And I mean seriously lost it, to a stage where you’re questioning if the last 10 years have been worth it and maybe it’s time you really should take your childhood dream of becoming an astronaut seriously.
If you have you’re not alone. According to research by the London School of Business and Finance over half of the UK’s employed people say that they would rather be in a different career.
At Inktrap we are really focused on ensuring all employees are happy, and we don’t mean just happy at Inktrap, we’re talking happy in their careers as a whole as we know that people who are happier get more done and to a higher standard than those who are unhappy.
Why design roles can cause unhappiness
Design is often a romanticised career choice, of course when it’s good it’s great but when it’s bad, it can be really bad.
Design is subjective, our role as designers can often revolve around others such as project managers, clients and even our coworkers telling us what we have created is good or not. Issues usually arise when the feedback we receive has tipped over into mostly negative.
Within the design role, we are conditioned to constantly chase external validation from our clients, our bosses and those of status in the design industry. Naturally, if we aren’t receiving this positive feedback or validation we can start to feel out value and self-worth start to dwindle. This is where our happiness in the work we do can start to decline.
Why more side projects won’t help
If you’ve lost your design mojo and have spent some time researching how to regain it you will easily find a mass of information about taking on more side projects, going to exhibitions, design meetups etc.
However these methods might help if you’re perhaps uninspired, but if you are truly questioning if you can do this career anymore then the last thing you’ll most likely feel like doing to do more of the work that is making you unhappy.
Side projects are great to improve your technical skills and perhaps your soft skills if you are presenting what you’ve made with others. But if you’re looking to reignite your passion for design by taking the brute force approach to do more design until you start enjoying it really isn’t the best approach for your mental wellbeing. You’ll end up exhausted, burnt out and in a worse off place than when you started. When the feelings of career change arise from a negative place there’s usually a deeper level of personal work that you may need to do before making that change.
Why redundancy is a passion killer
As mentioned already in design we heavily look to those around us to provide feedback that what we create is of value. Therefore if you’ve ever been made redundant it’s inevitable that your self-esteem will take a knock.
For designers and those in the creative industry, this can be particularly crushing as your self-worth can be tied to your career. As our jobs and career choices can be instantly linked to our identity, when your job is taken away so can some of your identity.
With redundancy, there are a range of feelings that can occur like not being good enough (This links back to the self-worth and external validation) as well as feeling shame or anger and naturally unhappiness.
According to the Harvard Business Review, unemployment can have a real long term effect on our wellbeing, even after we have managed to find employment again.
What can we do about it
Though this post has started off from a place of doom and gloom there are ways that we can do something about this lack of love for design.
Work on being just content first. Happiness can be a loaded word, and focusing on being ecstatically happy can actually devalue what it’s like to feel content. Being in a state of flow with your work or being content with the design industry is just as valuable as feeling happy.
Pay attention to what makes you feel happy or content at work
We’ve all had those days where we have sat down to do a piece of work and we’ve looked at the clock only to realise that 4 hours have easily passed and it’s now lunchtime.
This is what some people call being in a state of flow. Where we are so engrossed in our work that time passes effortlessly and we feel that we are making real progress in our work.
Though this kind of work you wouldn’t instinctively describe as what makes you happy, this could be what makes you feel content.
For the next week try to keep a post-it note or a piece of paper on your desk and track all the times you feel content or happy. Perhaps it discussing a piece of work with a coworker or spending the day testing out new design software.
At the end of the week try and see if there is a theme within the work or tasks that you get enjoyment from doing. A lot of the time the tasks that put us in flow we rarely pay attention to and overlook how important they are at making us feel content with our work.
Stop looking for external validation
As mentioned earlier, our role as a designer is incredibly subjective therefore we connect our success with whether others like our work or not. Of course, it is natural to look to others to see if we are on the right path especially if those people are accomplished within your industry, gaining validations from those people can feel amazing.
The need for external validation might be something you’re not even aware of as it can be subconscious. But regardless if you are aware of it or not it can have damaging effects on your creativity and self-esteem.
By all means, you will need approval from your client for your designs but this doesn’t mean you should be looking to them for validation. Ideally, you want your client to be seeking validation from you. Remember your client or boss hired you because of your expertise.
Many of our clients are from a non-design background and generally have an idea of the kind of thing they want but they don’t usually know how to get from A to B. If you spend too much time asking what a client thinks or looking for validation from those clients they may feel like it’s okay to start making all the decisions whether it’s choosing a new font or updating a product feature how they see fit, when really you are the person who should be making these decisions. You are the person who has spent years crafting their skills and abilities so have the confidence to defend that.
It’s easier to be confident in your work and your ability if you’re making work that makes you happy. If you are creating work that you are proud of it is much easier to communicate why your designs solve the client problem. If you’re making work solely because you think your client may like it, it becomes incredibly difficult to defend that work later down the line when they are asking for the 10th round of amends.
With tight deadlines, potentially long hours and multiple rounds of client feedback, it’s easy to have a negative attitude toward design. If you spent most of your day in a state of frustration then you’re going to see most of the world in that light too.
You can shift your focus away from negative thoughts and patterns by finding genuine things you are thankful for, this is simply known as practising gratitude.
Practising gratitude has been in the mainstream media over the last few years, and it’s growing popularity isn’t without reason. By spending just two weeks writing a daily list of three things you are grateful for — have been found to increase life satisfaction, decrease worry and improve body image, with the beneficial effects lasting for up to six months.
These are amazing results in such a short period of time, and well worth spending a few moments a day to see if you notice an improvement in your attitude to work as well as your overall wellbeing.
Do more of what makes you happy
Though the sea of medium articles, design meetups and Twitter chatter may lead to believe that design is the be all and end all of life. I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case, at the end of the day it’s just a job.
With that said the design industry can be a fun and great place to be until it isn’t, therefore, I really recommend doing other things that you enjoy, especially when you are considering maybe this career isn’t for you.
If you really love going for walks in a park, do more of that. If you feel good by buying a new vinyl, then, by all means, go do that too. If it makes you smile to reading the last celeb gossip in some glossy magazine then go do that! If you allow other areas of your life to give you joy and fulfilment then naturally this will spread, hopefully, and eventually into your work too.
Not only will this increase your overall mood, by spending time doing non-design related tasks you actually make yourself a better designer, the more you experience in life the more open-minded become which as a designer is integral when creating work for other people.
Change your environment
If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still not finding your passion, it may warrant a job change.
Sometimes toxic environments can really run us down to a point where we don’t even feel like moving to a similar role. But consider this, imagine what your perfect design role would be. Is it a bigger team to work with? Maybe having a different manager, someone who’s more organised? Perhaps you want more freedom to do a variety of work.
Spending time to think about what circumstances make you enjoy your time being a designer might aid you in finding a new role which may ignite your love for design again.
That said if you can’t imagine a role or situation which makes you slightly excited or perhaps you begin to think of a different career choice that does then it might be time to consider a career change seriously.
Remember you are allowed to change your mind, just because you’ve been a designer for 10 years doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else. We spend around 50 years working, therefore, you don’t have to make a firm decision, you can always go try something out then come back to design if you want.
Have you every experienced love loss for design? Have you every switched careers? Let us know in the comments. Also feel like you need a change of scenery? Keep up to date with the latest job roles at Inktrap via Twitter @InktrapDesign.