Landing Your First Job Designer Style

Business woman sitting at interview in office

The Things I Learned from Shannon Leddy

A Well-Designed Business podcast is proud of all the wonderful guests who have joined us since its inception. We have well over 90 now! This little idea of mine sure has taken off. Thank you to all of our listeners for your continued support. I’m so excited to continue this journey with all of you.

Over these many months, we’ve provided an abundance of information for the seasoned designer, but we’ve also had some great episodes relevant to design students and new designers who are fresh out of design school. One episode that is particularly helpful for new designers is my interview with Shannon Leddy and her tips on landing your first job out of design school.

Shannon is a two time guest on the podcast and was one of our very first interviews on the show. She is the owner of Shannon M. Leddy Interior Design and is an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and at the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID), located in New York City. In Episode 3, Shannon talked in a general way about the principles and practices taught and learned in interior design school — how it has evolved because of technology and where she sees it headed in the future.

In her second visit – Episode 29, she shared with us her advice on what to do and how to prepare for a job search in interior design and helpful tips to ace the interview process. I’m confident design grads will find this information extremely helpful as they begin to put their education to work. And now is a great time to land that first job as the interior design sector remains strong. According to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the design industry has recovered to pre-recession levels and is primed for what they’ve termed ‘robust growth.’

Just take a look at these stats:

interior design stats

Source: ASID’s Interior Design 2016/2017 Outlook and State of the Industry

That’s pretty impressive! Now on to the tips.

4 Tips for Landing Your First Interior Design Job

1. Your Portfolio: Make sure your portfolio is complete, organized and presented in an aesthetically pleasing, creative manner. There is a specific way your interior design work and boards need to be photographed, so be sure to seek out the right expertise to make sure it is done properly. If you have a mentor or a trusted advisor, have them review your portfolio so you can make any necessary tweaks and changes.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Any spelling mistakes or typos
  • Proper labeling to ensure consistency
  • And make sure it is reflective of who you are as a designer
  • Think of it like you would a design project

Also, keep in mind that your portfolio can be flexible. You can tailor your portfolio to the specific employer you’re interviewing with.

Shannon mentioned, “If you’re going to a job with a firm that’s more about the hospitality end of design then maybe those are the projects you want to have upfront and center in your portfolio because people at these firms are not going to sit there and read through a 50 page portfolio.”

2. Research and More Research: before you even submit your resume to a potential job opportunity, you first need to research that firm or company to learn more about the culture of the company, the types of projects they handle and who the principals of the company might be. Nowadays there is a lot of information available online and make sure you go beyond just visiting the company’s website.

Shannon recommended going to shelter and design magazines and newspapers to find information on a firm’s current projects or projects that they may have bid on but didn’t get. You also want to utilize other resources than the internet – ask your instructors or others who might know someone who currently works at or used to work at the firm. They might be able to give you some inside advice on what a firm is looking for in a candidate.

You will impress and score points with a prospective employer if you can mention something sincere and specific about their company at the interview. Thoughtfulness and interest go a long way.

3. Interview Whenever Possible: interviewing is never easy and the only way to get better at interviewing is to practice. You should interview whenever and wherever the opportunities arise. Look at each interview as an opportunity. Even if it doesn’t work out and you don’t get the job, at least you now have the experience of being interviewed and that experience will help to make future interviews easier.

Across industries, the interview process is getting more complicated. Employers now want to meet with you multiple times – a second and third interview is not uncommon.

What not to do at the interview:

  • Arrive late for the interview
  • Have poor body language
  • Talk too little or too much
  • Fail to ask questions of the interviewer
  • Be arrogant or over embellish accomplishments and experience

interior design networking

4. Stay Connected and Network: whether you realize it or not you already have a network – your instructors and fellow students are part of your interior design network. Don’t overlook asking an instructor or fellow student if they know of any available employment opportunities. Look for educational or industry events where you can go and meet others interested in interior design or those who are already in the industry. There are many organizations like ASID or the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) that have student memberships and events that can allow for great networking with other interior design industry insiders.

New to Networking?

  • Start by sharing your passion and why you got involved with interior design
  • Don’t monopolize – remember there is give and take in a conversation
  • Try not to oversell yourself – no one wants to come across as arrogant
  • Focus on the quality of your connections over the quantity
  • Be sure to follow up with new contacts and keep the conversation going

Looking for Even More Tips and Advice?

We’ve only covered a few of the important tips Shannon shared with us in her episode, for even more information on landing your first job check out her full episode. She provides a great perspective as both an interior designer and instructor.



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