Launch Your Career // Key takeaways from graduates
Earlier this month a group of graduates from our partner Sydney Design School shared their career stories, insights and helpful tips via presentations, a panel discussion and Q&A. Our Careers Coach, Sheridan, runs the Launch Your Career event twice a year and it’s always an invaluable event for our students. We’re happy to share some of the key takeaways on getting started in the interiors industry – whether you’d like to work in an established studio or start your own business.
Meet the presenters
L to R: Elise Cooper – Freedom and Happy Nest Design / Elise works as an Interior Decorator for Freedom as well as in her own business. She’s all about practical, budget driven interiors and estimates that she’s had over 1,000 clients in the past 3 years.
Gil Bennett and Kylie Hickman – Zavie Creative (Kylie is on the far right of the photo) / Both Gil and Kylie worked in the industry briefly before starting a business together. They specialise in commercial design and also take on residential projects.
Hannah Rommelse – Studio Aria / Hannah worked in property styling in the real estate industry for seven years after graduating from SDS and is now at interior architecture and design company Studio Aria.
Jacob Olsen – Siren Design / Jacob has been at Siren Design full time since graduating and does editorial styling on the side. Siren Design specialises in office design and large commercial projects.
Kathryn Borglund – Greg Natale / Kathryn has been at Greg Natale for 3 years following jobs in property styling, editorial styling and interior design.
The #1 takeaway: Network!
All our presenters spoke about networking being the single most important aspect of starting your interiors career.
“Use all your contacts – builders, architects, your Educators, other students/alumni, tradies. Go to industry events and make connections. Find an industry based mentor.” – Gil
“Connections are really powerful. I landed my job at Studio Aria through an industry contact. It’s about knowing the right people.” – Hannah
Put yourself out there
“While I was studying I was keen to work in editorial styling, so I sent an email to a magazine stylist I admired and asked if I could assist him. I did two unpaid shoots, then it turned into paid work. That led to other connections and jobs. You have to put yourself out there. Nothing will fall in your lap. Take every opportunity that comes your way – you don’t know where it might lead.” – Jacob
“I took every internship that I could while I was studying, and I was offered a job as a junior interior designer before I graduated.” – Kathryn
Get your foot in the door
“When you start out be open to whatever comes along – it’s all experience.” – Hannah
“Get started in the industry by doing jobs for family, friends, or friends of friends! Work for a minimum fee, or barter, to get some real projects behind you. Our first job was a lawyers office – we did a contra deal and got all the legal contracts for our business drawn up in return. That led to us doing more offices in the building – word of mouth is powerful and it’s free marketing!” – Kylie
How to be a good intern or junior
“To be a good intern you need to be curious and open, and importantly speak up. If you don’t know something ask questions! – Jacob
“As a junior or an intern put your own design aside and be a valuable assistant to those you work with.” – Kathryn
I won an internship at Siren as part of my graduation award for Most Outstanding Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration Graduate. Within 10 weeks of starting the internship Siren offered me a full time job.” – Jacob
“When you’re a junior designer be likeable and confident and you’ll make progress.” – Hannah
Important lessons to remember
“One of the most valuable things to learn as a student is design processes. Then you can start your career knowing what you’re doing.” – Gil
“If you know what area of interiors you want to specialise in tailor your portfolio to it.” – Kathryn
“Value the perspective drawing and sketching skills that you learn and keep practicing them. It’s important and invaluable to be able to draw your ideas when you’re sitting in front of a client in a meeting.” – Kylie
“I think that schedules are the most important thing that you need to learn.” – Kathryn
On the job
“A positive attitude and the ability to work in a team is important in the workplace. There are demanding deadlines and very long hours involved.” – Kathryn
“It’s worth getting a professional photographer to document and show off your work. Make sure you get a written agreement from your client at the beginning of a project that outlines your use of photos for self promotion.” – Hannah
“At work I’ve learned that you need to ask for things. I was keen to work on a particular project in the studio and I became a member of the team because I asked.” – Jacob
“After working in the industry for a few years I wanted to gain more skills so I did the Advanced Diploma.” – Kathryn
“If you have to work with a low budget think outside the box, get really involved and challenge yourself. The hardest jobs often have the best results.” – Gil
“The most satisfying part of my job is seeing something through from beginning to end. We often have 16 projects on the go at once in the studio, so multitasking is important!” – Kathryn
“If you’re a mum, don’t think you won’t fit into the workforce. The designer we employ has children and we see her flexibility and life experience as a big positive. We’re mums too, so we have a level of understanding between us.” – Gil
Working for yourself
“The first thing I did after I graduated was get myself a website.” – Elise
“We’re opposites and have different skills, strengths and ideas. This makes for the perfect business partnership because we compliment each other in every way, rather than working over the top of one another.” – Gil
“Our design process works in three stages. Firstly I work on concepts and presentation. The second stage involves us both collaborating and pulling the job together. Finally Gil takes my big picture ideas and looks at the details. She does all the project management including budgets, specifications, CAD work and site visits.” – Kylie
“Your work is only as good as the tradies that implement it. Work with your trades as a team and with respect.” – Kylie
“You need to cultivate a good relationship with your clients or you won’t get things done.” – Kathryn
“Know your suppliers and what you can get for what budget. I often spend weekends sourcing and getting to know what’s out there.” – Jacob
“Assert your creativity when you work with architects. Be confident but not cocky.” – Hannah
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