Frances MacLeod
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
They didn’t seem like explicit difficulties at the time, but the learning ‘opportunities’ never really end. I took my time settling into the right place. Fortunately, college breeds an appreciation for transition, and I was happy to freelance a few months at a time at several different agencies. The opportunity to see multiple environments and teams at work helped me appreciate the variety and breadth of work out there. It also helped me narrow down the things I was most interested in learning more about.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Be difficult to work with, be close-minded about the path you want your career to take and the people you want to work with. Each job is filled with people who can teach you things, about design and otherwise. You can’t assume anyone is going to hand you anything, but you can seek partnerships and mentorship from those who will help you grow. Design school and assembling a portfolio is focused on how things look, but getting hired and working day to day hinges more on your attitude and how you interact with a team.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
It’s ok if you don’t know what your dream job is, there’s plenty of time to play in lots of areas without idolizing one ‘perfect fit’ . You find out that people really are still figuring it out, even your heroes. This knowledge is both comforting and terrifying, and combined with humility will give you freedom to ask any question thoughtfully. Ask LOTS of questions (the “I’m young and inexperienced” card can only be played so long), and always be ready to help.
Also, travel as much as you possibly can. The internet makes everything accessible, but the world is still very big. Experiencing a different culture can challenge your thinking in amazing ways.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Being my own boss forced me to learn a lot about myself: how I work best and what tools I need to be productive. I spread my brain across a few different to-do lists and try and schedule things for myself so I can feel good about how I’m using my time. When I was working alone full-time, I made a point of meeting up with real humans I admired regularly to ask advice and keep things in check.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
Kern and Burn  is great for perspective into a huge range of design-entrepreneurial practices. The interviews are well-paced and thoughtful, I found the book to be so helpful in gaining awareness of a range of disciplines.
I’ve recommended Design is a Job  to any friend that’s working on their own. Although it’s geared towards web designers, it helps anyone understand their role and responsibility as someone who sells design work. Full chapters on contracts, proposals, gathering useful feedback, it’s a straight shooter that equipped me with confidence and tact.
Frances answered the questions on February 26, 2015.
The answers were published on February 27, 2015.