and at our fingertips. Take this post for example, I can reach thousands of people from all corners of the world and hopefully inspire you and open up your mind.
All these years leading up to 2016 I was fighting so hard for someone to pick me when in reality all I had to do was to pick myself.
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