Why getting out of the office and making new connections is an industry must for new designers.
Confession: I’m an introvert. That means on Saturday night I’d rather be binging on Netflix at home than being the life of an actual party. And apparently I’m not alone. Most millennials possess strong online social skills, but we are too often lacking when it comes to face-to-face communication. While web savvy may help recruiters find your resume, in the hospitality design industry, it’s getting out and talking to people that often results in real-world commissions and acts as insurance for future employment.
This concept became crystal clear during the recent NEWH Bestie Awards gala at The Beverly Hilton. Listening to the conversations—from hanging out with several West Coast firms at the pre-party at Trader Vic’s to chatting with DESIGN360unlimited co-owners Megan McFarland and Dean Singer over dinner—it was apparent that when it comes to hotel/restaurant design, it’s a very small world. The importance of buddying up with potential clients, designers in other firms and local FF&E reps is paramount. Burning bridges is the ultimate career fail.
“Our job is a team effort, not a solo execution,” explains Daniela Maniezzo, senior interior designer, Linda Snyder Associates Inc. and 2016 Boutique 18 honoree. She stresses the importance of building a network via a solid track record of helping others. “People will remember,” she says.
Up-and-coming designers don’t have the luxury of relying on a perfect portfolio. They’re forced to ditch their screens and put in real face time at networking events. Yes, that sometimes means reaching out to total strangers. And yes, it can be awkward.
Of course, I’ve learned this first hand. Prior to flying to LA for the gala from my home base in Cincinnati, I reached out to nearly 20 designers, none of whom I know very well, asking if someone might have time to meet up on a Saturday. After running into several scheduling conflicts, one designer came through: Maniezzo responded and invited me to the event’s pre-party.
Maniezzo is pretty much a rock star at the whole networking thing. Prior to joining Linda Snyder, she was a senior designer/project manager at Clear On Black. So when she ran into a crew of her former colleagues from that firm, as well as her friends at Beleco, she was quick to introduce me, too.
One of the designers I met was Ricardo Moreno-Aviña, senior designer/project manager of El Segundo-based Clear On Black. I later asked him for advice for new designers on how to gain networking traction.
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.