Staying positive as an in-house designer

I know some designers would balk at the idea of staying at a single company for 1 year, let alone 3 years. Yet I’m hitting the 3 year mark at my company, and looking back, I’ve stayed because the team is like family, and leadership changes at a rate where it feels like I’m learning and growing at a different company every year.

While I feel like I work hard and am not necessarily a cynical person, I realized today that I’ve also built up some innate assumptions as my experience has grown. Negative assumptions of how a project will go, or what it will be like to work with certain teams, ex. “This project scope is going to blow up.” “This team will be hard to work with.” “This will be chaotic.” And I hold on to these assumptions, without always assessing changes in the current situation, leaders, processes, teams, goals.

I’m sure that this doesn’t necessarily change based on shifting where I work, judging from UX design memes.

Anyhow, this negativity is not only contagious, it pushes down the positive, happy force that I imagine drives design and creativity.

Tips I got from my boss:

  1. Notice when you’re feeling negative, resentful, overwhelmed, etc, and remember that most designers work in fields that are not life or death; no one dies because a project is managed poorly or a design is faulty. So don’t let yourself get swept up in emotions. “Oh, this cupboard is a mess. It needs to be cleaned” is more realistic than “OMG this messy cupboard is going to cause huge problems, why are we the only ones cleaning this up.”
  2. Grow with the company, and help others grow: Approach difficult situations as an opportunity to grow, or as an opportunity to coach/guide if it’s a matter of helping others perform their role.
  3. When a project feels chaotic with no one driving it, let go of trying to ‘get an A’, and instead approach project delivery like baseball, where ball players can hit 1 swing out of 4 and be a major league player. Also, it’s ok to drop the ‘ball’ on a project. Sometimes you need to drop the ball for other people to recognize where they need to step up.
  4. Overall recognize that you are lucky to be able to work, and that you even have the opportunity to face small grievances.

In summary, even though I felt like I was working hard and being productive, I realized as I’ve gained experience I’ve also grown invisible assumptions. Since trying these tips, I’ve noticed feeling kinder toward myself and others, which definitely proves I’ve been in negative fog unnoticed by myself.

Another takeaway: Find a team where you can get true mentorship, where someone can help you see your blind spots and cares enough to challenge you :).

User Experience Designer