How to find a job in interior design industry

Recently I was asked how I got my job experience in the interior design industry. So today I want to share with you some tips which you can take away and implement. I’m discussing internships and full times jobs today so let’s dive in.I think many students and graduates have subconsciously unrealistic expectations of how long it’s going to take to find their job experience.

1. Be Patient

So my first advice is be patient. It took me almost 8 months, over 100 job applications and around 15 face to face interviews to get my sales and design full time position. Now this might not apply to you so don’t take it as a measure which you should go by. It truly depends on your family life and your circumstances. For me, taking an internship was out of question because they are usually unpaid or only a minimum wage is offered which for me wouldn’t cover my costs of travelling to and from London everyday. I had to go full time to at least cover my travelling costs and au-pair costs.

2. Have a clear idea what you want – internship or job position

Internship is great as it gives you the opportunity to experience what’s going on “behind the scenes” either in design consultancy or showroom environment. I can only speak from my experience while talking to interns who came into the showroom I used to work in, but most of them were given jobs like sourcing samples, dealing with various suppliers and putting sample boards and schemes together. This is great for building your own supplier’s list and to getting them know you. Because if you go eventually on your own they will remember you and support you. Also you might be exposed to the practical side of how designers run their practice. The downside is that you might not get the opportunity to to actual design. But I always say business is about contacts and especially in interior design industry contacts are vital. Suppliers, partners, clients they all are important part of your business.

Job position I think gives you a slightly different experience. I was working as a sales design consultant in a luxury bathroom showroom so I was exposed to dealing with public but designers too. And that’s where I learnt the most. I was designing bathrooms, complex flooring and even a lift (elevator) design. Every time a designer came in with a client I observed. How they interact, their body language, the presentation, the pitch, how they selected materials together mixing them. Basically I was absorbing everything which I thought was important. I was mainly designing with designers. While there I taught myself Vectorworks and Sketch using it on almost daily basis. The showroom wasn’t busy but when I got a design project I was very into it. I tried different designs and options and through that I was polishing my drawing skills.

3. Draw from your previous career

To get into the interior design industry I think the best way is to promote your own skills which you acquired from your previous career. For me it was sales and creativity. I was already working with architects in my previous business and I have been in sales from my teenage years. However the downside is that if you go for sales design position like me there are so many other candidates wanting the same job. So the competition is tough. On few occasions while I was submitting my CV online through an agency I was like 95 applicant! Ridiculous, right? How can you stand a chance? But what I’m saying here is that you must stress your skills which you think the designer or the showroom might benefit from.

4. Interview stage

I’m no career advisor expert here but the only thing I can say is that if you’re going for a showroom interview don’t mention that you are studying a design course. Most of them might be put off by that. They are looking for someone who will be dedicated 100% into their job role. Honestly, if they know that you might be doing your studying towards a qualification, they might think that once you have it you leave. In some cases they don’t mind because they have a high staff turnover but if their aim is to fill the position long term you might be in disadvantage. I’m not saying you should lie, but if they don’t ask, say nothing.

Bare in mind that if you take on the job there will be absolute masses to learn. Fabric, wallpaper, paint, furniture retailers and tile & bathroom, even kitchen showrooms they all deal with loads of suppliers. Which means you have to learn collections, types, materials, technical stuff as well. I mean when I started there were over 60 suppliers I had to learn and each had like 20 collections and each collection had so many colour and size options. Not to mention each material has different characteristics and therefore different application requirements, different installation instructions, I could go on forever.  There is loads to take in. I studied hard for good 3 to 6 months. My KLC studies suffered as a result.

If you’re going for a position within a designer practice, I would recommend to have your portfolio even if they don’t say you have to bring it. Be proactive. At least the person who interviews you might remember you more. There is no harm in doing this whatsoever. After my 5th interview that’s what I was doing if I thought it might help me in the interview process. It doesn’t have to be a live project portfolio. I didn’t have that either. But I had drawings, advertising campaigns, promotional materials which I previously designed. It showed that I can create things in InDesign, Photoshop and SketchUp.

One last piece of advice which I might have mentioned before. Me personally, I wouldn’t go of sampling assistant jobs. You see them advertised a lot but it’s basically handling and sending out samples. The notion of “well I can just get in and change the role internally after a while” from what I’ve seen is not so easy. You are hired for a particular job and if some other position comes up, either the people who work there longer might get it or they hire someone external. You would have to be exceptionally good and very convincing to move up.

So here we are. I hope that this will help you in your search. Please comment below and share your experiences. Also if you are looking for a job in interior design industry and need some one to one talk, I’m happy to give you encouragement and motivation over Skype. So please get in touch. If you just landed a new job, please share with us so everyone else can benefit from it as well. Don’t treat others as your competition the great thing about interior design is that it’s so unique. Everybody has unique style and approach. Well, at least that’s my mentality.

Have a great day!

Karolina Barnes




If you’re found this post helpful and would like more tips and learn more about the interior design industry, please subscribe below and I will email you “My Guide To Becoming An Interior Designer”.


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