How Senior Is Too Senior?

You’ve seen the postings: such-and-such a firm seeks Senior Interior Designer, with an emphasis on experience, management ability and proven track record of satisfied clients. Over the past couple of years I have seen a good number of older independent designers who have successfully operated their own businesses for decades apply for these positions because their client pool is dwindling. In most cases, they never even make it to the interview stage. Employers are looking for “senior designers” who are much younger.

On average, in human resource lingo a “senior designer” is one with around 10 years or more of experience. Some postings will specify, for example, bachelors’ degree in interior design or interior architecture and 8 years, or 10 years, or 12 years of experience. That would place the bulk of candidates in the age range of mid-30s to early 40s—far younger than the independent designers in their 50s or even 60s who hope to compete with them. Especially if the employer or partners are thinking of selling or transferring the firm to this individual eventually, they can anticipate another 15 to 20 years of work from them, as opposed to maybe 5 to 10 from an older designer.

In addition, some employers are looking for a minimum combined years of experience, but others, particularly commercial firms, are looking for number of years practicing a particular specialty. That can be another handicap for independent designers who have done primarily residential projects. The same applies to aesthetics. A firm that has branded itself to appeal to affluent urban dwellers has no interest in hiring a designer with 20 years’ experience doing traditional or country interiors.

If you are an older designer looking to make a career transition, you still have options. For guidance with your career, please contact me online or give me a call at 212.777.5718 x6 for an informal conversation about how we might work together.

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