Student or Employee? How About Both?

There is no question that a college education is necessary, and even somewhat mandatory, these days. Following thousands of hours of hard work and limited sleep, more than two million students leave college with either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree each year. With all of the emphasis on schoolwork, is there really time for students to acquire professional work experience while still managing their studies? Of course. Especially in the design field, this sort of experience is absolutely invaluable and must be treated accordingly. And I’m not talking about summer internships. While these periods of intense employment are truly important, working at a design firm while being concurrently enrolled in school may be the most valuable experience a design student could possibly have. Take it from me, a design student at CU Boulder who really thought he had everything he needed to start work after getting his degree. You aren’t prepared; I promise. It wasn’t until I was given a position, here at Fänas, that I realized just how severe that lack of preparation was. In the past few months of steady professional experience, I’ve gained an unbelievable amount of knowledge about design, and life in general. If you’re a student and you’re considering looking for a position to help flesh out your degree, here are a few tips on how to make the most of your experience.

1) Be persistent. If you’re asking around and firms are shutting you down right off the bat, don’t get discouraged. Politely ask exactly what you can do to make yourself a more viable candidate. It’s never embarrassing to admit your shortcomings and advocate for your ability to understand and tackle them.

2) Be hungry. Be looking for any opportunity to learn from your superiors, their work, and your tasks. Research as much as you possibly can and use your findings to improve your work. When you feel stuck or helpless, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your employer understands your situation because, believe it or not, they were in your shoes at one point or another.

3) Be ambitious. Take what you learn at work and apply it to your studies. Especially if you’re studying design, there’s a high probability that your assignments lack realistic parameters. Being able to work under strict constraints is one of the things that sets apart good designers and great designers, so remember that you’re working towards real-world application. Take the initiative and apply it to your assignments, even if your professors have little regard for realism.

Here at Fänas we believe that architecture can be defined as equal parts space and opportunity. As a student, education should be seen as equal parts studying and experiencing. There is a key to conducting oneself in the real-world, and it all begins with balance. With these tips and some motivation, I hope you’ll be able to find yourself a bit of it.

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