Professional Roadblock

For the first time in my life, I like my job a lot. It pays well, I work with really smart people who I admire, and I’ve managed to secure a full time gig… which means they like me, or at least the work I do, at least in the sense that I’m not that easily replaceable. All that is good, great, even, yet I’m still not doing exactly what I want to do.

I really want to do a good job for a long enough amount of time to prove I can stick it out. It’s just hard because I get a bit frustrated when I have no right to be frustrated. Basically, what I want to do isn’t in my job description. It is apparently in everyone else’s. I’m also a tad bit annoying in that I haven’t mastered the art of speaking yet… I talk too much, I think everyone dislikes me for it, and sometimes I don’t talk enough, and then I feel like I just disappear. Why can’t I fit on some middle ground so I can be respected AND taken seriously?

All I want to do is design. Do user interaction design, specifically. But I’m completely confused over how I can make the career switch, or if I even should. Grad school seems to be the only possibility, but even that is a far off dream. First of all, I’d have to GET IN to grad school… there are only a few top programs for this new field and each of them are hard to get into. Looking at the people they seem to accept, they want people with experience in the field. While my experience is related, it’s definitely not in the field. It’s gazing on the field with envy, if anything. Does that count?

My passion is great user experience. I tried to be a writer but I’m not really that great of a writer. I tried marketing but I’m not the best at marketing a product that has all these details that I’d like to tweak. I can fake it. I can fake it all. But in the long run, I don’t want to fake it. I want to cease this frustration and have a job where I can actually make a difference in the development of a product as far as the ultimate user experience goes. I’m still thinking an MBA might be a better route to go – get more involved in product strategy, stay out of the details, but then I end up futzing around with wireframes all night dreaming of a day when I could design interfaces for a living. Will that day ever come? And how much debt will I have to take on to see it?

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12 thoughts on “Professional Roadblock”

  1. As a professor, here's my advice:Apply.The worst thing that happens if you do apply is they reject you. Nothing happens if you don't.Also, take some of the text from this post and put it in your application essay. People want students who are inspired.

  2. Is there anyway you could volunteer for a non profit group to get experience with interaction design? Also, get an MFA in either Industrial Design, Design Management or Service Design. As Dan Pink said the MFA is the new MBA. A lot of people have an MBA, set yourself out from the pack.

  3. @anon: Thanks for your advice. I have no shortage of inspiration. I do, however, have a mixed bag of undergrad grades and those grad tests to take before grad school becomes a possibility. The programs I'm looking at are so small, I just get nervous thinking about the likelihood of not getting in. Then I also get nervous thinking about how much it will cost if I do.

  4. @frugalbabe: I prob should look into volunteering for a non-profit to get experience – the problem (not sure if it is a problem) is that I work a full time job, so they'd have to be willing to meet with me on the weekends/evenings to discuss their needs. Also, I find that there are two kinds of interaction designers – those who can really code (at least hard front end coding including AJAX and such) and those who are really great visual designers. I'm neither. It seems the coding side is easier to teach myself (there are lots of books out there) so I'm working on that end, but I'd probably be better at the design end of the spectrum.Also RE: MBA vs MFA — The schools I'm looking at all offer MFAs or Masters of Design, really. There is one program that has a dual degree in design and an MBA and I'm thinking that makes a lot of sense – it couldn't hurt to also obtain an MBA, esp from a tech school that's so design centered. The other programs are all MFAs in Interaction Design (yes, specifically Interaction. There are two programs in the US that I know of that offer this degree – School of Visual Arts in NY and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh). I agree that design is a better education than an MBA, but training in business is something I feel I need right now to support my career path, if in the future I ever want to move into a managerial position. The normal career path of an interaction designer, if there is one, is to work for others and eventually open up your own agency. An MBA may help with that?

  5. The hardest thing to do is actually decide what you want to do. Since you know what you are passionate about you need to go for it. I strongly believe some debt is good, especially student loan debt. There are also ways to pay for grad school through assistantships and part-time jobs.

  6. I think your blog is fabulous and since discovering it I have gone back and read almost every post. I am 29 and also trying to decide what to do with my life. I have a fulltime job with benefits, which I hate, and three degrees (2 BAs and 1 MA) that are not doing me a lot of good right now. I want to write full time but I have a child and I'm the breadwinner of the family. It's too scary to leave a regular income when one has virtually no savings and family that depends on them. But I guess we have to take risks sometimes.

  7. @Rebecca Hey there – glad you like my blog, and that you found me. It's tough trying to figure out what to do with our lives, huh? 🙂 I'm lucky in that I'm single, debt-free, and child free but regardless life is what we make of it. There are always going to be limitations. It's just about figuring out what's possible, making a plan – a realistic plan – and sticking to it. Easy advice to give, but not as easy to follow. Will have to check out your blog(s). 🙂

  8. My advise is to volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. When a project at work comes up that interests you, offer to help. When you can offer something that compliments your job, speak up.I have my MBA and I took a job temping in a new city right after graduating. I spoke up, volunteered, showed them that my education was useful. I went from an admin to the Assistant Marketing Director of a public company in two years.Good luck!

  9. @corrin thanks for the advice. I've tried that at my current company and generally speaking they don't want me to dip my toes into something outside of my job description. So it seems like I will have to find a non-profit to help out. Which isn't the end of the world – I've been wanting to do that for a while.

  10. Well, congrats on the full-time gig. Does it include health insurance? I saw that it was a goal for 2009. We don't have it ourselves and find it a bit risky, but we've chosen to do it. Well, I hope your soul searching can lead to a balance of finding how much is too much talking. I've had trouble with that myself over the years. Good luck.Jerry

  11. Forget the MBA it's useless. When I got mine 4 years ago, I thought the offers would come rolling in. So far, I've been out of work for over 2 months with NO interest from employers.

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