BUILD YOUR PERFECT CAREER
Tom May talks to web designers at different levels throughout the industry, and gets their expert advice on carving out a successful career
n some professions, the shape and structure of your whole career is mapped out in fine detail from the start. You start by taking an accredited course, gaining specific qualifications and then moving up the ladder of clearly defined job titles and standard salary increments. Web design, though, offers none of that rigid structure, regularity or certainty.
In an industry where the entire nature of what you do can change in a matter of months, there’s nothing predictable about where you’ll be in five years’ time. It’s no surprise, then, that when I asked on Twitter, “Have you always seen a clear path to career advancement, or has it been random and chaotic?” web designers responded overwhelmingly: ‘The latter’.
“When I started UX didn’t exist, Flash was still a thing and web design was one person writing code in a dark room”, pointed out Clara Ilena, digital art director at MRM//McCann. “Like with all tech, the industry constantly changes, so you have to adapt your plan: like Agile development methodology, ” added Leon Brown, education content developer at Nextpoint. “As one conference speaker said, ‘If you don’t like changes, you need to get out of the industry”,’ noted Sergei Golubev, founder of The UX Conference. “Things change every day.”
But while web design may lack the clear, predictable career structure of other professions, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to put some thought into how you want your career to go. In this article, we speak to designers at different levels of the industry, to find out what worked for them, and how we can learn from their example.
Job or freelance?
One of the biggest decisions you have to make throughout your career is whether to stick to a salaried role or go freelance. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but the kind of people who tend to write blogposts, give talks at conferences and pen articles to net magazine tend to be freelance, entrepreneurial types. So it’s easy to get the impression that this is the only route to career success.
That’s certainly not the case, though. And if you dig a little deeper you’ll
Author Tom May Tom is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience. He's been writing for net since 2008, and is also a regular contributor to Computer Arts, 3D World and ImagineFX. @tom_may