Winning a job vs. Getting a job
The other thing is a bit more practical. And this is winning a job versus getting a job. You don't just get a job. You don't just knock on somebody's door, some corporation, "Hi Google, can I have a job today?" Doesn't work that way. You are competing for a job. You are competing for a job with any number of other people. It could be two people, it could be five people, ten people, 100 people, 1,000 people. In order to get that job, you have to win that job. You have to be better than everybody else that applies for that job in order to get the job. And we don't think about that very often. We don't think about what could competitors that also want this job be doing to get this job that I'm not doing? One of the exercises that I have my students do in my undergraduate class is create a graduation plan. And they come up with all the things that they need to do to begin to get the job that they want. And it's a competition for the best graduation plan. Who will win this very specific won...
derful prize? And everybody comes in with their best effort. But only one person can win. And the reason I give then this exercise is because I want them to see what their colleagues who they're going to then be competing with for jobs, would do left to their own devices. So left to your own devices, are you doing everything that you can to get the job that you want, to win the job that you want? You are a competitor. You are a corporate athlete. You have to do everything you possible can aside from stalking or doing anything creepy, to be able to get the job. And I'm gonna talk about what you need to do in this next session. I want you to understand that it takes work to get the work you love. You don't just roll out of bed, think, "I'm gonna try to do this thing that I wanna do," and then get it three hours later. It could take three years. It could take three months. It takes time. It takes time to get the work you love and you have to earn it and win it. It also is something that you need to anticipate will take some time. Because anything worthwhile takes a long time. Anything worthwhile. I wanna talk to you about this 140 character culture we're living in now. Happily I think Twitter's now extended how much you can tweet, how many characters are allowable. But we live in a day and age now where the notion of something happening has to be instant. Instant. If you can tweet it, it should happen. It should go viral, a million people should read it. It doesn't happen that way with careers. It takes a long time to get work you love. There are very few people you could point to and say, "They really made it big in the design business," in their 20s. I didn't make it at all in the design business, let alone big, until I was in my 40s. Now something happens when it take a long time. Number one, you become a little bit more grateful that you're actually being recognized for doing something that you love. Number two, it's easier to sustain. You don't wanna be a one hit wonder. You actually wanna be able to grow into your talent, and have a runway of things that you can talk about and say and design and do. The more pressure you put on yourself to succeed at a young age, the harder it's going to be. Let your career unfurl. Work on being the best self you can be every day. And continue to grow, and continue to learn, and continue to have aspirations, and things that you wanna try. As long as you have curiosity about what is possible for yourself, the more you can grow into that. But you are working on a journey, Not a specific... Destination. Because the destination of fame, and the destination of power, and the destination of influence, is one that's always changing and one that doesn't last. So the longer it takes, I often joke, the long it lasts. The more runway you have to build. So expect anything meaningful, anything worthwhile, to take time. And engage in that time, enjoy that time. Have fun in that time. So, ability is not enough. Now what do I mean by ability? What I mean by ability is talent. Talent. In our world today, talent is equivalent to operational excellence. Anybody know what operational excellence means? Operational excellence is being able to turn on the lights when you flip a switch. Operation excellence is when you press power on your computer it goes on. (laughter) So when you're a designer, or any kind of creative person at all, the fact that you declare that you're a designer essentially means that people that listen to you expect that you know how to design. Any creative endeavor is a highly subjective experience. I could ask everybody in the audience, who loves Salvador Dali? And maybe half the audience will raise their hands. Who hates Salvador Dali? And the other half will raise their hands. We can't even agree on what is great art that's hanging in a museum. How can we agree on what is great design? I remember the illegibility wars of the 90s when designers started to go crazy with technology and create new ways of creating and looking at type. Some designers thought that this was the reason that civilization was doomed. And all it was, was another time, another genre that we were moving into, of how to express ourselves using typography. So it's a subjective experience. You also might be interviewing with people that aren't designers or aren't creative people. So you're asking somebody to evaluate your portfolio based on criteria that they have in their own head about what is good and what isn't, but if they're not designers or creative people where did they get the training to be able to assess? Anybody ever have a client say, "I really love purple, can you use purple in that design?" (laughter) Well, that is exactly what I mean about subjectivity. So somebody might look at your portfolio and think it's amazing. Somebody else might look at your portfolio and think, "What were they thinking?" So talent is not enough. What is absolutely critical, is being able to tell people why you made the decisions you made about the work you created in a way that helps differentiate and guide them to understanding what you have created. The most important thing you need to consider when showing people or talking about your work is being able to talk about it very specifically so people understand what it is that you are showing them, and that what it is - what it is that you stand for. You must know what you are talking about. This is one of those lessons that I was taught by my goddaughter many, many, many years ago. She's since graduated law school, back then she was in the third grade. And she was learning about the computer. And she was very excited because she knew that I worked on a computer all day. So here she thought, okay we're gonna have something really fun to share and talk about. And so when she started to talk about what it was that she was learning, she became very flustered. She was stammering, she didn't quite know how to describe what it was, there was all sorts of terminology that she had never been used to using, and so she got very frustrated with herself. And she finally stopped, and she looked at me with a lot of impatience and said, "Debbie, life is so difficult when you don't know what you're talking about." (laughter) One of the truest things I've ever heard. We get ourselves into trouble because we are trying to say things sometimes that we don't know, that we think other people expect us to know, and that's when we get into trouble. How many people in this room have ever lied? Okay? How many people have ever been lied to? How many people have ever been lied to and have known when they were being lied to? Anybody not? Okay so let's do the logical math here. Okay, if you've lied, but you also know when other people are lying to you, what does it mean about the way in which people know you are lying? People always know. They always know. And that's the biggest way to create a barrier between who you are authentically. The thing about not knowing something, and this is really true especially in an interview, somebody asks, "Do you know this?" Or "Did you see this?" Or "Did you do that?" There's even a commercial about that now. I think a guy is sitting with a bunch of women and they're talking about a TV show and he pretends that he's watched it and seen it. And then he's sort of called out. Once you're called out like that, you just go into a downward shame spiral. Because you never can recover. People will never believe you after that, really deeply. But the biggest thing that happens when you admit that you don't know something, is that people want to then teach you that thing, or share with you the knowledge that they have. So if you don't know something in an interview, admit it. And what will happen is that the person, rather than judging you, will say, "Oh, let me tell you about it." Or you can ask about it, even if they are judging you a little bit. Then say, "Oh, well can you tell me about it." And the minute somebody goes into teaching mode, they feel good about the fact that they're providing something. And that's a way to get over the embarrassment of not knowing something that you don't know, that you probably shouldn't even be embarrassed about not knowing to begin with. It's not the mistakes that we make. It's the reaction to the mistakes that we make that often get us into trouble. So it's not the thing that we don't know, it's how we'll react to the thing that we don't know that gets us in trouble. So speaking of -
[Male Audience Member] Quick question on that.
Would you say that, is it the same thing if some asks you, can you do something?
Oh, when you can't do something, you have to say, "No, I don't know how to do that."
[Male Audience Member] Yeah. Right.
Don't lie, don't like. Because if you get hired and you can't do that thing that they expect you to do instantly, you will then get fired instantly. I did that once. That happened to me once. Somebody asked me if I knew something specific about Rubylith, and this is about 30 years ago when people still used Rubylith, and I didn't know how to do it and I said that I did because I was so desperate for the job. And they found out within 5 minutes. Especially after I cut myself with the X-Acto blade. (laughter) They know, they find out instantly. Let them hire you for the things that you do well. If you don't do them well, if you find that there's a lot of questions about a specific thing that you don't know how to do, then learn how to do it. Then take classes about how to do it. If everybody asks you if you know how to code, and you don't know how to code, and it keeps you from getting a job, take classes on learning how to code. It's pretty simple. You're not gonna find the perfect dream job that requires attributes that you don't have, if you don't have them. So, you must know what you're talking about. Life is very difficult when you don't know what you're talking about. (laughter) You must know what you don't know. This is a hard one. This is a very very hard one. You must know what you don't know. So as an example, I am a woman. I know that I'm a woman. I'm left-handed. I'm a Scorpio. I'm middle-aged. Those are the things that I know. Then there are things that I know that I don't know. So I know that I don't know how to read music. I know that I don't know how to speak any other languages. I know that I don't know anything about calculus. But there's this other whole category. There's the things that I know, the things that I know I don't know, but then there's this other category of things. And those are the things that I don't know, that I don't know. So if by some horrible horrible misfortune, I had tissue residue on my nose after blowing it just a few minutes ago, I wouldn't know. I wouldn't know. So how do you find out the things that you don't know that you don't know? You need people to tell you. You need people to tell you. So see your opportunities in ways that you are gathering information. You are gathering information about who you are, how you come across. People love to tell you. It doesn't mean you have to believe it all. Take it all as sort of directional guidance. But when you are in interviews or after the interviews or with your family or with your friends, people that you trust, ask. How could this be better? If you don't get the job, there's absolutely no reason why you can't say, "What would you have recommended that I do or say or show in order to have gotten the job?" You might not get an answer. They might never write back again. But you might. And then you know something that you didn't know that you didn't know. And then you grow and you learn and you develop. So you might be thinking, "This is an awful lot of things to be thinking about and doing and I'm just too be busy to be going out there and winning my jobs."