Career Lessons from Project Runway

Posted October 19, 2012 by Marcy Farrey in On the Ladder

If you’re a big Project Runway fan, you were probably like me last night, anxiously awaiting to find out who the winner of season 10 is. I’ve been a loyal viewer all season long, watching all of the ups, downs, and dramatic blowups. And who doesn’t love Tim Gunn?

In all of those crazy challenges the contestants faced, they wee forced to work alone, work together, work under deadlines, and work with a wide range of customers. While it is all packed into a short period of time and very intense, these designers faced the same kind of career challenges we face — though fortunately, we have months and years to steadily work our way through them. As I watched the workroom behavior, there were some moments when I cringed, and some moments when I applauded. And now, knowing who won, everything makes sense. Certain behavior and attitudes will fail you — and others will bring you to the top. This isn’t always the case (remember when Gretchen won, and not Mondo?) but generally, certain types of people will prevail.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched the finale, don’t continue reading! Come back when you have had a chance to watch. For the rest of us, here is a list of the career lessons I learned from watching Project Runway this season:

  1. Remember your wins, not your losses. So many times this season, really great designers would somehow end up in the bottom during a challenge. They took their fear of being in the bottom again into their next challenge, and let it derail them. And Christopher, one of my favorite designers for most of this season, let his negative comments derail his vision for his final collection. Nina and Michael ended up calling it “scattered.” He let the pressure get to him instead of listening to himself, and remembering all of his previous wins. We all have wins in our own lives — focus on those. Don’t dwell on the losses!
  2. Take criticism with class, and really listen. All the designers this season who really listened to the judges were able to make great changes and push ahead. Fabio and Dmitry did this well. Ven, unfortunately, did not — which is a shame, because he’s very talented.
  3. Stay calm — slow and steady wins the race. It’s no surprise that the two most calm and prepared people — Fabio and Dmitry — ended up in the top. They focused and worked, and usually kept a positive attitude. We rarely saw them running around and freaking out as much as Melissa and Christopher, though both are fantastic designers.
  4. Be a team player. If you’re difficult to work with, everyone will remember that, and you will fall behind. I’m still shocked that Elena is the fan favorite, but as far as stirring up trouble goes, I suppose she is the winner! I cringed watching her behavior in the workroom — it was completely unprofessional. Running around, swearing, and arguing with every single person will not get you ahead. To her credit, she did apologize to Dmitry, and good thing — you never know who someone is going to become. And Dmitry became the winner of Project Runway.
  5. Be willing to change direction. The designers who had the most success were willing and able to scrap whatever they’d done and look at it a new light. Tim Gunn sure shook things up this season, wandering into the workroom and telling the designers their pieces just weren’t cutting it. This will happen to all of us at some point, and being flexible and open to change will help you in the long run. Things will change, and new challenges will be added — stay calm and focus!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but it was so hard to watch them get down to the final two! I loved all the final designers this season. Who was your favorite, and did you learn any other career lessons?

About the Author

Marcy Farrey

Marcy Farrey is a videographer, writer, and editor. In her previous life, she worked as a broadcast news reporter and producer in Lincoln, Nebraska and as a writer and producer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University. Learn more about Marcy on her website


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