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Lend the Future a Hand

A recent survey by ASID reveals that emerging professionals are enthusiastic and ready to work, but finding few opportunities in the interior design industry.

By Lisa Henry

A recent survey by ASID reveals that emerging professionals are enthusiastic and ready to work, but finding few opportunities in the interior design industry.

I find myself not looking back but rather looking ahead, and looking forward, to the future of ASID.

A year ago, we engaged in a long, hard look at our organization and asked ourselves how well we are prepared to lead our profession. We were in the midst of great changes in our society and in the industry, and we knew that we could leverage that change by focusing on our opportunities and setting a new course that would pull us toward the future. Much has happened as a result, and even within a very short time we have become a different organization than we were a year ago—still true to our mission, but moving in a new direction.

In the months ahead, expect to see a more visible and reenergized ASID. We believe our industry is full of promise but disjointed. To reach our full potential, we need to tap into everyone’s expertise and build upon one another’s strengths.

An important component of our plan is the group we refer to as “emerging professionals.” These are the designers who have completed their interior design degree within the past year to five years. They are smart, talented and eager to prove themselves. At other times we would say, “They are the future of our profession.” In these times, it might be more accurate to say, “They are potentially the future of our profession,” because many of them have been frustrated in their attempts to begin their careers.

Gradually, business is improving, but many firms are unable or reluctant to hire designers, particularly new designers. Some offer internships, often unpaid. And while that may be the reality of the marketplace, it is no way to mentor the future leaders of our profession. We need to find a place for them before they are lost to other pursuits.

Who are these emerging professionals? ASID conducted a survey earlier this year to learn more about them. What we found is encouraging. Emerging professionals (or EPs, in our organizational shorthand) are no longer students, but not yet seasoned professionals. Their first five years of practice is the most critical time to rely on their professional association, when they are searching for employment, relocating to a new city, building their network or looking for ways to get involved in the design community.

They want to follow the path to professionalism. Nearly two-thirds plan on taking the NCIDQ exam, and many also plan to get a LEED credential. They perceive value in belonging to a professional organization as a source of continuing education and professional development, and to be connected to a network of their peers.

The bad news is that only 2 in 10 EPs are currently working in interior design. Quite a few are working in design-related jobs, such as furniture showrooms, kitchen and bath shops, or home improvement stores (doing kitchen and bath design), as they have been unable to find interior design jobs. Not surprisingly, when we asked them what programs they most want from their professional organizations, they said skills, workshops, job preparation resources, CEUs and tools for startup companies. Translation: They want to work, and they want to practice the profession they have studied and trained in.

Although discouraged, they have not given up on their future. In our survey, 3 in 4 EPs said they are practicing or hope to practice high-end residential design, and as many selected commercial and hospitality as their fields of interest. About 1 in 5 plan to concentrate on healthcare or retail design.

ASID cannot create jobs for all these designers, but we are doing all we can to support them and keep them engaged. For the very first time, ASID is devoting an entire month to our emerging professional designers. Our understanding and appreciation for this new career stage is at an all-time high. We’ve listened to our members and recognize they have a special set of needs.  

During September, our team at headquarters and ASID leaders across the country will focus on programming and events for EPs in which they can have a voice and flourish, but also learn important tools and tips for how to succeed in today’s market. Three times each week videos will showcase ASID Fellows and their advice to the upcoming designers through a program entitled “The Fellows Project.” Each week will also feature a new webinar covering such topics as setting short- and long-term goals, networking with the mindset that relationships are the new economy, using social media productively, and third-party certifications and their relevance to designers.

With all of these daily virtual activities, we have encouraged our chapters to host local and regional events to welcome EPs into their design communities; CEUs; showroom tours; and networking events for new and experienced designers.

ASID is also extremely pleased to host the second annual GO PRO event, to be held September 14-15, 2012 in New York City. This is the first event of its kind to empower EPs through four pillars of programming: PROfessional Advancement, PROcess, PROject, and PRO Bono Work. This event is open to the entire industry, and we encourage all EPs to register at (space is limited). With sponsors like The Vinyl Institute, Cosentino, Designer Marketplace, Hansgrohe, Legrand and Teknion, we know this will be the highlight of September for us all. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

I encourage you to make September your EP month, too. Reconnect with a former intern or recent graduate. Take part in your chapter’s activities and look for ways to get EPs more involved. Invite an EP on a showroom visit, or even for coffee and some shop talk. You might just be that connection that EP needs to pull them toward their future—the future we are all trying to build to make our profession stronger.


ASID president Lisa Henry, FASID, LEED AP is the Knoll Southwest regional architecture and design director. ASID can be reached at (202) 546-3480 or, and on the web at Find out all of the resources we have for emerging designers through our Career Center on the ASID website at