Can you think of a problem at your current design job?
It could be culture, process, a relationship, a project, pretty much anything.
I’ll give you a minute to picture it.… Seriously, take a minute to picture it….
Got one in your head? Excellent.
Now let’s get real. Ask yourself the below question….
How am I contributing to the problem?
The point of this exercise isn’t to blame yourself. The point is to shift to a solutions perspective, which in turn places you in a position of influence over the problem.
Here’s three steps on how to make the shift and ultimately become a more valuable, more promotable designer…
1) Shift to a position of power
If you’re contributing to the problem that also means that you can contribute to a solution. This allows you to shift from the position of a powerless bystander to having the power to influence change toward a solution.
I’m not suggesting that when something isn’t right at work we go around and just blame ourselves. The goal isn’t to walk around telling yourself how you stink at your job, or to constantly fall on your sword.
What I am suggesting, however, is that when something isn’t ideal, we stop and look at the problem and ask how we are contributing to the problem, and from there move on to how we can contribute to the solution.
2) Have empathy
As you consider the problem you’re facing, also put on your empathy glasses and understand what other people involved in the problem might be going through from their point of view.
Did the developer do a sloppy job coding up your page design because his wife is in the hospital? Did your boss get short with you because she’s getting tons of pressure from her boss this week? Did senior leaders cut the conference budget this year in order to avoid not having enough money to give you a cost of living raise next budget cycle?
Everyone else is operating under the constants of their current situation, and there’s usually more moving parts in any given situation at play than most people consider. Having empathy goes a long way to understanding the bigger picture and where people are coming from. Having the bigger picture in mind leads to better problem solving skills.
3) Bring the solutions
Become a go-to problem solver for your manager. Next time you walk over to your manager’s desk with a problem, bring a potential solution or at least some ideas on how to find the solution.
Problem solving is a common trait when it comes to high performing individuals in their design careers. The people who get ahead, get promoted, and get raises tend to be problem solvers. They take responsibility, take initiative and solve problems or propose solutions even before anyone asks them to. It’s a powerful skill and habit to develop when it comes to your career.
Top performers take responsibility for how they contribute to a problem and do what is within their power to solve the problem. Over time, they get compensated for it too. Maybe not right away, but being a problem solver tends to catch up with people in the form of a raise, promotion, or job offer elsewhere.