March 26, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Michigan State University
School of Planning, Design and Construction
Jon Burley Ph.D.: The profession has changed forever. Work is done remotely, with less travel and few in-person meetings. There is less of a need for large studio complexes. The internet and digital communications are now vital. This is a huge challenge for those who are extroverted, driven by human interaction and a challenge for those who are linear thinkers. It is too easy for some to be invisible and delay working diligently. Those who are self-driven will be rewarded.
Jon Burley Ph.D.: Of course, everything digital is rewarded at an entry level. But designing digitally is just a tool/medium. It does not make good design, just pretty pictures. The short-coming of the digital revolution is that one can fake good design. Being able to command software does not mean one is a designer. Softiems student are too focused upon software and not design. The design process, analytical and critical thinking skills are still the most important, as they remain since the time of Vitruvius. Software is quickly outdated. To keep one's job, one must have the skills of a designer, not a button pusher.
Jon Burley Ph.D.: Salaries have continued to grow in the feild and remain competitive for entry level employees as they have across the planning, design, engineering, architecture professions. During economic down-turns, upward salary pressures are minimal, but during boom periods, upward pressures increase as firms attempt to retain valued members of the team.
Lori Claus NCIDQ, Leed AP, ID+C: It is hard to predict the future of the job market, factors such as a newly elected president, governmental policy changes and the upcoming roll out of the vaccine will definitely impact the trends that will be occurring over the course of next year. Working remote will still continue over the next 6 to 12 months, this trend negatively impacts the commercial real estate market, as well as the design of commercial spaces. "Commercial spaces" are defined as anything that is non-residential and used by the general public, this type of design encompass offices, schools, airports, restaurants, hotels, etc.
Although corporate office space may not be in high demand, other commercial design specialties, such as healthcare and research facilities, should thrive. However, additional time at home over the past year has sparked the desire for homeowners to pursue interior renovations and projects. This has resulted in residential designers experiencing an increase in business during the course of the pandemic. Traditional office workers that were primarily located in cities have been migrating to their home offices, and at times, their dining room tables, which also drives a greater demand for ergonomic based products and dedicated workspaces within the home.
Lori Claus NCIDQ, Leed AP, ID+C: Enhancing proficiencies related to communication, time management and organizational skills are beneficial during time off from pursuing a degree. Securing a position within the interior design industry, or a design related field is advantageous and assists in resume building.
Even though I worked in a frame shop through my first two years of college, it provided me with a knowledge of Art History and challenged my abilities to work with color selection and residential interior furnishings.
One of the most important skills is staying current on technology that is utilized within the design industry is essential. Programs such as Revit, AutoCAD and CET are constantly evolving and being updated, the ability to master software programs that produce realistic renderings is critical. Taking a course offered at a local institution or online to stay ahead of the curve is ideal.
Finally, building and maintaining a professional network of contacts should also be a focus during a gap year from education. This can be done by creating a LinkedIn profile, attending Continuing Education (CEU) Courses (some are offered free online from industry manufacturers) and checking out the offering of remote events hosted within the local or national design industry. Held in Chicago's Merchandise Mart on an annual basis, Neocon is a worldwide leading industry event attended by thousands. (This year's convention has shifted from June to October in order to offer an online platform for attendees.)
Lori Claus NCIDQ, Leed AP, ID+C: While attending classes, joining and becoming involved in a student chapter of a professional design organization, such as The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) or International Interior Design Association (IIDA) will assist in developing a network of industry contacts prior to graduation.
Holding a position on a student board for one of these organizations also looks good on a resume and is held in high regards within the industry. Continuing to maintain your membership and involvement post-graduation will provide the ability to network and meet professionals. Create your own brand and develop business cards during your last year of your education, you never know when you will need to provide one!
Securing an Internship during the final year of education will not only provide experience for an entry level position but could also potentially provide portfolio content that showcases technology and other coursework skillsets.
A successful internship will also provide a new graduate several professional contacts and references that can assist with their new career. For example, while working within a firm's resource library during an internship may not seem glamorous, getting to know the manufacturing representatives is valuable, they are the "eyes and ears" of the industry and know when an opportunity becomes available.
New graduates entering into the design industry can also positively differentiate themselves from the competition by sitting for several professional exams. One of these is the Interior Design Fundamentals (IDFX) portion of the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) Exam. The CIDQ is a design industry standard, it is a three-part examination that tests a design practitioner's knowledge of the profession, through examination and experience. With the sustainable building industry growing at an exponential rate, new graduates can sit for an exam to obtain their LEED Green Associate (GA) credentials. The exam is offered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and confirms that the individual possesses a depth of knowledge in green building practices, as well as the LEED rating system. This credential is well recognized by professional disciplines that work within design, construction, or operation of buildings.