Professional Development: A Closer Look at Developing Emerging Professionals

Interior Designers Aren’t Born; They are Developed Through Ongoing Education

Not too long ago, I was thinking about my commercial design students and the amount of information I was cramming down their throats. I am often frustrated with myself that I can’t seem to share more knowledge with them. Then, it dawned on me, I have literally 30 hours of instruction time with students. Not even a full 40-hour workweek. Imagine teaching someone what you do in less than a week. Could you do it? It can’t be done.

In the interior design program where I taught, we require students to have two classes for commercial design. Okay, so students actually get 60 hours total. Any better? I don’t think so either. Yes, you can argue that all the classes combine for a well-rounded education. But, the truth of the matter is that design schools are only scratching the surface when teaching students how to be an interior designer.

It is no wonder that you may be getting frustrated with the emerging professionals that you hire. It is easy to think that they can pick up exactly where you need them and move forward with little assistance. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Education doesn’t stop when a degree is given. Therefore, professional development is crucial to any person’s success.

Understanding Learning Styles

Many factors go into whether someone is learning and able to apply the learned information. Just look at the different ways people learn. There are several learning styles, but it comes down to three main styles – auditory, visual, and physical.

An auditory learner must hear what is being presented. Reading it or seeing something may be more challenging. A visual learner needs to see something, not just hear it. Visual learners like to observe things. A physical or hands-on learner must do it for themselves to really digest information.

There are other learning styles, such as logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal, and solitary (intrapersonal). However, most people fall into the three main buckets above. The vast majority of people are considered visual learners. Many people do not have just one learning style. They may very well be a combination of all three.

CEUs May Fall Short for Emerging Interior Design Professionals

CEUs can only go so far. I have spoken about this before, but it is worth mentioning again. Many continuing education sessions available for interior designers lack the needed details to truly impact professional growth. Additionally, emerging professionals may not have to context to immediately apply the information. Not to say CEU programs are bad, but it may not be enough for emerging professionals to sit in an hour presentation and expect professional growth.

Research shows that a student or employee will only retain 60% of the information delivered within one hour of an educational class. That number decreases to 40% within 24-hours. (Depending on which research study you read, these numbers fluctuate slightly) This is called “The Curve of Forgetting.” If, on average, you will walk away remembering about 30% of what was covered in a CEU class. This research also shows that retention numbers have truly little to do with the content or the instructor. It has to do with how our brain works.

Check out: "9 Ways to Mentor Interior Designers and Why Mentorship is Important to Our Industry"

5 Tips to Help Emerging Professionals Develop

Again, we recognize that interior design schools can only teach so much content in a short amount of time. We also understand that we all have different learning styles, which affects how we learn. And, we know our brain will only allow us to retain so much information at one time. If that is the case, then how do we go about growing professionally.

1. Have Patience:

The first thing this information tells us is that we need to have patience with ourselves and others. Becoming frustrated at the lack of recall or inability to act upon learned information is not from a lack of trying. It has more to do with how the information was delivered and received. It also has to do with our brain being overloaded with mundane information like our to-do list, who needs a return call, and where you parked the car may be interfering with our growth.

2. Understand How You or Your Team Members Learn:

Whether you are in charge of a design team or just responsible for yourself, it is essential to understand each person’s learning styles. Talking over and over at someone who is a visual learner will not help that person learn. In the same way, just watching videos online may not be best for a hands-on learner. It is important to deliver new information in different ways to maximize learning. I often teach for the three main learning styles. I use a combination of lecture, visual demonstration, and having students do it themselves. This is easy to explain in software learning. Tell someone how to use the software (audio), demonstrate how to do it (visual), and then have the person do it alongside the instructor (hands-on).

3. Repetition is Key:

We may not realize that no matter how we learn, the key to learning is not just the information or delivery but also the repetition of the information. Many people swear by writing notes during lectures, not typing them. The act of writing something down may very well increase your ability to retain the information. Typing does not have the same effect. Another idea is to tell or teach someone else about the course you just took and what stood out to you. By repeating the information you learned, you are more likely to retain it over a more extended time.

4. Make a Plan:

Whether you are leading a team of designers or in charge of your own professional development, it is imperative to make a professional development plan. What do you want to learn this year or this month? What areas do you see potential in? What are you curious about? Finding the answers to these and other questions will help you put together a plan. For instance, if you want to learn more about marketing, maybe you attend a marketing conference or start listing to a marketing podcast. If your employee lacks software skills or code regulation, find a class or a course that can help. There are tons of resources available. Find some and make a plan that will hold everyone accountable, including yourself.

5. Reward Growth:

There are many ways to reward growth. The simplest might be recognizing an achievement. Whether they want to admit it or not, every person wants to be recognized for doing a good job. Money and promotions also encourage growth. Even more, responsibility can be a reward for growth. Find what drivers trigger an employee or yourself to want to grow.

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