Another year, another opening for a set design position at Lego. You'd think that'd be good
news for someone like me whose life goal is to have such a career. It's not.
Let's start at the beginning. In High School when I had to finally decide what I'd do with my life (and after failing an architectural drawing class hard, and giving up on studying to be an architect), I realized that my childhood dream of working for Lego wasn't actually all that unrealistic. Through BZPower and other Lego fansites, I met actual people who worked for the company, and they loved it. And I read all sorts of news on the internet about what a great company Lego is to work for. Of course, my interests had changed since I was a kid. Back then, when I was asked what job I wanted, it was to be a Master Model Builder at Legoland. But my building preferences have never favored large-scale models or sculptures—I liked the sets. I liked minifigures. I liked the idea of actually being able to walk into a toy store, and look at a product on a shelf, and be able to say "I made that". So I decided I'd like to be a set designer, and to my guidance counselor, that meant getting a degree in industrial design.
So I looked at some design schools, but as I approached the end of my time in high school it became apparent to me how much my Aspergers Syndrome and Non-verbal Learning Disorder affected my ability to learn and function in school. So I ended up going to Landmark College, a school specifically for students with learning disabilities. And I loved it. They didn't have a design program, but since it was a two-year school I figured that I could get my associate's degree there and then transfer to a design school. When it came time to find a school to transfer to, I looked at a number of options, but so many of the schools seemed so competitive and their programs seemed to ask the world of students. My transfer services associate at Landmark recommended Wentworth Institute of Technology, a school that had an impressive program for getting design students internships in the field.
It turns out, Wentworth was a hellhole. I spent a year there and it was the worst year of my life. I went from being a bright student who was constantly encouraged by my professors to being a talentless hack who couldn't manage to complete even the simplest assignment. And it wasn't for lack of trying—but Wentworth turned out to have zero tolerance for anything short of perfection, and no useful options for a student who needed clear instructions and step-by-step assistance. I withdrew from Wentworth, and went home to see if I could earn a position at Lego through job experience, rather than through education.
It's been a year since then, and I've been stymied at every level. Trying to get a design job? Good luck, if you don't have education or a portfolio. Trying to get a retail job with Lego, and work my way up through the company. Good luck, for someone who can't drive (and maybe never will, since I have a crippling fear of being behind the wheel) and has no retail experience. Trying to get retail experience? Good luck in this market, where there are always more experienced people out of work and looking for the same job. My only work experience was interning at the newspaper (a business my family runs), as a copy-editor, and copy-editing doesn't offer a lot of transferrable skills (and is a dying trade to boot). I've since diversified that to interning for the radio (also part of the newspaper), handing out freebies to listeners. For the past month I was working an unpaid internship with a local toymaker, hoping that could be seen as an advantage if I apply for a design position at Lego again. But I scarcely got to do any design work, and while he was impressed with my skills and knowledge (the first person to recognize such things in me for some time), I don't think I was furthering my future at all by working there.
So I quit, at least temporarily, to try to work on a portfolio to submit to Lego next time there's an opening. And now there is. But just like last year (when I lost my chance at a job with Lego after the first email back from them), I have no portfolio and don't know the first thing about making one. My counselor instructed me to look at ones online, but all I've found there are amazing portfolios that I have neither the skill nor the content to make.
If not for the total lack of other options, I'd be just about ready to give up my dream of working for Lego entirely. After all, no matter how many people say I'm talented or knowledgable about Lego, my experience in the fan community constantly reminds me that there are hundreds of people who are both more talented and more knowledgable than me, most of whom don't work for the company either. I'm an intensely uncompetitive person who wants to apply for one of the most competitive jobs in the world. And I'm just about at my breaking point. I can't tolerate much more disappointment, or one more "no" from a prospective employer. Not with the family paper going bankrupt and my annoying little brother almost done with high school (he'll have a job before I do, at this rate, and then any hope of ever getting respect from him goes out the window). I don't know where I can go from here.