Phillip Yang, who went from a USC Architecture grad to an architect at a NY firm and is now a freelance graphic designer, discusses how to change industries in your 20s.
Creative Chats are weekly Clubhouse talks where we invite creatives to speak about their creative journey, lessons learned, and industry tips.
This Creative Chat is for you if...
You're questioning switching jobs
You work a 9-5 but aren't fulfilled
Your passion is something other than what your full-time job is
You want tips and life advice about switching industries
In this Creative Chat, we asked...
How did you know when to leave your former industry? When is the right time to let go?
I realized there was a point where everything plateaus. My professor told me, "If there’s nothing to learn, it’s a sign to move on.”
I studied architecture so that was all I knew. When you don't know what to do, you just got to do everything. I asked myself how can I become this type of designer and what do I need to do to get there.
We’re at a time where many people are switching careers or realizing that their hobby is more than just a hobby.
For me, I always wanted to create. I wanted to be in the creative field rather than architecture. Architecture is more on the technical side. It’s kind of hard to be very creative and have the creative freedom to design. That was when i started to dabble in graphic design. Going into illustration and graphic design, I had no idea what I was going into nor was I planning on that career switch. I just did it because I wanted to. If you don't push yourself to be this crazy fanatic of what you’re trying to explore, then it’s hard to jump into it.
I didn’t have any illustration skills or a background in graphic design, but I did know certain computer programs and used that to my advantage.
Nowadays, no one has a set job. Everyone is all about tricks and trade. Now, companies are seeking people who can do a bunch of things.
How did you find your passion? Did it come naturally or did you have to search for it?
I definitely had to search for it. It was never something that was straightforward to me. I just loved graphics growing up. Looking at magazines and the internet and different outlets of creativity let me develop that eye to see what’s cool and what’s not. I'm still learning.
At the end of the day, you’ll never know what you want until you start dabbling in it. There’s some things that I dabbled in this past year and realized they’re not for me. I just kept going at it with graphic design and illustration.
There’s a gray area where you don't know were you’re going but if you’re doing it for yourself and for fun, then things will come. You should always do it for yourself. For graphic design, I just did it because i loved it. I started putting my work on Instagram to be accountable. Along the way, people started asking me “Are you selling that?” or “What are you doing with this?” This was how I got into it even more--because people were rooting me on.
"Slashies" are people who wear a variety of hats and have a variety of skills. What are your thoughts on staying focused so you can excel in your job but also being open to having different talents?
In the creative world, we have the opportunity to find inspiration in many different things. The way I see creativity is that there are so many outlets. I love music—I don't know how to play any music—but I love it and it gives me inspiration for the things I do. I love sports. There are so many things I'm inspired by. At the end of the day, those things resonate to me and it inspires a lot of the graphics I create. What I wanted to do was create a connection between myself, my work, and the people and things I grew up with. For example, I drew Kobe Bryant because I love him. I drew In-N-Out because I love In-N-Out. There’s just so many things where I can find inspiration from and that allowed me to create many different things.
If you’re going to create for yourself, you also need to know how to market yourself. There are tools, like Instagram, where you can just showcase your work. There are so many outlets you can utilize to showcase your vision.
I recently launched clothing and that’s something I'm still learning--finding a manufacturer, screen printing, creating a Shopify account, and all these things. Because I was so fixated one creating graphics, it allowed me to lead into a bunch of different things. I was designing album artwork for musicians and my work merged with music and art and that’s awesome. It also lead me into creating clothes and other things. It’s always a learning process but I'm willing to put my time and effort into learning those things because I'm just so into graphics.
Nobody knows off the bat whether something is for them. If you’re into it, just go for it.
What would be your words of affirmations or tips for those are nervous about showcasing their work in a portfolio or feel “late to the game” when changing industries?
First of all, nobody is late or early in the game. Everybody is running their own race.
If you start to compare yourself to others, that’s when you start to boggle down. It's hard to keep going if you’re doing this for someone else.
My general rule of thumb is to stay in your lane, do your own thing.
If people recognize, they'll recognize your work.
Nothing is new. There’s a ton of people in the same field of work you do. With Instagram, you realize that there’s bunch of people doing what you do and are doing it better.
The one mentality I've taken on since high school is: If you think you’re good at something, there’s probably someone out there better than you. Let’s be straight. I just stay in my own lane and do my own thing.
What are your tips for those who are nervous about leaving their work and their stability in order to pursue a different path?
It’s definitely a risky thing. Thankfully, I had friends around me to talk to about the switch. I liked creating graphics and it was keeping me up at night. My friends came in and said that if I had enough saved up, then I should take some time and put myself out there.
If you’re in a job but it's not giving you fulfillment, you just got to take a step of faith and go for it. If you can, save up, you’ll make it work. It's scary but if you feel like it's right and it's keeping you up a night and it's making you happy, then why not risk a few months or a year to just try it?
If you have extra time, utilize it. That’s literally what I did. I didn’t have a background in graphic design so all I could do was create enough work to be able to tell recruiters and people that I know how to do design and illustrate because they’re not going to believe you if you don’t have something to show. As long as you have something to show, they’ll want your work because they don't care about credentials, how old you are, etc. If you can perform and the do the work, then that’s the only thing that matters.
How did you network? Did you network and do you think it's necessary?
Networking is BIG. Not only do I love meeting people and hearing their stories, but networking is huge because that’s how you’re going to get yourself in the door.
Because there are so many candidates for the same position, networking is the best way to have that leverage on you. That’s how I got my internships, my first job, and certain gigs that I have right now. Networking is just a way of collaborating.
It's so important and I think a lot of people are afraid to network. You just got to put yourself out there. The biggest way I was networking was just cold DM-ing people on Instagram and creators that I looked up to.
There’s so many people out there who are willing to help if they have the time and the capacity.
You just have to keep going through the gray area.
Dabble, test things out, and see where it takes you.
More doing and less thinking.
Follow Phillip! @phillipyang_lessamazing
See more of his work here.
Join us every Tuesday at 7:30 pm PST for Creative Chats on Clubhouse App. Link in bio of IG: @innerchild.creatives
Keep up with all things creative on IG: @innerchild.creatives