It’s the time of year when I start getting asked frequently about how to find a job in sustainable design–or a related question, where you can find a role as a design activist.
working with a purpose
Obviously there are no easy answers to these questions, but I have written a few relatively “timeless” posts on these challenges. In the past I’ve outlined two main strategies that involve, broadly, converting a conventional design job into a sustainable design job, (I covered this in two posts here and here) or converting a conventional sustainable development job into a sustainable design job (I covered that here).
I think these two broad strategies apply to the question of finding a role as a design activist as well. In other words, you can try to take a conventional design job and make room for more activist work, or you can go for a more traditional activist job (such as community organizer or environmental advocate) and work your design skills in to it.
In terms of how you might bend an existing, conventional design job into one that allows more time for activist work, perhaps in a pro bono context, I’ve profiled a few organizations that attempt to match design service providers (pro bono or reduced rate) with clients in need, so this might be a starting point for convincing an employer that there are worthy local projects. One of these organizations, The 1% also offers guidance and rules of thumb for pro bono work from an architecture perspective.
Given the recent economic climate, another consideration besides simply “providing services” might be “providing skills” through the design process, something I wrote about in my post “unemployment.”
I wish I could say that finding this kind of job isn’t that hard to do, but it is. It requires persistence, patience and a whole lot of strategy. Estimates are that it can take 9 months to a year to find the right job, and finding the right job can be like a full time job in itself. You also have to pay attention to all conventional job search requirements, so I recommend using a job hunting guidebook or advice service as well, so that you can adapt those job finding strategies to your particular search. I wish all sustainable design and design activist job seekers the best of luck. If you have any good stories about finding or creating these kinds of jobs, please do share them.