A question I often receive is, “what is the recipe and steps to combine their passion with their personal talents in an effort to land their dream design job? To answer their question, I always ask them a few simple questions:
What specifically is your design passion? What is something you do – creatively speaking – everyday that you enjoy, regardless if you’re getting paid to do it or not? In terms of design, what portion of the design process do you enjoy most?
An individual that can answer these simple questions of themselves without hesitation will have any easier time deciding which college degree (if any) or training they will need, they will have a better understanding of which specific design role or job is the best fit for their passion and personal creative skills, and most likely they will be more content in their career path since they are doing what they love.
Here is a simple equation that we will further explain in this article:
Your Passion + College Degree/Training + Your Best Talents = Dream Job
Table of Contents
- How To Determine Your Design Passion
- Self-evaluate Your Design Skills and Talents
- Match Your Degree or Training to Your Passion
- Create and Update Your Personal Portfolio
- Research Jobs and Companies That Match Your Passion
- Network In Your Field of Business
- Find a Mentor In Your Field
- Your Dream Job or Company May Be Two Steps Away
- Polish Your Interviewing and Resume Writing Skills
- Never Stop Learning
- Become the Mentor You Needed Early In Your Career
1. How To Determine Your Design Passion
While many creative types have multiple design skills and talents, determining the one (or two) personal talent that stands out above all others is the first step in the equation and process to land your dream job. But how do I refine that personal search to determine which one or two is my true design passion?
First, ask yourself or reflect on what creatively you do nearly everyday? Do you draw or sketch nearly everyday? Do you take the time for creative writing each day? Is the majority of your free time spent creating unique illustrations or making physical or virtual models of buildings or places? You will see fairly quickly, which creative medium you spend a lot of time on during any given seven-day period.
Second, to further refine your standout passion and creative talent, try to understand which personal talent or creative effort during a seven-day period do you perform regardless if you’re getting paid for or not? What is the creative medium or skill your find yourself leveraging the most? Which design skill have you been doing since, in some form or fashion, since you were a kid or for several years?
Once you narrow down your prominent passion, talent, creative medium, or skill that suffices all these questions, it will become apparent what your personal design or creative passion truly is – the one you can’t go without exercising during a weekly or monthly period.
2. Self-evaluate Your Design Skills and Talents
Now that you’ve narrowed down your top one or two creative passions it is time to self-evaluate your personal level or degree of skill for each of those passions. In other words, determine what is your best creative or design talent(s) when compared to known professionals’ published work.
Like many creatives – myself included – you may have a quiver full of design skills and creative talents, however, most of us have one or two that truly shine and standout above all others. It is important for you to determine which of your personal creative skills is your best. This, coupled with determining your true design passion, will be used to complete the ‘passion equation’.
3. Match Your Degree or Training to Your Passion
Now that you have taken the time to personally reflect and take inventory of your most important passion and your top creative talents and skills, it is now time – on your path to land your dream job – to match your college degree or a personal training regimen to your passion and talents. If college is a goal or required for your dream job, it is important to match the best college degree program to your passion and your creative talent(s).
Why do you say that? Unfortunately, many times over the past nearly three-decades I have seen talented individuals chose a college degree program and/or a specific college or university – that while credible – were not the best degrees and/or best college for their specific talents and design passion. Many times, they chose a college simply because previous family members attended, or it was the ‘popular’ choice at the time.
In retrospect, the degree and training they received was not the best for them, their true passion, nor did their degree obtained completely set them up for their dream job.
During this exercise, I always suggest individuals truly research the degree programs and colleges that can best fulfill, bolster, enhance, support, and match your true passion and get you them ready for their dream job. In short, match your degree and college or professional training to your passion and future dream job requirements.
Unlike certain career paths in business, finance, law, or even medical, the name of the college or university on your college degree is of lesser importance in the creative and design field. The important thing is confirm your college degree is from an accredited program and the degree program is one that is best for you and your career goals. I have interviewed and worked with individuals with degrees from lesser known art or design colleges that were masters at their craft. The name of the university on their degree meant very little, as it is their and your talents that matter in the creative field.
4. Create and Update Your Personal Portfolio
I have written several articles on the importance – as a creative or design focused individual – of having a professional portfolio of your work. As someone who seeks to land admittance into a creative degree program and a creative or design job, you will be required to have a personal portfolio of your work as part of the submission process for both of these milestones in your career. Here are two related articles to read on this subject:
- Themed Entertainment Job Portfolio Tips
- How to Become a Disney Imagineer
- How to Become a Theme Park Architect
✅ Read more about creating a portfolio and personal branding!
5. Research Jobs and Companies That Match Your Passion
Similar to the effort we suggest you take on finding the right college degree program that suits your passion, finding a company – or small group of companies – offering the role you desire is equally as important. While many companies may offer the role that fulfills your dream job, at the end of the day that company’s culture or their version of that specific role may not be a good fit for you.
✳️ For themed entertainment jobs try searching here!
How does one learn more about a particular company – beyond the shiny facade on their website – and their version of your dream job? We suggest a two-step effort on this. First, do a deep dive on the internet (such as Glassdoor.com company reviews) to learn more about the culture of the company, what it’s really like working there, how do they treat their employees, does the company have a solidified employee growth and training strategy, and do they have a mentoring program to increase their employees’ worth.
Second, try networking and build a professional relationship with individuals in the companies you have earmarked to garner their input on the company and to learn more about individuals working in the role you desire. Multiple companies may have different job descriptions and variations of the dream job or role you are striving for. It’s beneficial to you to learn what those differences are and how you can apply your passion, personal skills, etc. to that role.
6. Network In Your Field of Business
My advice is network, network some more, then consider more networking, and when you believe you’re done networking continue networking. I can’t stress this enough. The job market now is highly competitive and having a network of individuals in your field whom you’ve built a professional relationship with, individuals who have garnered your trust, and can potentially become cheerleaders for you in the industry is just as important as having a solid portfolio, the correct degree or training, and a perfect resume. I suggest networking with other individuals in your field AND in the role(s) you are seeking to be hired.
A great way to network is by attending industry specific networking events. For the themed entertainment industry there are Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) conferences and local monthly events and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) conferences are available at various times around the world.
To reach out to individuals in the companies you have selected as potential future employers, leverage social media such as LinkedIn to network with individuals in your industry or those currently working in the dream job you desire. Networking and maintaining healthy professional relationships is key to landing future roles you desire in the companies you’ve dreamed of working for and who knows you may find your next mentor.
7. Find a Mentor In Your Field
Throughout my career, I’ve had the great benefit of having several mentors that inspired and guided me into the next level of my professional journey. The key is finding a mentor that has previous experience working in the role you desire or a strong familiarity of the dream job you are striving to land. I believe it is important to have a mentor that is senior to your experience level as they can provide valuable insight (been there, lived that dream) you can absorb as the mentee.
I would caution seeking a mentor that is your equal in terms of experience and skillset. Finding a mentor that can evaluate your talents, experience, and professional goals through the lens of having additional years in the business will provide you more guidance and constructive criticism that will only help you in the long run.
8. Your Dream Job or Company May Be Two Steps Away
Patience Is King
This step and advice is an exercise in patience. While many individuals may be laser focused on a specific dream job title, role, or company they often overlook the possibility they may not hit those targets the first time they apply or out of the gate after graduating college. This should not be seen as a failure on their part! There are many factors, beyond one’s control that determine whether an individual lands their dream job the first attempt.
I’ve told the story many times about how many years and attempts it took me to land my dream job and become a Walt Disney Imagineer. To be exact, it took several attempts across a thirteen year period. When I was not hired by WDI, it turned out to be a ‘positive’ opportunity for me to gain more relevant experience in the industry prior to being hired by WDI. I became more talented, better equipped, and more of a subject matter in the role I eventually accepted at Imagineering.
Never Give Up
I stress to all individuals that I mentor or speak with about this topic, as the quote states, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Look at it this way, your dream job or dream company may be waiting for you to obtain prior experience, talents, and skills prior to you landing it.
This means, you will have the opportunity to work in roles at similar companies on similar projects to increase your professional worth and abilities prior to landing your dream job. This should be deemed a positive for you, not a negative. Solid, prior relative experience is always a plus on one’s resume.
9. Polish Your Interviewing and Resume Writing Skills
As I stated in several previous articles, becoming a rock star interviewee is a skill that takes time and effort. However, like a solid portfolio and resume, this is another way of personal branding and a means to show your potential, future employer the depth of your skills and talents. Your goal with job interviews is being direct, honest, passionate, and having the ability to flip the interview (after the recruiter or hiring manager has asked their list of questions of you) such that you are interviewing the company.
Remember, a job interview as a candidate for hire is a two-way street. While most in the corporate business world give all the focus to the employer interviewing, it’s your right and duty to interview. When the candidate is proactive and asks poignant questions that demonstrates to the employer the candidate was eager, passionate to learn more about the company, the role, what would be asked of them, etc.
An eager and inquisitive individual made them standout amongst other candidates rather than being someone merely coming to the interview waiting for me to ask all the questions.
10. Never Stop Learning
Ok, so you’ve landed your dream job. Time to sit on your hands, kick up your feet, and ‘live the dream‘ right?
No, sorry that’s not how you stay sharp in your career and continue to add value to your role, your potential future role (#promotion), or your employer, your team, etc.
Regardless of what your specific job title and role is with a company, one should never stop learning. As with most jobs, over time the job description and expectations will morph and evolve. As new technology and business practices are infused into your role, it’s important to keep up or exceed the current minimum level of skills and talents required.
There are always new computer programs you can learn, new books or white papers you can read, additional training classes you can attend online or in person, conferences you can attend, vendors you speak with who may be on the cutting edge of evolving your role, etc., etc.
11. Become the Mentor You Needed Early In Your Career
I can safely say one of the most gratifying things across the entire span of my career has been mentoring.
Nothing has been more gratifying than helping those coming up in the ranks achieve their goals or merely provide real-world insight into your chosen career path or industry (thus the reason I started ThemeParkArchitect.com in the first place).
Once you have some years under your belt in your dream job and a healthy roster of real-world experience that can be beneficial to newcomers, I would highly suggest you consider becoming a mentor. Work to become the mentor you wish you had had when you were just starting out in your career. Be the inspiration and the bank of knowledge for them you may not have received when you were at their point in their journey. It is extremely rewarding to give back to others what you have learned and experienced.
About the Author
J. Daniel Jenkins, RA, NCARB, LEED AP is a licensed Architect, a published author, a former Walt Disney Imagineer, and former theme park and themed entertainment design consultant with over twenty four years of Commercial + Themed Entertainment design, design management, and A&E subject matter expertise. Jenkins’ themed entertainment experience includes projects in: the Magic Kingdom Fantasyland Expansion, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Expansion, and Universal’s new Epic Unvierse theme park. Currently, Jenkins is President | Owner of Holihoon Media LLC, and is also the Founder | Chief Editor of themeparkarchitect.com who’s goal is to teach individuals about theme park architecture, engineering, and design, how to become theme park architects and designers, and discuss themed entertainment centric topics and travel from an insider’s persepctive.