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My experience as a new employee in Interior Design (Starting during a Pandemic)

To introduce myself, I’m Schae-Lee Wright - the newest member of the Studio Kin team. As a recent graduate from the Interior Decorating Program at Conestoga College, I came into the field with a strong foundation of knowledge about the basics of the design world. However, as this is my first and only job in the Interior Design field - starting with Sarah and Kelsea in August - I’ve found myself discovering that I wasn’t necessarily as prepared as I expected upon graduating. Now, most people will say this is obvious - you have to experience it to learn it, right? Learning online through a Pandemic especially limited this experience. I've learned that the most natural things within this field aren’t “taught” through education, but rather learned through everyday, hands on experience. For those reading that may be considering applying for similar education, or are soon to enter the field, I very much encourage you to! But, you may be wondering - What are these things? and How can I stay mindful whilst moving forward in the Design world so that I’m better prepared myself? I’ll explain all of the questions that I didn’t have the answer to until now.

In college, we are taught a long list of information - all of which is important - don’t get me wrong, I learned lots in my classes and I’m not knocking the education system. Materials & finishes, Product specifications, AutoCAD & SketchUP, and How to properly communicate with clients and employers are all very valuable pieces of information that will make you successful within this field of work (so pay attention in school). I’m just now realizing that some things can’t exactly be taught - and why not help others to feel more prepared for working in the field? From my first hand experience, many things will just come naturally through the process of working. For instance - we are taught how to talk to a client, but never actually do it. We learn the process of a design project, but never actually go to a site to see the process occur. We understand how to read feedback within our grades, but we move forward without having to correct the work and resubmit for perfection. To completely share my thoughts, here are a few of the things I wasn’t taught, but learned during my month and half of experience!

1. Everyday will be different.

I’m sure many of you can relate to the brain fog and mental exhaustion that comes from a constant schedule of online learning and homework. A constant cycle of the same day can feel uninspiring and dim your enthusiasm for work - which is much needed and expected for our clients. Happily enough, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as this will end upon entering your dream job. Be prepared for the chaos … just kidding - but seriously, everyday will be different. You can look forward to working from home, with an assortment of traveling around for sourcing materials & finishes & decor, site visits/meetings and instal days (which are our fav). An ever-changing schedule means an always happy team - excited and inspired rather than bored and dreading the long week ahead. What’s better than being happy that it’s Monday?

2. Learn from criticism during school.

I know that I’m not the only person that has gotten somewhat disappointed when my grade isn’t what I expected. We’ve all been there - you’ve spent countless hours on a project, submitted it right on time and then your grade doesn’t reflect what you were anticipating. This is not something that will end in school - in fact, it will continue for as long as you’re an Interior Designer. Instead of taking this as a negative, consider it a learning experience for the future. Re-selecting items, getting unanticipated feedback from clients, and reworking your ideas is something that you must be able to mentally expect and not be offended by. Not everyone is going to love exactly what you choose, and that’s okay! It is all a part of the learning experience and doesn’t reflect in your abilities - but how you problem solve.

3. You don’t need to burn out.

School, from my experience, has taught me that you cannot always have a social life - you’ll get behind on your work if you go enjoy a night out with some friends. Your projects and assignments can consume your entire semester. As dedicated to my job as I am, you will burnout working till midnight everyday. Work is not like school - you can turn off your electronics and live your life after your work day! If you think that it will always feel that way, then you’ve been taught incorrectly (thankfully).

4. How to work within a client budget.

In my personal school experience, one very important piece of information wasn’t included within our assigned projects. Although I’m sure this choice was made to our benefit, as it definitely made the projects easier (which I will not complain about). Working within a budget is inevitable, but I wasn’t prepared for it until my first assigned project at Studio Kin. Keeping yourself aware of average pricing, and aiming to work within a budget per project can help you for real design projects within your future job - it will feel less difficult/surprising to you.

5. Confidence when you’re unconfident.

Although entering the field with lots of questions can be intimidating, it’s important to keep your foundation of knowledge in mind. It’s easy to overlook your education when you are presented with new information, but it’s all about your mindset! You want your clients to know that they can trust your decisions, and your contractors and co-workers to know that you’re capable of making difficult decisions as a professional in the field. That being said, take the opportunity to learn, and know that you got this!

6. You will still be asking questions.

Even after graduating, although you may expect to, you will not know it all. That’s the point of being a junior designer - your employer will know that so try not to feel uncomfortable about it. So, to go along with the last point - ask lots of questions and take everything as a learning opportunity. Although designing can feel quite laid-back and up for interpretation, there are a lot of specifics that you should take note of. If you aren’t learning then you aren’t growing.

7. We don’t need to do every little thing.

Through college, I was under the impression that we as designers, have to do and know everything to do with the design process. For instance - drapery calculations, knowing a little bit too much about light bulbs, and managing a job site during the construction process. Although this is good to know if you want to move forward into those fields of work, you will most likely hire a professional in that field of work to do that for you. There is no need to stress about remembering how to calculate the material needed for roman shades, because the professionals in that field will double check the calculations to assure that they are accurate.

As the weeks are always new and exciting, I know that I’ll continue to learn more about this industry that surprises me. However, one last thing that I’ll share with you that they don’t completely teach you in school is how satisfying this job will truly be. How cool is it that being an Interior Designer is a full time job when it feels like a fun hobby? Most designs are a very long process. I haven’t been around at Studio Kin long enough to see a project from start to finish, but I’ve seen a few come to an end. Becoming a part of clients everyday life, personalizing a space for them and then seeing their happiness is what the job is all about. I don’t know of anything more satisfying than doing what you love (while getting paid), and making people happy along the way.

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