Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I did not get into all that debt so I could call myself a decorator!

told you I know how to use CAD
Okay, I know I said in my previous post that I will try to keep my blog professional. And I really meant that. I do not want to render myself unemployable because of a skeleton-filled Internet closet. However, I also think that this could allow me the opportunity to explain myself, and to vent the professional frustration that has been seething within me for the past two years.

I thought I would be well on my way to being able to call myself an interior designer by now. But unfortunately, I am being censored by the design cartel. First I have to work for 4 years under someone who is a licensed interior designer, then I have to take the NCIDQ exam. The problem is that no one will hire me because I do not have much experience, but I do not have much experience because no one will hire me. It is an utterly anguishing conundrum.
What they do not tell you in design school is that most of the jobs at the entry level are in retail. You will most likely find yourself selling furniture, finishes, or fixtures upon graduation. This is not so terrible if you are extroverted and perky, but retail never suited my more introverted personality. In fact, I went to design school to escape from retail.

I'd have much preferred to start off as a design librarian, but they said I was too inexperienced. I find that hard to believe. How difficult is it to keep a bunch of memo samples organized? Their refusal to hire me for that position is an insult to my intelligence, considering the fact that in addition to my design degree I also have a previous undergraduate degree, from University of Chicago, no less. I am not trying to sound arrogant by bringing that up, but you'd think that would at least be evidence of the fact that I have a brain in my head.

I had also considered becoming a CAD drafter, but all those interviews required taking a CAD test, and by that time, I was out of practice and slow. I took a refresher course in CAD last year and got up to speed again, but there were no interviews for those positions by that time.

I never meant to be a "job hopper." After quitting my retail job when I went back to design school, I searched diligently for work in the field. I eventually ended up being a fabric specialist at Expo Design Center. My plan had been to stay there and work my way up to a window treatment designer position. Although it was retail, I liked it. We were not expected to be high-pressure salespeople. We did not work on commission. We were not pitted against one another in relentless competition. And I was earning a decent hourly wage and had a schedule that was compatible with my class schedule. I should have known it was too good to last. In May of 2005, we received 60 days' notice that our store, like most of the Expo Design Centers in the country, would be closing.

Since then, I have yet to find anything quite as satisfying. In the interest of discretion, I will not disclose the names of my subsequent employers. But here are just a few of the circumstances I encountered post-Expo: exploitation, discrimination, and sexual harassment. I have too much self-respect to stay in abusive work situations, no matter how bad it may look on paper. I have had cruel and discouraging things said about my resume. I've been told it's unimpressive. A headhunter told me that nobody cares about my scholarships. I have been interviewed by people whose sole motivation seemed to have been to find a U of C graduate to insult face to face. 40+ job interviews later, I am not even working in the field of design.

I am engaged in a daily struggle to avoid becoming bitter about all this. One good thing that has come out of this situation is that it inspired me to go back to school yet again and follow my less "practical" dream of being a painter. By that point, what did I have to lose? Another good thing that has come out of this is that it's helped me to realize that I might be better off being my own boss. Even if I can't call myself an interior designer without arousing the wrath of the cartel.


Eye-opening and little-known facts about problems in the interior design field:

And a brutally honest cover letter that I would never actually send:
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