Learning to feel comfortable with the unknown

I am seven months out of college, working as an information designer at Tremendousness. I was first introduced to this place while attending Maryville University in Saint Louis and I currently work remotely from my hometown in Olathe, Kansas. 

When I got my internship, I was both scared and excited to be getting real-life experience in a design firm. I had never worked with a team this large or under these kinds of time-sensitive corporate deadlines. To top it all off, I was working over 200 miles away from my new coworkers! It was a lot of new to process all at once, and that made it easy to feel like I was the only person in the (Zoom) room who didn’t understand something. 

During my time as an intern, I wasted a lot of energy feeling intimidated in my new environment. I forgot that the purpose of my internship was to grow as a designer. But my mentors knew that I was here to learn, and they believed in my potential—and that was enough. Today I am thankful to be a part of a creative community that shows grace in times of imperfection and excitement in small victories. That was all I really hoped for in a workplace. 

I have learned many things about animation, design, and interactive during my time at Tremendousness, but my greatest lesson was learning to feel comfortable in the unknown, and practicing patience in times of doubt. 

So here are a few tips and tricks I picked up along the way. I hope this helps my fellow twenty-somethings out there who are also trying to find their way in this new chapter of our lives. 

  1. Ask questions
    I know this seems like an obvious one, but it can be difficult to speak up in a new work environment. One of my worries about working remotely was that if I had a question, I couldn’t whisper it to a coworker next to me. Everyone seemed to be asking questions in one Slack channel or another—how intimidating is that?? But I learned that questions are always encouraged, and, odds are, you’re not the only one who has them. Questions also show that you’re making an effort to learn about your workplace, your clients, your roles and responsibilities—and that can only lead to success!
  2. Stay in contact with your professors
    In school your professors are your most valuable resource. But just because you’ve graduated, you have to lose touch! Your former teachers are great people to ask for business advice or to help you find connections in the design community. I still keep in contact with my design professors from Maryville and I am super grateful for the time they have given me, supporting the beginning of my career as a designer.
  3. Take screen breaks
    Designers spend long days in front of their computer, which can lead to fatigue and stress. It especially feels that way when you have never had a full-time design job before. Eight hours is a long time to stare at a screen. To avoid burning yourself out, take a 5 to 15 minute break every so often. I really appreciate how flexible Tremendousness’s hours can be. Everyone is respectful of each other’s mental health, and everyone knows that screen breaks are necessary to keep your mind fresh, and the creative juices flowing.
  4. Know your limits
    I am a self-diagnosed people-pleaser and hate it when I have to say no to someone—especially my coworkers or boss. As an intern, it can feel like you have to constantly impress everyone. However, the best companies admire self-awareness and respect employees who know their strengths and weaknesses. Of course, it’s always okay to try something new—go for it! Just remember that it’s equally okay to say, “I feel like I need some help”, or “I don’t feel comfortable doing this on my own”, or “I’m overwhelmed with my current workload and can’t take on another project at this time”. It is okay to be honest.
  5. Stay open-minded
    All jobs require flexibility. In the design world, this mainly applies to being open to constructive criticism. We all want our projects to be the best they can be, and if you’re working in a healthy environment constructive criticism won’t feel negative, competitive, or hurtful. It should feel more like a friendly conversation. No one knows everything. All of us are always learning (or should be), and that’s what makes us better designers. Staying open-minded helps you feel more comfortable in the unknown.

One of my favorite quotes is, “I can practice trust or I can practice worry, but I’m going to get good at whatever I practice.” This is something I try to remind myself of every day as I continue down this new road I’m on. 

And now I’m thrilled to announce that I have officially become part of the full-time Tremendousness family. I’m thankful to have found an environment that helped shift my perspective. There are still many unknowns but I am no longer scared—instead I feel supported.

Image: Illustration by Hannah Fales / Tremendousness.