7 ideas on how to boost your design career

Embrace a growth mindset, sharpen your soft skills, build a professional network and other strategies how to step up your design career.

Readymag blog: strategies to step up your design career

If approached wisely, career is a fabulous resource that develops over time and brings opportunities for self-fulfillment and increased income. Below, we share some strategies on how to step up your professional game. Certainly, they can be practiced separately, but bring best results when employed together.

Embrace a growth mindset

First things first: design is a rapidly evolving industry and to stay on top of it, you should cultivate a growth mindset. It is based on the firm belief in the idea that talents can be developed through learning, hard work, good strategies, and feedback from others. The key to a growth mindset is regularly engaging in new experiences expanding your expertise: take courses, read books, attend workshops and conferences, subscribe to professional media, blogs and newsletters. Explore topics beyond your immediate specialization to gain a broader perspective.

Get an eye on the YouTube channels and top design media and blogs the Readymag follows to stay in the know.

Find a professional mentor / become a mentor

Ask anyone at the high levels of success, and they’ll tell you they didn’t do it alone. Many top designers have excellent mentors. For example, Pentagram partner Paula Sher in several interviews has mentioned the significant influence of her mentor, designer and educator Milton Glaser. Another prominent designer, Stefan Sagmeister has also spoken about the impact of his mentor—designer Tibor Kalman.

Seeking guidance from an experienced designer can assist you in exploring different career options, evaluating potential obstacles, and creating strategies to overcome challenges. A mentor can help you clarify your career goals, break them down into actionable steps and back them with industry-specific knowledge. Additionally, consider becoming a mentor yourself to further solidify your expertise and deepen your understanding of the industry.

Here are several platforms where designers can seek professional mentorship: ADPList, DesignerUp, Superpeer.

Another option are mastermind groups—typically, small collectives of peers who meet regularly to discuss challenges, share insights, and provide support to each other. It’s similar to mentoring, but the focus here is on collaboration, shared learning, and leveraging the collective wisdom of the group, rather than on the progress of a single mentee.

Build your network

Cultivating connections within the professional community is crucial because job openings, freelance gigs, and collaborations often arise through word-of-mouth recommendations. Networking also gives plenty of chances to master your soft skills, including communication, collaboration, adaptability, and leadership abilities.

Don’t like the cheesy and overused vibe of the word 'networking'? View it as a search for role models and like-minded people who could join your future design studio or become partners. Attend industry events, join design associations, participate in conferences, and connect with other professionals through social media platforms like LinkedIn.

Collaborate with like-minded professionals

Seek opportunities to join forces with other designers, artists, and professionals in related fields. By working together, you can expand your creative horizons, learn from different perspectives, and build a diverse portfolio. Collaborations can also lead to new connections and exposure to different client bases.

On the Readymag forum you can start a thread looking for peers to run pet projects.

Create non-commercial projects

Pursue personal design projects that align with your interests and passions. Such projects allow you to explore new techniques and experiment with unconventional ideas. Also, they can serve as portfolio highlights, demonstrating your range of skills and artistic vision.

Participate in design contests

Engaging in design contests provides an opportunity to challenge yourself and gain visibility within the design community. Winning or being recognized in contests can boost your credibility, attract attention from potential clients or employers, and increase your.

Consider joining Readymag Websites of the Year—our annual contest that promotes excellence in web design. In 2023, the award is divided into 5 categories: Typography, Interactivity, Storytelling, Impact, and Self-promo. Submit your work before for a chance to win together with the best web designers in your class.

Develop your personal brand

Establishing yourself as an influencer in the design field is a full-fledged job, and a one that significantly enhances your prospects. Share your knowledge and expertise through blog posts, articles, or video tutorials. Engage with the design community on social media platforms and showcase your work. By providing valuable content and demonstrating your skills, you can attract potential clients or employers and position yourself as an authority in your niche.

To grasp the flow of getting noticed online, read our blog post on how pitch your projects to journalists to land media placements and explore tips for social media self-marketing for designers.