Design Career: Landing High-Profile Projects

The Creative Group recently asked more than 500 marketing and advertising executives how they’d feel if they were selected to work on a Super Bowl campaign. In an industry where an ad of this caliber can help crown someone’s design career, perhaps it’s no surprise that a majority (60 percent) of survey respondents said they’d be thrilled at the prospect.

But what if the opportunity arises … and passes you by?

As many designers know, it’s not easy to land a high-profile project that can boost your design career, whether it’s a Super Bowl campaign or a pitch for a sizable chunk of new business. For obvious reasons, only the best of the best are asked to tackle these assignments.

If you frequently find yourself getting passed over for premium gigs, despite having similar skills and experience as your colleagues, it’s time to boost your visibility. You might think your strong work speaks for itself, but in more cases than not, you have to toot your own horn to gain recognition and move your design career forward. Here are some tips on getting noticed and securing choice assignments:

1. Step up to the plate. Develop a reputation for stepping up when others stand back. Be the first person to throw your hat in the ring when the boss needs someone to assist with a difficult new project (like rolling out a new collaboration tool), even if it falls beyond the scope of your job description.

HOW Design Live logos HOW Design Live is comprised of the HOW Design Conference, the Creative Freelancer Conference, the Dieline Package Design Conference and the inHOWse Managers’ Conference. Over five days – June 22-26 – in San Francisco, thousands of your colleagues and peers to meet, learn and share.

Also, keep an ear out for news of upcoming initiatives that require a leader. Volunteering to move out of your comfort zone enables you to hone new abilities, beef up your resume and discover untapped talents.

2. Make your voice heard. Your bright ideas won’t help your employer—or you—if you’re unwilling to take risks and share them. If you have a plan that could trim expenses or attract new clients, go public with it. Also, stay on management’s radar by regularly pitching potential solutions in staff meetings and brainstorming sessions. Companies prize innovative thinkers and confident communicators, not wallflowers and shrinking violets. (You don’t have to yell the loudest in order to be heard. Attend Colleen Wainwright‘s Making People Love You Madly: Selling Yourself in the Postmodern Marketplace at the Creative Freelancer Conference at HOW Design Live.)

3. Highlight and quantify your contributions. Quietly hunkering down and doing a good job behind the scenes is commendable, but it’s not enough to further your design career. Don’t assume your manager is keeping track of your contributions. Instead of waiting for your annual review to roll around, apprise your supervisor of your most notable achievements on a regular basis (perhaps at the end of each month). Add impact to your status updates by linking your efforts to the positive effects they’ve had on the bottom line, like increased conversion rates on a website you designed.

4. Network internally. Many designers think of networking in terms of developing outside connections for job-hunting purposes. But expanding your reach internally is just as important to your career. Try to establish strong relationships with colleagues in all areas of your organization. Sign up for cross-departmental initiatives, attend company-sponsored events, and generally aim to be an outgoing member of the team. The more allies you have in your corner, the more likely you’ll be top of mind when big decisions are made.


5. Keep growing. Ambitious designers who demonstrate a commitment to learning have a distinct edge over those who stagnate. Make it known you’re always looking for ways to expand your skills. From brownbag lunch seminars to e-learning classes, take advantage of the professional development opportunities your employer offers. Join professional associations, read trade publications and attend business and design conferences, like HOW Design Live, to keep up with the latest trends. Then, share insights with your boss and coworkers.

Working hard will always be critical to the success of your design career, but you won’t achieve your full potential unless others are aware of your expertise and accomplishments. Pursuing new challenges and getting involved will help you build awareness of your abilities and better position yourself for both plum assignments and advancement opportunities.

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