A brand is a connection, a relationship, and a promise. It is not a logo, a mark, or a stamp.
You may have the most eye-catching logo and business card on the planet. But if your brand does not say what you stand for or create a relationship with your audience and your network, it won’t get you far.
A solid and consistent personal brand is the vehicle for professional growth and career success in the interconnected interior design industry.
So what is an interior design brand?
You'll hear adults ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
But, how often do you ask an adult that same question?
Most of us have little idea what we want to do with the rest of our lives. We may even find ourselves contemplating that same question over and over again. Yet, unfortunately, we often move through life, unaware of the possibilities simply because we focus on our current situation.
Just think of what your life might look like if you thought about the future a little more and opened yourself up to all the possibilities.
We should spend more time thinking about our professional needs and wants. These are our strengths and weaknesses and our differentiators. These are the most important components of a personal interior design brand. In our book about personal branding and strategic career development, we’ve narrowed down the steps of self-analysis to help interior designers see themselves in a different light and plan for the future.
We want designers to start seeing themselves as a branded package – professionals with unique skills, talents, and expertise. A solid personal brand can be a reliable vehicle on a professional career journey. Imagine yourself in the driver’s seat.
Think of the entire career building and branding process as a road trip. When you set out on a journey, you create a plan, an itinerary. You think about the details and figure out the best way to reach your destination. Apply that same process to your career.
Once you’ve secured a vehicle (your brand) and identified a destination (your career goal), your next step is to plan the route.
Too many professionals fall into an area of design or a specific role only to find themselves unhappy and unsatisfied years later.
Don’t let anyone (or anything) else take control of your future. Think about who you are, what you want, and how you’re going to get there. It’s the only way to find success and happiness.
The journey to reach your career goal may involve specific experience or particular requirements. You may need professional credentials even to be considered for a position. Special certifications or educational milestones are necessary for a variety of design specialties.
Earning your NCIDQ Certificate establishes a level of credibility for professional interior designers. But it’s not just about the ability to put letters after your name. It’s a qualification that means something.
It means you have a recognized level of expertise in interior design, which can lead to more respect, more responsibility, or higher earning potential.
Education, project experience, and credentials are essential. But it’s the people around us that help us make things happen. People make careers possible. People hire people. People train people. In the field of interior design, it is about who you know, even more so than what you know.
But where do you find those valuable connections?
Start with joining a professional organization in your area. For example, in the US, Both ASID and IIDA have state chapters in almost every state.
In Canada – join your provincial association, and you will automatically become a member of IDC.
As a member, you gain access to like-minded professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. But, don't stop there; be an active member. Volunteer. Attend programs. Travel to conferences. Talk, interact and engage with people. Be genuinely interested in their stories. Life-long relationships can develop when you invest enough time to get to know the other person.
Having a reliable network is like having an army of supporters that will stand behind you and spread the word about you and your brand. Just realize that building a relationship takes time. So start networking early in your career, and you will gain years of invaluable support.
Career development is a lengthy process. Obtaining quality education and credentials is only the beginning. Learning the industry, developing your interior design business, the ins and outs, the process, and the people take time. Do you have the strength and the perseverance to fight through the challenges and stay focused on your goal?
What if several years into your career, your priorities change, or you discover a passion for a different specialty or a different role? Knowing yourself and your needs will allow you to adjust your goal and alter the path to get there.
Change is inevitable. Sometimes you control the change. Other times, you are forced into it. It’s how you respond that matters.
Your personal brand and a trusted network will help you tackle these challenges and make the most of these moments. Your mentors, fellow designers, and industry friends will all have insight, career advice, and suggestions to help you. Remember that in the end, you are the one who has to make decisions and live with those choices. It is up to you to shape your career.