Employability and expectations in the workplace

In April this year I was interviewed as part of a study by now graduate, and soon to be secondary school teacher Larna Pantrey-Mayer as part of her final study on the current state of the design industry as an employer and what to expect as a new member of the workforce so to speak.

Larna interviewed a number of business owners in Brighton, from well established companies in the area and having seen a recent talk of mine contacted me for an alternative perspective.

Subject matter varied greatly from the current state of design education. Are students being taught the right things? What employers are looking for in a portfolio, or me an individual? What are the attitudes towards mature students with families and finally, support in relation to wellbeing and mental health.

The interviews are now available to watch courtesy of Vimeo, all posted below (sorry if you’re reading this on Medium – you’ll actually have to visit my blog for a change). I have transcribed my points from each, unfortunately for us, on the day Brighton Beach was windier than expected and some of the audio is difficult to grasp.

Mental health – nearly 1 in 4 students have a documented mental health consideration. Is honesty always the best policy with this?

AP: I have Asperger syndrome, and I also suffer from anxiety and chronic stress, which causes fatigue problems. I’ve always been honest with the people I work with about that, I’ve not necessarily discussed it as part of my interview unless it is relevant, but having conversations with people is the best way for you to all learn about that and to appreciate each others way of dealing and approaching things.

Especially with something like working on client projects where there’s deadlines sometimes, or things aren’t going quite they way they should, it’s very easy to get into that point of being in the grip and these behaviours that you end up manifesting are completely different to the ones that are actually who you are.

Students with children – are there any exceptions made for entry employees with children?

AP: The business landscape is changing and has been changing rapidly for the last decade if not longer and there’s more acceptance of concepts of things like flexi-time or remote working, tele-working – they’re part of the norm.

For new businesses it’s the best way for us to get going, that’s why I’m sat on the beach because today this is my office. It might sound like a a pretentious thing to say, but it’s true.

English and maths in the workplace – how important do you think it is?

AP: Probably 80% of the job is actually communication, and if you’re doing a job like graphic design the entire purpose of it is communication. Having a good understanding of the language you’re working in is kind of vital.

With regards to Math, the best way I can describe my feelings as to how important it is, is that when I finished school, I said when am I going to need algebra, when am I ever going to need algebra? And then 20 years later I was a front-end web developer and everything I touched is based on algebraic equations and I still don’t understand it and it means that I struggle with that part of my job every single day.

Dyslexia in the workplace. Does it affect the ability to perform any role in design?

AP: Well, the short answer is there isn’t anything that should stop you from doing what you want to do. Something like dyslexia is actually really common. You should still be provided support from wherever you go work.


Although our time was short, I enjoyed meeting up away from the keyboard to discuss these points, in particular around mental health and support from organisations as it’s an area I’m still figuring out for myself, and I’m sure forever will be.

The full report on Employability and Expectation has now been published, you can download the full report free from Academia here http://bit.ly/emplyability-and-expectation.

Find out more about Larna on LinkedIn – http://bit.ly/larnapantreymayer.

Other references

If you would like to know more about behaviour under stress, in particular, I recommend the MBTI book In The Grip via the webshop http://bit.ly/MBTI-book-The-Grip