I was born the year the first man landed on the moon. During my entire life I’ve known space travel existed and was not merely science fiction.
So, when the space shuttle program came to an end on July 21, 2011, I couldn’t help but feel sad. It was as if someone had extinguished one of the sparks of my childhood wonderment. I was 12 years old when the program began. I watched the launch on television with a sense of awe. And, like most Americans, I’ll never forget where I was when I learned of the Challenger disaster – standing in my high school band class in shock and horror as we heard the news. Even as an adult I’m still infatuated with space travel. I stood in line at the Missouri State Fair to get an autograph from a visiting NASA astronaut. I even felt giddy as it came my turn to meet him.
Few things in life can make you feel like a kid again. I hate that with the end of the space shuttle program there is one less thing in the world for me.
Oh, I know U.S. space travel isn’t completely finished. NASA’s focus is now on deep space travel and some American astronauts will be hitching rides with Russians to the International Space Station. But some of the astronauts will never make it to the moon and I can’t help but wonder if they are thinking, “Well, now what do I do?”
This same question has been asked lately by a lot of people in the workforce from a variety of career fields. With the rapid changes in technology, what was once a stable career path one day may be outdated and obsolete the next.
As a designer, I too have seen a lot of changes in my field. In college we did a lot of work by hand. With Rapidograph in hand I’d ink our lettering for magazine and ad designs. Or, if I were lucky, I’d get to use the rub-on Letraset letters for my projects. In fact, I didn’t touch a computer until my Junior year and, even then, desktop publishing was still in its infancy. I’m sure many designers today chuckle when they look back on using the Mac Classic with its tiny black and white monitor.
So, how do you keep from becoming obsolete? Here are a few suggestions:
• Embrace new technology. Accept that change is inevitable and learn how to use new equipment and applications. Keep an open mind when new products are introduced. But also be aware that not everything new will be embraced by your industry. Research what products are becoming the “norm” for your career field so that you don’t waste time learning something that is irrelevant or soon to be outdated.
• Be flexible. Use an “old skill” in a new fashion. For instance, good design will always be good design whether you draw lettering by hand or typeset it on a computer. Don’t dismiss your knowledge – repurpose it.
• Keep your eye on the moon. Don’t allow someone to steal your dreams. Granted, some dreams may need to be adjusted due to changing times, but often the core is still intact and can be applied elsewhere. I’ve been a designer for over 20 years and have loved designing for print. But, with the advent of the Internet, I’ve adapted my love for design to the web as I’ve watched the quantity of digital projects grow.
So, no matter what your career field, remember that new adventures await you. Keep fanning those embers of your childhood imagination and embrace the changes as they come.