By Bridget McMullin, ASID, CID, CAPS
I remember heading to my first NeoCon, back in 2000. I was an intern at a Chicago architectural firm and living with my best friend and her husband for the summer. I had navigated the halls of that monstrous building as a student many times before, but never during a show like NeoCon — and never with an official badge around my neck. I was excited, to say the least!
Thirteen years later, I find myself returning to Chicago with the same excitement I had in my intern days. Not only do I get to spend a few days in the city I love, I also get to be inspired by all the new products and design ideas that surround me. For a few days, I get to selfishly immerse myself in all things design and leave life’s other responsibilities at the door to The Mart. “Sorry, I can’t get to your call/email/text right away, I don’t get a signal in the building.” It’s a great excuse that allows me to unplug and reboot my design brain.
Trade shows like NeoCon are essential to forwarding your career as a designer. Anyone who is anyone makes it a point to attend various trade shows each year, educating themselves on the newest products and trends as well as networking with manufacturer reps and other fellow designers. It took me a while to realize that investing in my tradeshow travel was essential to not only to my continuing education as a designer, but also crucial to the expansion of my business and brand. At this point, I don’t just attend the shows — thanks to my involvement with ASID, I am now invited to moderate forums! By being involved, showing up and participating, I am adding to the larger conversation of design in a forum that really means something in the design world.
As an emerging professional on the verge of a great career, you too should be looking for ways to expand your tradeshow horizon. Maybe start small with some local shows and continuing education opportunities. If your company won’t pay for your travel (mine didn’t), make it a point to invest in yourself and career by attending at least one show per year. I made a deal with my first boss: I could go to the show and he would still pay my salary for the days I was away, but I covered the trip expenses. It was a win/win for both of us since I got to see the show and then bring back new lines for our office to carry.
One storefront, three businesses, eight employees, and 13 years after I stepped into my first NeoCon, I am proud to moderate my first ASID Emerging Professionals Town Hall. One of the questions on my agenda today is, “When did you know you made it?” My answer: Today!
Join me for today’s ASID Emerging Professionals Town Hall!
The Business Path: How Will You Design Yours?
June 11, 4:30 p.m. at the Atelier Lapchi Showroom, Suite 6-160 at the Merchandise Mart
Bridget McMullin, ASID, CID, CAPS, is principal of McMullin Design Group in Philadelphia and a former member of the ASID Board of Directors and a past president of the Pennsylvania East chapter.