How to kick start your Service Design career

You want to pursue a career as a service designer, as a freelancer within an agency or maybe at your current job. But you’re wondering, where do I start?

Well, I have three tips to help kick start your service design career, even without formal training or years of hands-on experience.

You want to design services that have a positive impact on people’s lives and are good for business. But, how do you turn that ambition to design these great services into an actual career?

You don’t have to look very hard to find job listings from companies looking to hire service designers. There’s no doubt the demand for service designers is growing. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to land a job as a service designer, especially if you lack the educational background or track record to prove you’re a good fit.

How do you start a service design career without much hands-on experience?

It’s certainly possible!

I’m going to show you three ways that can help you kick start your career as a service designer. What I’m going to talk about definitely isn’t limited to finding a job as an in-house service designer. It also works when you’re freelance and wanting to do more service design work for existing clients or if you’re looking for a job within an agency.

When I was in university, a long time ago, there weren’t any courses on service design. I graduated as a software engineer, but within two years, I left the tech world to start my career as a service designer.

You could say that, in a sense, it was easier back then to get started as a service designer because it was an open playing field. We had a lot of room to shape and mold our profession. Today, the field is much more standardized. Getting into service design is clearer regarding the skills and knowledge you actually need to possess. Also, there’s a growing number of places you can go to actually acquire these skills and knowledge.

So, service design has definitely matured. I have the chance to meet a lot of inspiring people in our studio who want to work with service design. These include students fresh out of university to people taking a radically different career path as well as those with a traditional design background, now transitioning into service design.

The first question I usually ask in these conversations is, “Why do you want to get into service design?” The answers range from “because it looks like a lot of fun” to “I want to make real impact.” But, when I tried to understand the deeper motives, the conversation usually stops. Unfortunately, a lot of people have a quite superficial image of our field.

Tip #1: Develop a profound understanding of the fundamentals of service design and put in the work to study the field.

Based on this understanding, develop your personal story explaining why this is the path you need to follow. (Part of kick starting your service design career is, of course, being able to explain what you do in a simple and engaging way. If you’re interested to learn how to do that, check out this free course.)

Then, get as much hands on experience as quickly as possible. There’s absolutely no substitute for this. You might be wondering how you can get hands-on experience without a service design job or project to work on. Well, the secret is, you can develop your own design challenges.

Tip #2: Start doing service design within your current environment, and don’t wait for an assignment or permission.

Like Lauren Curry said on the show, a great way to start is by redesigning a service that makes you angry, or a service that is really close to you.

For example, one student from my Selling Service Design with Confidence course was in exactly this situation. He started out by redesigning the experience of a restaurant that’s ran by his brother-in-law.

In this stage, don’t forget to document the process in as much detail as you can. Right now, it’s not about showing off smart solutions, but documenting how you approach the challenge.

Tip #3: Look at how your existing skills and background fit into a service design context.

What surprises me is that some people try to over inflate their current service design experience.

Like I said, I’m not trained service designer by any standards. But, my background in software engineering has taught me a thing or two about systems thinking. I’ve gained the ability to visualize these complex systems. These are very useful skills to have as a service designer. But, think beyond your education and work experience, to your side projects as well.

For instance, if you build a community around your Instagram account that focuses on cosplay costumes, bring in the communication skills gained as a useful asset. I didn’t make this example up, it actually appeared on an application for an internship at our studio.

The takeaway here is: be confident about the skills you already possess. Don’t hide them—use them to your advantage! Try to figure out how they might fit into a service design context.

There are many ways you can start your career as a service designer, regardless of your background. Just study the field, don’t wait for permission, and leverage your existing skills.

I’m curious, how did you start your career as a service designer? Did you go to university, follow private training, or just figure it out on your own? What are your tips for people who want to get started as a service designer? Leave a comment down below so we can continue the conversation there.

 

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