What do you look for in a designer? Whether you’re seeking your first job or you’re a seasoned pro, the answer to this question can provide valuable insight when answered by the right person. We’ve decided to ask the best minds in the design world about their hiring practices to learn what it takes to stand out as a creative professional. In a time when technology and trends change at the blink of an eye, we think this question is more relevant than ever.
Ayse Birsel is best known at the Co-founder and Creative Director of Birsel + Seck, the award-winning design and innovation studio working with high profile clients like Herman Miller/Living Office, GE, Toyota, Tiffany & Co., Colgate-Palmolive, and Philips, among others. Born in Turkey, the New York-based designer is the creator of Design the Life You Love (Ten Speed Press, 2015), a book and coursework that teaches non-designers how to create a meaningful life using her design process, Deconstruction:Reconstruction (DE:RE). Birsel was identified by Fast Company as one of the world’s most creative people and is on the Thinkers50 Radar List of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of organizations. In other words, she knows her stuff and is a perfect person to ask about what she looks for when hiring a designer.
What do you look for when hiring a designer?
Ayse Birsel: At Birsel + Seck, hiring a designer is akin to making a new friend. When you work hard something has to give and often it is time for friends. Working with your friends and becoming friends with the people you work with is a way of resolving that dichotomy. That is my motto. Kindness, generosity, authenticity, thoughtfulness come first. We look for nice people, people we want to spend time with, who are also great creative thinkers.
Is there a particular “tell” that signals a good or bad fit?
We are about 8 people and we do whatever is necessary to get the work done and to complement each other. Taking initiative, being self-directed, striving to do great work and being open to trying new things (we experiment continuously) are signs of a good fit.
What is your best interview “horror story”?
When people show up with their parents. Worse is when their parents want to join the interview.
What is the single most valuable piece of advice you could give to those on the hunt?
My single most valuable advice would be to do internships. It is a great way of testing out the fit, leaving a good impression and having an insider’s view of the work and the environment. We often hire our interns.
Do you have any specific advice for recent graduates, or people just starting straight out from school?
Teach. Teach a class or a workshop. Start somewhere – a school, a community center – and gather experience. Teach your friends something you’re skilled at or volunteer at a high school. Not only is teaching the best way to learn and build confidence, it is also the best way to meet new people, be in the know and network. I credit the Design the Life You Love workshops that I started as an experiment, without any expectations except to test a unique concept, for expanding my network in a way I couldn’t have imagined.
Regarding creative employment, what do you know now that you wished you knew then?
Being generous and helping others is the biggest lesson for me. I have so many people to thank for being role models, for helping me without waiting for anything in return. Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s #1 leadership coach who recently started the 100 Coaches program to teach everything he knows to 100 leaders for free, is my hero and an example in generosity. I try to emulate him and other people like him.