Exploring Options, Interiors & Sources

Interiors & Sources, September, 2000

Exploring Options

"What's next?" is a very healthy question. Here's some possible answers.


Dear Steve:
I have been an interior designer for more than 12 years and want to make the change into facilities management. How do I start? 

- Deirdre in Chicago, IL
Dear Deirdre:
Designers who switch fields into facilities management often find that it's a good "fit." Making the transition, however, is harder than you may expect. There are as many FM positions as there are design jobs, but the trick is finding where the openings are. Unlike the design field, FM has no specialized recruiters. Actually, it's worthwhile to ask design recruiters, because they occasionally have facilities jobs. But to find the FM job you covet, you'll need to broaden your search efforts; word of mouth, classified ads and the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) are the best sources.

In this case, word of mouth encompasses a wide swath. Start by asking sales reps from the lines you are specifying. They call on facilities people all the time, and reps make excellent headhunters. After all, it's in their best interest to see familiar faces assume buying as current or potential clients. Speaking of clients, you should contact all the FM professionals who have employed you and your firm over the years. Network like crazy! In terms of classifieds, you can find some good ads out there - but you need to use a wide-angle lens. HR people don't always know which category FM ads belong in, so in additional to "facilities" listings, you want to scan the ads industry by industry. It's helpful if you can narrow your preferences down to a few industries, and contact companies directly. Do a lot of homework in preparation for any interviews. Management wants to see that you have a good grasp of FM as a whole, not just the design aspects.

Dear Steve:
I have been a sales rep for a major manufacturer for many years. I have been offered management opportunities, but I don't want to relocate to the Midwest. I love the industry and the company I work for, but what's next? I'm bored! Where do I go from here?

- Mark in Miami, FL
Dear Mark:
"What's next?" is a very healthy question. I asked myself the same thing after working with Haworth in New York City. My choice was to become a headhunter. Here are a few good food-for-thought suggestions for you.

First, consider the dealer side of the business. Manufacturers' reps tend to overlook this option, but it's actually very lucrative. The secret is to find the right dealership, one with a culture in which you feel comfortable. Or, consider opening your own independent rep group. It's not as hard as you might think. Often manufacturers will even front you some start-up capital to cover initial costs. Manufacturers are always looking for independent reps, mostly because so many are unhappy with their current reps. So don't worry, you will get the lines. You'll experience a huge surge of professional excitement as your business grows.

Another option is to become an industry consultant. People with active minds often find it stimulating to switch gears and analyze an entirely different situation at each separate client. Some people don't like all the self-marketing that's involved and the lack of security when they're in between projects. Plus, the level of traveling can be so high that it's almost as if you've relocated. But the upside is potentially great

A more far-fetched possibility - but one that's a lot less far-fetched with each passing month - is to work for a cyber-professional. You can telecommute for a company based elsewhere (such as the Midwest) if there's enough work in your region, or even have an advisory role. It depends on your flexibility. For example, would you be willing to fly to a company's headquarters for two days a week? Interesting opportunities are out there, so poll around. Speak to all your industry contacts (but I beg of you… please don't go out and start yet another industry newsletter!).

But as I warn everyone, do not use your employers' facilities to conduct any job searches! Good luck in finding the next hill to climb!