Tonight I responded to a classmate’s design document, in which she expressed concern about not feeling confident enough in her web development abilities to enter the professional world. For a moment I thought she was describing me and my current work-in-progress web portfolio.

While I have the basics down pat, I’ve spent nearly a year questioning my own job readiness. I can code decent HTML and CSS pages, and I’m able to optimize my websites so they’re responsive and mobile friendly, but I lack a certain “edge” in other departments like JavaScript coding (my greatest foe) and developing unique, eye-catching designs from scratch.

In other words, how am I supposed to know if I’m ready for web design?

The truth is I don’t know, at least not at this time. But it doesn’t matter, because the one thing I do know is I have to put myself out there if I want to have a long and fulfilling career in the “real world” of web design.

I’ve been a college student for nearly eight years, with most of those years dedicated to writing and literature. The year and a half I’ve spent in the Web Designer program at Wake Technical Community College has taught me more about job preparation and the real world than any career specialist at my other schools. Despite the resources I continue to use for building my resume and applying for jobs, I’ve yet to experience that a-ha! moment of realizing my place in the field of web design.

But while I’m unsure of my future in the industry, I still have to move forward regardless of how I feel about my web design capabilities.

In response to my peer’s uncertainty, I described the methods I’ve been using to establish faith in my own skills. For several weeks I’ve spent time reading and educating myself on web design practices and tools. I keep up with the latest industry news and follow masters of the trade on Twitter and LinkedIn. The method that’s been most helpful—especially in boosting my confidence—is reaching out and talking to other web designers, whether they’re established professionals or just now entering the industry themselves. Listening to the stories and experiences of others grounds me in reality and helps me realize I’m not the only one trying to make it. Everyone’s trying to make it, and the journey is rarely easy or stress-free.

As I continue building my web portfolio and preparing for the future, I’ll keep in mind what I’ve known all along: The time to design is now.

If you’re just starting out in the web design business, at what level of competency do you see yourself as a skilled designer? Are you confident in what you can offer to clients and employers, or are you still trying to figure it out? If you’ve been in the game for a while now, how much have you changed since you first entered the industry? I would love to hear about your experiences and challenges along the way, so leave a comment and show support for your fellow web designers and web developers.

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