I have a lot of people ask me how I got my UX job. I can’t fully answer that in a way that will help you get one, but I can tell you what I did that helped me.
I am currently leading the UX efforts at a medium sized credit union in the Austin area. I graduated college in 2018 with a BA in Multimedia and Information Technology and a minor in art (think website design, graphic design, and ceramics). I decided very late in my senior year that I wanted to do UX after graduation. I graduated college and started reaching out to recruiters that were friends of friends to help me write my resume and give me ideas on where to start. All of them, I repeat all of them, said “you need more experience.” So I signed up for a bootcamp, the one I chose was not well known but it was held through the University of Texas and living in Austin, I thought that might give a leg in when applying for jobs in the area. Graduated bootcamp after 6 months and dove straight into applying. Here is what I learned.
1. Portfolio is key!
I graduated bootcamp with a partially complete portfolio, I threw together some case studies in the months following and started applying. After a month or two of absolute zero response, I decided it needed a revamp. I consulted with friends I knew in the industry, I signed up for portfolio bootcamp packages (Sarah Doody’s was the best I found), I even started looking at it from a UX perspective. The greatest advice I got was treat it like a UX project. I am going to write another article about this in more detail but the basic principles are: research your recruiters, tell a story but keep it simple, make sure there is variety, and be sure to call attention to what makes you unique.
2. Reframe the work
This was highly useful for me. Coming right out of bootcamp with little to none actual UX experience was hard. My resume looked empty and unrelated. By reframing how I worded things on my LinkedIn (yes you also need to have a good LinkedIn) and my resume I was able to show people that all my work related well to job skills. It’s all about how you view things. I worked at a daycare for a couple summers and was able to word that so that it came across as necessary skills to have. Good communication skills from having to explain things to children, empathy for users as I got them to use really anything the right way, flexibility from dealing with the ever changing atmosphere that is daycare. It is all about how you look at it, and how you can get other people to view it.
3. Network, Network, Network
This one is a little more of a roundabout way to get a job. None of my efforts at networking led me to my current position, however I am positive that it led me to where I am today. Networking is easy too, once you find a way that works for you. I tried everything too, so let me tell you there is always a way. Of course there is the obvious ways of going to meetups and job events, but I am the sort of person who hates going out so while doing those things occasionally, I mainly started with social media. I followed industry leaders, UX groups, and job boards across a variety of platforms. I shared funny industry articles, work I wanted feedback on, and industry questions I wanted answered. I then signed up for SXSW. Fun Fact: conferences give you free access if you volunteer. At SXSW I met people I now consider friends and mentors, who helped give me industry advice as well. It also introduced me to areas that I followed that became passions of mine. I started reading industry books and realized that I could spread my network even further if I started blogging. Feeling insecure about trying to write real UX articles, I stuck to sharing my notes and thoughts from the conferences I attended, as well as book reviews that I had been reading. Anything to get my reach a little further. I got two job offers out of this so I consider this an important step. One of them was a side project which I did end up taking and helped give me more to put into my portfolio, and one I turned down to take my current position.
4. Deal with Imposter Syndrome
This one is hard, and can vary between individuals. When I was fresh out of bootcamp I didn’t feel that confident in what I was doing. And after 6 months of job hunting with nothing to show I was definitely not feeling confident in my skills as a designer. The biggest thing to me to overcome this was to start giving back. I signed up to be a Teacher Assistant at my bootcamp for their following class. I felt a little confident in this, because I had just gone through the same thing. However, in grading homework and giving feedback I started to see the difference between my skills and a true beginner. Feeling ahead of someone was enough for me to start to feel better about my skills. Taking this job also allowed me to keep learning as each class had a different instructor who taught things a little differently. Working with people new to the field (well newer than me) gave me that confidence boost that really helped me when interviewing. So even if being a TA isn’t an option for you, I highly recommend helping out people who are new to the field. A lot of the social media groups have people asking about how to get started, or looking for feedback. Going through and answering these posts can help a great deal. Obviously though this isn’t the only answer and it doesn’t have to be solved to get a job. But I think as long as you can feel confident as a Designer you have better chance of getting the job and this can help you feel confident.
This one is rather obvious, but I am going to make it a little more refined. In UX there are a ton of jobs postings that claim to be UX and really aren’t. I would recommend actually reading through and seeing if you like the requirements instead of just applying for every UX job that comes in. If you apply to everything and aren’t a fit, hearing (or not hearing) back from these companies might make you more unsure. So be picky if you can, I know that isn’t a luxury for some of us. I highly recommend doing contract work or side jobs while job hunting as well. Being able to put things in your portfolio is going to help in the long run, even if you are only trying to get a full time position.
All of these things helped me get my current job. I hope they help you get yours.
I also plan to write an article in the next few weeks going more in depth on the portfolio piece, so be on the lookout for that!