JustJob Interviews: Interior Designer

JustJobs interviews professionals working in a variety of fields. The good folks there have given me permission to post some of their interviews here. So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work in a specific field, you might want to check in here frequently. I’ll be posting interviews as I get them.

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What does an Interior Designer really do? This interview will take you through the details, the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to AllHispanicJobs.com and is one of many interviews with professionals, among others an Auditor and an Electronic Engineer.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?

I am a building/interior designer and have worked in this field since 1999.

Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?

My firm is Design/Build/Decorate; most mornings begin on whichever construction site I am working on. Early morning meetings with contractors (electricians, plumbers, tile setters, painters, etc.) going over drawings to be sure we are all on the same page each day. Then I head back to the studio to work on drawings; furniture plans, designing custom lighting, furnishings, etc.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?

I am half Italian and half Puerto Rican. I speak both Italian and Spanish.I cannot say I have ever experienced discrimination personally; I think perhaps, because I don’t seem to look Puerto Rican. People always seem to be surprised when I tell them. I have however, overheard many people speak in a derogatory manner in Spanish around me (not realizing I can understand them) and I am always there to answer their remarks in Spanish and call them out. Hate that – never assume…

Do you speak any language other than English? If so, how has it helped you in your job?

As mentioned, I speak Spanish and Italian. As a young mother, I always worked in the restaurant business while going to school, so Spanish was a great help in the kitchens – it always gave me a leg up and I always got fed very well. It has always been particularly helpful in many situations! Knowing any foreign language is a boon.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would say that I have always been thrilled to work as a designer. If you asked me that question in the first decade of my career, I’d have always answered with resounding 10s!!! However, within the last two or three years, I have really been questioning this very thing: Is this all there is? Money was a great motivator for me, but after awhile that wears off, too.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?

I was very fortunate to land a few very large jobs right out of design school, so I hit the ground running! All my mistakes were made quick and hard. I learned right from the jump that being a designer/builder is not as glamorous as one would think. Sometimes I am just putting out “fires” all day long!

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

There is nothing like the real experience that being on the job can give, but I will say NY School of Interior Design prepared us very well professionally. The thing I remember most was the advice I got in a Professional Practices class (first semester): “When you get a bad vibe from a potential client – walk away. These projects sometimes go on for a few years and it will never work out without a fantastic rapport between designer and client.” I cannot tell you how many times I did not follow that advice (too anxious to get clients) and went against my better judgment and jumped in! It always ended badly!

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

Upon graduating from design school, I walked into a busy antique shop I had always frequented. I suggested to the owners that we try to incorporate design and decoration services into their struggling business. They agreed (after many sit downs), but could not pay me any salary, at all. We struck a deal that I would work their shop for free while trying to drum up design clients; it would help me start and sell more of their antiques. They went with it.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

The strangest thing about my job as a designer is definitely the clients! Wealthy people are very eccentric, as a whole-crazy to deal with!!

On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

On a good day when things are going well, the satisfaction of a job well done; innovation, good design and happy clients makes my job rewarding.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?

I dislike snafus of any kind. Overseeing multiple crews of many men, things are bound to go awry everyday! And they do – it’s inevitable – just accept it and be instantaneous in fixing it and all will be well. Mistakes in this business cost thousands of dollars, so I learned quickly to be on top of it all, as I am responsible for it all.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

My job is very stressful; developing a healthy work/life balance has always been quite challenging for me.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

My first year out of school I made $100K+ (when I’d have given 10’s to my satisfaction level)…12 years in & I am up to closer to $300K, but my satisfaction level has way decreased.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

The most rewarding moments I have experienced in my position as a designer are the restoration and conservation work of many historical landmarks that I have been involved with.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

As far as challenging moments are concerned, I find every day a challenge in its own way. I wear many different hats on any given day. I never forget the good or especially the bad; it’s all in the back of my mind ready to draw upon.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

In order to get hired and succeed in the field of interior design, you must have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Success comes with experience.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

If a friend of mine was considering a job in my line of work I would tell him or her that design is really not as glamorous as everyone thinks!

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

It’s been awhile since I have taken a real vacation! It’s totally my own fault; I say I am going to block out time each year on my calendar and stick with it and inevitably I get a job I can’t turn down and wind up going nowhere.

Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding my job as an interior designer is that people tend to think that we just flit about picking fabric and wallpaper and it’s not about that at all.

Does this job move your heart? If not, what does?

Unfortunately this job does not really move my heart. I have been contemplating this for about two or three years. I thought getting published would excite me and it did…for a minute. After awhile, it’s like how many mansions can you decorate? How many wealthy people are going to think you are just another servant to them? Getting jaded….

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

If I could write your own ticket I would love to write children’s books. I would like to further my teacher training in the Waldorf method that I began a couple of years ago. Perhaps work for a non-profit organization.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

I think that the most unique thing about my job and life is that I started out as a very young, single mother (17), with all odds against me accomplishing anything at all! If I can do it, anyone can.

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Comments

  1. Hello, I was wondering if you could help me.

    I first want to say this is a great article and thank you for sharing.

    I currently work in an HR department. I started about 5 months ago, but worked here for a years when I was a student prior to my current position. Well one of my colleagues is leaving her position and I was thinking that I want the her job. I was wondering if or how I should tell my boss that I want her position. Should I wait until the position is posted online?

    I feel like I should say something so she could find out I am interested in the job. However, I feel scared because it might be awkward for both of us when I ask her and I might feel betrayed if she says no.

    I was just wondering if you could give me some advise.

    Thank you

  2. Patrick:
    Here’s what I would do if I were in your situation.
    This assumes that it’s open knowledge that your colleague is leaving her position, and that your boss is her boss.
    Go to your boss. Tell her you are interested in your colleague’s postion.
    Prior to this discussion prepare a set of good reasons why you are well qualified for the position.
    Be prepared to tell your boss why you can make a posiitve contribution to the organization if given the opportunity.
    Don’t let fear stand in the way of getting what you want.
    Make your interest in the position known.
    Also, realize that your boss will be unlikely to say yes or no when you approach her.
    She may be considering reorganizing and the position may cease to exist.
    She may have other candidates in mind.
    She may want to see who all applies before making a decision.
    If she is a seasoned leader she will not feel awkward by you approaching her to let her know about your interest in the job.
    On the other hand, you should not feel betrayed if she doesn’t give you the position.
    She has to make the best decision for the organization. Relaize this. If you get the job, be happy that she things that you are the best person for the job.
    If you don’t, treat the whole thinkg as a learning experience. Ask your boss for feedback on why she chose someone other than you.
    She will likely give you a few things that you need to work on.
    Work on improving in these areas, so you’ll be a better qualified candidate the next time a job opens up.
    In any case, you strengthen your likelihood of getting this job by making your interest in it known as soon as possible.
    You’ll come across as a strong candidate by providing your boss with solid, business related reasons why you are a good candidate.
    Hope this helps.
    Let me know if you have other questions.
    Good luck,
    Bud

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