You applied for a job that fits you like a glove, and you feel like you can do great things for the company while growing as a professional. The only thing that’s making you unsure is being the only designer there.
Some time goes by, and you start to feel the pressure, while the imposter syndrome kicks in. How do you manage to be the only designer in your workplace without losing your shit?
I surely don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve been there twice.
So, some of the tips on this list may work for you, some of them not quite as much. Still, I want you to know that you’re not alone and several designers been where you are now, both juniors and seniors alike. And I do believe there isn’t a direct correlation between your experience and the way you feel about it. That’s why I decided it was time to talk about this.
Let’s dive in and see a handful of tips that can work to minimize the feeling of loneliness and bittersweet.
1. Be Confident
Undeniably, even if you absolutely love your job, you’re going to have days that don’t go as well as others. It’s normal, and it happens for some reasons. Either you’re not feeling right, your mood is off, or your results didn’t go as expected, those days will come.
Usually, that’s when insecurity kicks in. Don’t let yourself be beaten down. Turn them around with confidence and remember that you were hired by a reason.
You might feel lonely because no one else is in your shoes, and the world can look greyer at that moment. Trust me, that’s only a passing feeling.
You got this, and you will find a way to make it work. Deep down you know you will.
2. Defend your work but appreciate constructive feedback
By being the only designer, you can face the difficult task of not having immediate results to show. Contrarily to the sales team, you won’t have numbers, leads or any tangible metric to support your work (at least not at first). As a result, you will have to defend your work by explaining your process and, preferably, have some actual data to support it.
Consider this step as a natural and good thing. It might be intimidating to seat on a room with your superiors, but it’s worth it. You did the work, you put in the hours and you, better than anyone, can explain what you did.
So defend your point of view and make them believe in the design process. Also, don’t be arrogant and act like a know-it-all. Your ego will be your best enemy (trust me, I’ve been there). Listening to other people’s point of view is always good. It allows you to put things in perspective, and see them with a new pair of eyes.
3. Collaborate with coworkers from other departments
Ok, you’re the only designer. I get it. But you’re not the only one in the company (unless you’re a freelancer, but that’s another story).
So why don’t you get your ass up, and go speak to people from other departments? More often than not, they are very willing to talk to you and better yet, to help.
Even if they are not designers and they can’t help you with technical aspects of the project, they can represent the user. They can see things that you missed.
Break the bubble and stop being a socially awkward being.
4. Stay connected to other designers
Network events. The weirds, awkwardest moments ever invented by mankind.
I struggle with these because I never know how to act, what to say, and even how to deal with my anxiety in this situations.
But, once I do manage to get out of my shelve, I realize that we’re very similar. There are people with similar interests and look-alike backgrounds. Once we get talking and better yet, stay in touch, we realize we don’t need to be lonely. Some people can advise us and we can help them in return.
I know it can be awkward and intimidating to meet new people (especially the weirdest of the species: designers), but once you do, it’s all worth it.
5. Get involved in other projects/interests after work
You spend a lot of time working, and once you clock out, you just want to go to your couch and relax. You’re feeling exhausted, and you don’t have neither the patience or the time to do anything else. I get it, but that’s not true all the time.
Find a way to control your lack of motivation, and you’ll see your mood and your creative juices flowing.
For me, Melted is a great project to do that. I also try to go for other things like weekend courses, after work workshops, and daily challenges.
I don’t always feel like it, but I can say that those small, different projects turned out to be great. Not only did I learn new techniques, but I also ended up discovering new abilities in myself as a designer.
So my advice is: stop with the excuses right away and do things. Get your mind off work, and you’ll feel a lot more fulfilled.
Being the only designer doesn’t have to be a bad thing
It’s always better to work in a team with like-minded people that can help and share knowledge. Better yet, it’s great to know that you have the support from an inside mentor that you can talk to. But if you can’t, there are other ways to enjoy what you do.
Have you tried any of the previous tips? Are there others that you believe that work better for you?