Want to change your job? First, change your attitude

“Be good at what you do and be nice to people.” I know you're probably thinking that it's a no brainer, but for many of us (and I'm definitely one of them), this is easier said than done.

Attitude isn't something that can easily be taught. It's more than just being professional and polite. It’s being a pro-active doer, problem solver, attentive listener and passionate learner—all while trying to be humble, often times in a demanding environment with looming deadlines. How can you keep it together even in highly stressful situations? Here are the five key areas to help guide you:

1. Be a pro-active doer
If you don't know what to do or find yourself stuck (which will often be the case when you're new in a job or just starting out in your career) ask someone who can give you the right answer. It could be project specific such as wanting more information on the target audience or clarity on what the mandatory internal approval process is. And remember, if you want quality answers, ask thoughtful, quality questions.

If you need more, there are a couple of obvious resources: Google your queries, post on forums, read relevant books, watch tutorials on YouTube and search on Twitter. There’s an abundance of free information out there, all you have to do is look. Check out my top 20 digital website resources, as well as Quicksprout and Magspreads.

2. Be a problem solver
Being a designer goes far beyond making things look pretty. You’ve heard it a hundred time before, but design is problem solving. Clients are paying for this very service. It's not like going to a store and buying a product, i.e. they don’t know exactly what they're getting (or sometimes what they even want) at a set cost with no room for altering parameters. The end result of an effective design is unknown to both the designer and the client. Problem solving is a process of experimentation, exploration and testing, plus hours of research and collaboration.

Your drive to find the best solution should always carry you through this stage of any brief, especially when you feel you've exhausted all possible creative avenues.

3. Be an attentive listener
When I was in school, my art teacher said to me "draw what you see, not what you think you see." That totally changed my approach to forms, figures and visualization. It's an essential part of having the right attitude, too. "Design for the clients' needs, not what you think their needs are." Often times we may get lost designing what we think looks good (sometimes unintentionally) and disregard the clients' requirements and requests.

4. Be a passionate learner
There's nothing more appealing to an employer than someone who’s willing to learn. Too often I find people who are technically competent, but lack the drive to improve and grow.

As this desire to grow develops into action and learning, you become more valuable and, in turn, are delivering higher standards of work. You'll also be more approachable and will add to the dynamic culture and morale of the institution you're in.

If you're just starting your first design job, you may occasionally find yourself playing receptionist or personal assistant. That might even be how you got your foot in the door to begin with. Yes, your boss knows you have a design degree and a great portfolio, but this is all part of the initial learning process, so take it in stride. If you need to get coffees for a meeting, do it. If you need to order and stock paper, do it. If you need to start in the mailroom, do it. I did, and made 350 friends at Ogilvy, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. Boy, did that pay off in the long term.

Tips for life-long learning:

  • Analyze what makes design work you admire effective vs. what makes poor design ineffective. Once you identify these patterns and principles, you can apply them to your approach for any brief.
  • Observe what the most innovative, strategic, creative, passionate and successful people in the world are doing and make them as your career role models. Just because you don’t have a direct line to an inspiring designer who’s work you admire doesn’t mean they can’t act as a mentor.
  • Subscribe to relevant newsletters and follow exciting design blogs to ensure you’re receiving a steady flow of inspiration.

5. Be grateful
You don’t need to grovel, but if you appreciate the good things about your job, show it. Not only do employers love to know you’re happy and excited to be there, but on a personal level, being grateful allows you to see life through more rational eyes. Plus, exhibiting that level of self awareness and self contentment will make you a more attractive employee (and person in general). So the next time you're talking to someone (not only in the workplace or in a job interview), try to come from a place of gratitude if you aren't already. A small shift in perspective like this will not only have employers drawn to you, but you will begin to love challenges and have more energy in your approaches.

What things keep you grounded? I'd love to know. Reply in the comments below, or tweet them to me @thegiantthinker.

For more, pick up a copy of Castillo's new book How to Get a Job as a Designer, Guaranteed.

About the Author:

If you'd like to be a designer, read Ram's internationally industry acclaimed book here:



Ram is an award winning Design Director, Blogger, top ranking Podcaster, Speaker, CreativeLive.com Instructor and Author of the internationally acclaimed book 'How to get a job as a designer, guaranteed'. He's based in Sydney, Australia and in 2012, started the blog GiantThinkers.com which helps thousands of design students and graduates be employed. Ram has since been featured in Communication Arts, HOW magazine, Herman Miller, deFrost*, AIGA.org and Apple. 


Book: getajobasadesigner.com
Blog: giantthinkers.com
Portfolio: ramcastillo.com
Email: ram@giantthinkers.com
Twitter: @thegiantthinker
Instagram: @thegiantthinker
Periscope: @thegiantthinker
Snapchat: @thegiantthinker