Senior Designer Rob Moseley explains why you should keep a student mentality

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Having a student mentality doesn’t mean any or all of the clichéd student activities, such as drinking until we’re sick and eating dry cereal for dinner.

The definition of a student mentality may vary, depending on who’s explaining it, but for me it means keeping an open mind to information.

Think back to when you were younger. Instead of accepting everything you were told as the cold hard truth, you wanted to try to understand it better and develop your thinking. At the same time you’d be willing to learn from absolutely everyone, but come to your own conclusions.

Recently we had a young designer come to look around our office to get a feel for working in an in-house digital agency.

The determination & ability he had was obvious; it would have been very simple for me to yarn off a pre-composed speech about what we do and why we do it. But neither of us would have learnt anything, so I wanted to do something more engaging, which would provide a lot more benefit for both of us.  So after the initial ice-breakers, I reviewed some of his projects, and in turn asked him for feedback on a project I’m working on, to give me another perspective.

Some younger designers (I’m sure this will apply to most if not all career paths) are the smartest, most innovative, ambitious & driven people you will ever meet. This is due, in part to their ‘student mentality’, their ability to absorb information, disregard the irrelevant and look for the genuine point of interest.

In comparison to this general industry tends to follow a cat & mouse dynamic, one person will lead & the rest will follow. In that dynamic the critical thinking process of digesting information can sometimes be lost but there are things we can do to prevent this.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

Here are a few ways to try and keep a student mentality. As you can see a lot of them overlap.

 

1. Be humble

Appreciate your talents. Being humble doesn’t mean you can’t feel good about yourself; having a pride in your work will help you consistently.

Appreciate the work of others. Working on a thankless task can be draining, be the one to support the people around you. I don’t care if someone only made the tea, that was some good tea! Many of the biggest companies have the humblest beginnings.

2. Be curious

Accept that you don’t know everything, this is why there are a multitude of disciplines that make up any organisation. You don’t have to know everything that happens but being curious about what the people around you are doing will open up conversations that can benefit both parties. We always talk about being ‘T shaped’ here; this means being very good at your core profession but having a good understanding of the disciplines around you that affect the pre and post design phases.  

3. Make mistakes

Fail fast. Having an idea that seems good to everyone in your team could flop in real life. Be open to the fact that not everything you do will be perfect, but as long as you learn from the mistakes you can constantly improve.

4. Talk to people

If you do find yourself particularly lacking in an area, speak to someone who can help – pride comes before a fall so a failure to act now will make it harder to catch up in the future. Physically talking to people will open up a variety of options and new perspectives into things. This isn’t focused on things that can benefit your career, abstract conversations or relaxed chats with friends can still spark a new idea.

5. Have a sense of wonder

Given that as a race we still know very little about the world, you’d think we’d be more amazed by day to day life than we are.

“Children have this sense of wonder, and it inspires the curiosity that makes them such keen observers and capable learners. Do you really know how your microwave works? Could you build one on your own? What about your car? Understand your brain? A rose?” (http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Humble)

Find amazement and wonder in anything that interests you, and take steps to broaden your horizon.

Find the things that genuinely excite you & look to understand them. It may never help you in your career directly, but interested people are always interesting.

Conclusion

Go out, have fun, accept your limitations & make efforts to work with them. Explore life outside of work & be amazed how often it can help your life inside work.