By Weaam Hassan Published in Journal, Product Design Journal


Its not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.
– Roy Disney

As product designers, we all have experienced rejection at one point in our design career.

Some more than others, so you’re not alone on this one. We all know the feeling one way or another.

When you boost your hopes exceedingly high wanting to get a job, then the next thing you know, rejection has battered you right back down. It can hit your self esteem hard.

You get tired of applying to numerous design positions that you wanted, and you’ve tried really hard to be unique, and yet you feel like nothing has moved forward.

That’s the time when you start thinking of compromising what you believe is important; thinking if you ask a little less, expect a little less will help you get your foot in the door.

“It is a rookie mistake” my mentor once said, “that’s the time you don’t compromise your values, but get creative in how to promote yourself. That’s the time to adjust your sail to go with the wind…”

The problem is that many design graduates skip the first step of achieving their goal.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

It’s hard to believe but…

#1 KNOW YOUR TRUE SELFproduct-design-sketching-session

It’s all well thinking that we should compromise our values to get our foot in the door, but our values reveal to other people who we are.

They educate people we meet on what is important to us, what we are willing to do, what we are unwilling to do and why. Together, our values shape up into our own unique strength.

If we don’t believe in our values then no one else will respect them either. You end up in situations that you will regret in the future, and wish you were strong enough to say no.

Before my mentorship with Adam Taha, my main issue was not having clear personal values. In doing so, I found myself letting anyone and everyone walk all over me.

I didn’t even stand up for myself, because I was attached on more of what can happen to me if I disagree instead of respectfully saying no, and fight for what is important to me.

I didn’t believe in myself because I feared what I might lose.

I’d almost always compromised my values then afterwards regret it. It made me feel depressed. That’s when you know you’re disrespecting yourself.

And if you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.

It’s understandable because we work so hard thinking our degree is the ticket to getting us a job in an agency.

But we find ourselves stuck and no matter how hard we use the traditional methods, we find ourselves back to square one or even worse.

It doesn’t help hearing people telling us to be realistic. We start doubting ourselves. We begin to believe we are unworthy. It’s one of fear’s ugly head.

That ever growing chatterbox in our head which comes from ourselves. We begin to rationalise how we need to compromise because we hear it all the time.

We read it on websites, blogs, newspaper headlines and the ongoing bias rant by the media that tell us:

“Graduates expectations are too high.”

The fact is, it has nothing to do with that.

It’s really a lack of marketing skills and having the solid foundation of credibility and not just a degree that says we got what it takes.

It’s the choices we made in the beginning.

One guy my Mentor knew had a degree but didn’t have any job experience. He also lost his franchise job, and everyone was telling him that his expectations were too high.

So he started compromising his values and feared to go for the £25,000-£45,000 jobs. He didn’t say a word when recruiters were telling all sorts of things that rattled him.

He didn’t stand up for himself.

But the moment he got with the program with his mentor, he decided to believe in his values, held tight what he believed was important to him and learnt how to promote himself.

He proved the recruiters and everyone else wrong because after the mentorship, the website, marketing, and learning new skills; he got the job he wanted and on his terms.

So much for “expectations are too high…”

If we don’t know what is important to us, and we’re unwilling to stand up for what we believe is important then life, and everything else can push us around whenever people and life want to.

Some of us don’t know the power of our values when we stick to them. Instead we do what most people do.


Whilst I was in the early days of my mentorship with Adam Taha, something happened that woke me up.

So much so, I held onto my values with my dear life.

Adam without a shadow of a doubt would always ensure that I understood and applied my values to how I approach job hunting; and doing my design work.

However, what concerned me was the huge difference between understanding my values and actually applying them to real situations.

Saying what is important to us is easy.

But when hard times come, when it’s so easy to just say yes to any job to validate yourself to the crowd, it’s not so easy. When bills are hovering over your head and student loans then it’s not so easy to behave in the way our values tell us.

Values are character traits.

They shape your character and most of all; it inspires other people around you. I struggled applying what I said was important to me. It was difficult in the early stages of mentorship.

But Adam didn’t give up on me.

I’m not the first to be mentored, coached and trained by him. He’s had many before me. From business owners, managers, professionals to graduates like me.

He understood what was happening within my personal life.

One day my community homework club were searching for a graphic designer to create their logo. I heard about the opportunity, because the organisation that I worked for ‘Reach Up Group’ had a meeting in the same building.

The homework club’s manager took me to one side and began talking about his organisation, hinting that he wanted a designer (he already knew that I was a product designer, word got round… let’s just say he played it right).

He knew that I was a product designer and he offered me the opportunity to design a logo for his organisation.

At the time I thought I was being smart, so I grabbed it with both hands.

I can remember that I really needed the money to buy a couple of marker pens and a sketch pad for my new design concept.

So fifty pounds was enough.


I knew that the manager was going to pay me fifty pounds, but it felt different when he actually paid me.

Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel good. I felt like I’ve just short changed myself for money. I informed my mentor and told him what had happened, he basically said…

“Weaam you threw away your future for £50!”

Adam was fuming.

I tried to explain to him that I needed the money and I wanted to demonstrate to companies that I am giving back to my community, but Adam didn’t buy any of it…

“You need nothing Weaam… No one needs money like this!”

I didn’t realise that I’ve been compromising what is important to me and end up worse than before.

Doing the work two weeks of back and forth with committee, meetings, doing more sketches, then creating the design on Adobe Illustrator and doing more amendments.

I could have finished a project of my own in creating a new concept for my portfolio to add to my website.

But most importantly – I broke the number one rule in mentorship, which is trust.

I didn’t completely follow my mentor’s advice and let distractions get the better of me. I didn’t feel happy because deep down, in my gut, I felt something was wrong.

That was my values speaking to me and I didn’t listen to what was important to me.

This was my wakeup call.


As product designers we want to own so many products that will help us show off our concepts whether through models, sketches or CAD.

Tools such as marker pens, sketch pads, computer software like SolidWorks are relatively expensive when we are jobless. So we find ourselves jumping to the first cheque to own them.

I thought I needed SolidWorks software and if I didn’t have it then its game over.

However, I learnt another thing from my mentor.

“Life will give you more, when you know how to use the little that you have. That’s thinking out of a box. You say you think out of a box? OK then. Start thinking out of the box and stop making excuses about what you haven’t got and what you need. Just DO IT!”

The moment I started thinking this way, was the moment I started seeing opportunities, resources and everything fell into place.

Ok, not straight away but gradually.

I realised I got everything I needed to get started.

I began working on a whole design concept with what I had in my house. I couldn’t believe how changing the way I thought suddenly opened other doors for me.

Mainly a pen and some scrap paper. No fancy gear.

When I realised the lesson that Adam Taha revealed to me; I felt guilty of my past excuses. I was embarrassed on how I rationalised my fears with what I didn’t have and what I needed to get started.

I felt that I let him down and most of all, I let myself down.

But Adam knew that I was going to really learn my values by going through experiences like this.



It’s time to reconnect with yourself. As you are true to your designs, then so it has to be with your values too.

Think of the following:

What is important to you?
What is acceptable and unacceptable to you?
What are the consequences if you compromise these values?

There must have been a time in which you worked in a job you liked, but the environment wasn’t great. Or you worked in a great friendly positive environment, but the work wasn’t helping you grow as a product designer.

See? That’s how values work.

When we compromise one thing important to us for fear, money, conformity, we find ourselves in situations we regret.

It wasn’t easy to find the courage to accept that most things in my life made me unhappy due to my choices in compromising my values.

We all need to start being truthful to ourselves and deal with whatever comes our way.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it’s achievable.

Here are my values.


Now it’s Your Turn.

What do you believe is important to you?

Your core values will dictate your behaviour, who you’ll associate with, what company to work for, what is acceptable and what is not.

They will tell you what you’re unwilling to work for and what is your offer and asking price for your talent and skill?

Saying yes to something leads others to believe this is who you are, what you’re worth, and where you’re going in life.

Saying no to something is a message to others to say what line they cannot cross, and what you are unwilling to compromise.

It’s not selfish or arrogant. These are your values.

Look at people you admire.

It doesn’t have to be someone famous.

Think of your family, friends, current and former colleagues, famous people, fictional people, superheroes, comic or cartoon characters.

Now note down the qualities you admire about each person. It’s entirely up to you what you write. Again, it does not have to be socially acceptable.

The values need to resonate with you.

For example…

Abraham Lincoln – Strength and Persistence – One of his famous quotes is “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Mother Thersea – Compassion and Love – One of her famous quotes is “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

You might admire someone because of their leadership.

However, what does leadership mean?

You look deeper and you see they are courageous, they are bold but also they are kind to people around them, and inspire them to get better at their talent.

So you have discovered values that resonate with you:

  • Courageous
  • Bold
  • Kind to people
  • Inspires others

This person can influence others. He/she doesn’t manage people but leads others by example. They inspire by example and what to emulate in their life.

Maybe you see someone is a giver. Selfishly giving to others from their own time. You find this resonates with you.

Again, you’ve discovered values that resonate with you:

  • Influences others by leading with example
  • Giving to others


Think about the people you admire but don’t emulate them. Instead, see what clicks with you from the inside.

Looking at others you admire is just a guide.

You might already know what your values are.

Take time to reflect and write them down.

Then detach from the outcome of what will happen if you hold strong to what you believe is important to you.

It doesn’t mean we are disrespectful to others but it does mean; we set boundaries for ourselves and for others we meet.

We politely and gracefully decline and send a crystal message. A batman beckon if you like, where other people and companies of similar values can easily see and find you.

It makes it so much easier for people, companies, and professionals of similar values to see why they need to find out more about you.


Weaam Hassan, passion in product design is focused on the human perception of beauty and interaction with the consumer. So not only must the product be pleasing to the eye, feel, smell, touch but also comfortable in the daily life of the user. She documents her journey in finding a job with an agency, while sharing the process of her product design work on her website.

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