Can I leave my engineering job to get into product design?

Andy has a secure career in engineering, but it doesn't excite him. He wants to know how he can move into product design.

I have always been interested in product design and loved studying it at GCSE. Despite getting the highest marks in my school, my teacher advised me to do more maths and physics in order to keep my options open later in my career. The logic was do the more technically challenging subjects and then I could always return to design if I wanted. 

I carried on and did engineering at university and did very well. I and now have a good, well paid engineering job. The problem is that it doesn’t really excite me. I don’t have enough opportunity to be creative. So I am considering returning to a product design career - but how? I am not sure how I can take an intermediate step. 

I don’t want to give up my engineering career until I have at least checked I have what it takes to make it as a product designer. Ideally I would like to do a product design evening course to get a feel for it again at my own pace but I have been unable to see anything locally (or indeed in the whole UK). The only thing I can think of is to take time off work and try to arrange some work experience with a local firm. Is there anything else I could try? 

I appreciate I seem to be asking for the best of both worlds - new career without risking the current one, but I need to do something constructive as a first step to meet some designers or do some design practice to see if reality matches my expectations. Any advice would be much appreciated.

— Andy

Expert answers

Drew de Soto's reply:

Hello Andy,

                I would make sure your product design portfolio is up-to-date and spick and span. Presumably whilst studying and working in engineering, you have kept your product design passion alive by working on personal projects?

I would then set about trying to speak with the people in the industry you are looking to get into. Try to engage with people at the level you expect to join the team (ie Juniors) and the management level. If you can get a dialogue going and half an hour of their time to look over your portfolio, they will be able to tell you better than anyone – how to get your foot on the ladder.

Try sending them a direct Tweet or knocking on their Linkedin door. If all else fails, phone em.

Don’t be scared of a change in career. It may seem daunting, but it will be life changing!


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