Dear Megan: Networking with Naysayers

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant*If you have your own work-related issue you'd like some help with, click here to send in an anonymous question!* Dear Megan,

I currently work as a Development Officer for a large non-profit in my town, and after a decade of this kind of work, I know I want to transition into something else. I've always dreamed of becoming an interior designer, and as scary as this is, I've started exploring that career path and want to keep learning about it. 

The work itself is really interesting to me and I think it would be a good fit with my skills. And when I let myself, I feel really excited about actually making it happen. I'm running into one big problem, though:

Informational interviews. I was told that this was an important thing to do when you're exploring a new career, and so I've started meeting with interior designers around town to learn more about their work. This has totally taken the wind out of my sails. Most of the people I've met with have discouraged me from heading down this path, citing things like "a saturated market" and the fact that it's "close to impossible" to make a good living at it. No one has been very friendly, and I just feel so deflated after almost every meeting.

I wonder if I'm making a big mistake. I still love the idea of interior design, but I wonder if I'm being naive and should listen to the people I've met with.

Can you shed some light on this for me?


Interior Hopeful

Dear Interior Hopeful,

When I was exploring the idea of being a florist, I met a local floral designer who offered to let me shadow her for a day. I was thrilled - I thought this was the connection I'd been waiting for, and I'd finally get to see how awesome being a florist was!

This woman treated me like shit for an entire day. She barked orders at me, let me know how much she'd struggled to make a living doing flowers, gossiped on the phone with her friends while I delivered orders for her, and was generally one of the most demeaning people I've ever met.

Despite this experience, I decided to go ahead with a floral design program and tried to continue networking with local florists. No one would meet with me. Most of the people I did meet were snobby and made clear that they did not want one more person competing with them or nagging them for a job. It was totally disheartening.

I say all of this because I want you to know something: a lot of people are too afraid and egotistical to be open and encouraging with you.

People have their shit, and unfortunately, you've encountered a lot of people in the interior design field who haven't dealt with theirs. Interior designers, like florists, are in a tight market without a lot of job security, and it sounds like many of them have bought into the idea that they have to withhold information, clients, and basic human decency.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantTheir personal issues do not mean that the market is truly saturated, or that it's impossible to make a decent living doing interior design.

Their personal issues mean that they have personal issues and should probably call me to work through why they hate themselves and their work so much.

I can think of three next steps I'd encourage you to take:

First of all, get all of their muck and negativity out of your space. Literally wipe it off of you and throw it out the window. Burn a candle. Imagine tossing it into your garbage can outside. Their scarcity mentality isn't welcome anymore.

Second, get quiet and ask yourself, "Does anything I've learned resonate with me as true?" Just because they seem like shitty people doesn't mean they're all liars. But you have to separate their vitriol from what really feels true to you. Your intuition and its truth will feel clear and freeing, even if it's not the news you really wanted to hear. For me, I knew in my gut that floral design wasn't the right fit, but that was my truth, not the result of being beaten and battered by nasty florists. For you, maybe someone mentioned a challenge that you know would be real for you, too. Look at that and add it to your "challenges to address" list to deal with later.

Only listen to what resonates with your internal wisdom and dump the rest. Career transitions like the one you're in take a lot of energy, and the quickest way to get zapped of it is to let other people tell you how it is. For at least a few minutes every day, cultivate your own excitement and your own dream for what your career in interior design could look like.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultantFinally, I'd encourage you to find at least one person in this community who's less petty and who really loves what they do. Reach out to them, treat them to coffee, and nurture that relationship. Believe that you can do design in your own way - one that's collaborative and joyful, not stuck in a system that says there's not enough to go around.

I hope you feel encouraged to keep moving forward, Interior Hopeful.

Let yourself get excited about this possibility - you can be smart and prudent, but making a change does require a heavy dose of faith that things will work out however they should. Surround yourself with the people striking that balance between practicality and hopefulness and remember to be true to you.