If you want to take the stress and overwhelm out of the UX job search then you need to apply a little UX to your job search.
Chances are you’re overwhelmed because you can’t figure out what roles to apply to, whether or not you should say yes to an interview, and how you can tell if a job is a good fit for you.
Before you click “apply now” on a UX job, invest some time to do a bit of self-reflection to identify your career needs, what you value in a role, and what your dealbreakers would be.
This will make the UX job search a lot easier because you’ll have a set of criteria to decide whether or not to apply, invest time in interviews, or accept a role.
When it comes to the UX job search, there are two types of people in the world … and we’ll get to them in a moment.
What makes one person more successful than another in the UX job search? Who gets hired faster, and into a role that’s a perfect fit for them? How do you find a UX job without all the stress and overwhelm?
To find out, listen in on two types of conversations that routinely pop up in the teaching and career coaching I do with UX professionals:
Sarah: “So tell me about your UX job search.”
Paul: “Well, I’ve applied to about 10 jobs in the past 3 months.”
Sarah: “Ok, and what are you doing to find those roles?”
Paul: “Well, I turned on the ‘I’m looking’ setting in LinkedIn and just waited for people to contact me.”
On the other hand, there are conversations like this:
Sarah: “So tell me about your UX job search.”
Patricia: “Well, I’ve applied to about 200 jobs in the past 3 months.”
Sarah: “Wow, and how are you finding these roles?”
Patricia: “I visit job websites and company websites, ask my network, subscribe to some job newsletters, and keep an eye out on Twitter and in various online groups.”
Which person can you relate to? Are you like Paul or Patricia when it comes to your UX job search?
Let’s break down each type of person before we get into the details of the # steps to the UX job search.
Approaching your UX job search passively will not yield the results you want
Simply turning on the “I’m looking” setting on LinkedIn will not yield quality job opportunities. If you’re like Paul and take a passive approach to the UX job search, you:
- Limit yourself to roles that may not even be a fit
If you only rely on people reaching out to you on LinkedIn, you’ll likely end up with a low number of options, and you won’t like the options you have.
This happens because recruiters are not always the best to judge if your skills match up to what employers are looking for. What though, shouldn’t a recruiter know this?
Well, yes … but. There are two problems. First, often times recruiters have not actually worked in UX. This makes it difficult for them to translate the skills you say you have with the skills the employer is looking for. Second, and more importantly though, it’s further complicated by the fact that the meaning of job titles and requirements expectations vary greatly because we don’t have standardized qualifications in UX.
Please note, this is not anything against recruiters. It’s an observation I’m confident to stand behind after doing hundreds of hours of research since 2017 about this topic!
- Set yourself to waste a lot of time playing the blame game
Passive Paul wants someone to swoop in and save him. By not being proactive, he can blame others for not getting UX job opportunities:
“Ugh, recruiters never contact me!”
“LinkedIn must not be showing my profile in search results!”
Wondering and wallowing, “why isn’t anyone reaching out to me about UX roles”, is simply wasted time. And when you start to go down the path of wondering, wallowing and blaming it’s like quick-sand and it can be hard to dig yourself out.
A proactive approach to your UX job search gives you more control of your future
Having a plan changes everything. It gives you more opportunities, more options, and a more positive outlook. By being like Patricia and taking ownership of the UX job search, you:
- Focus your energies on the right companies for you
- Feel more in control of your UX job search
- Increases the likelihood that you will get hired into a UX role
Now I don’t recommend focusing on the number of applications submitted as a metric in your job search (more on that later). But, I do applaud this person’s proactive approach. They’re treating the job search, well, like a job!
Finding a UX job does not have to be as hard as you think. By taking ownership of your UX job search and treating it like the project that it is, you can ditch the overwhelm and reach your UX career goals.
In this article, you will learn X things to do in your UX job search:
- Identify your needs
- Get clear your values
- Work your sources
3 things to do before you start looking for and applying to UX jobs
Step 1: Before you look for UX jobs, look at yourself first
You can’t start looking for UX jobs until you spend some time reflecting on what you need and want in your career right now and in the future. It’s like dating, if you haven’t identified what you want in a partner, then the whole dating process will be a lot harder!
To understand what you need in your UX career right now and in the future, reflect on these questions and create a list of your needs:
- What do I want to be doing two years from now?
Your next role is a stepping stone to the role you’ll have in the future. For example, if you have a goal of becoming a UX Design Lead in two years, and you don’t have any management experience yet, then guess what, you need to get some leadership experience. Reflect on the role you want to have in the future, what skills you’ll need for that role, and whether or not you have those skills now. Identify the skills you’re missing and add them to your career needs list!
- What did I like and loathe in past roles?
Think back to previous roles you’ve had (even if they weren’t in UX) and create a list of everything you liked and loathed about each role. Maybe you worked in health care and you really fell in love with that industry. Great, add it to the “like” column. Or maybe you absolutely could not stand working in an open-concept office. That’s understandable, add it to the “loathe” column. Go wild here, nothing is off-limits. This activity will help you can learn about yourself from past roles and uncover what matters to you in a role, beyond salary, which will be crucial in your UX job search moving forward.
Step 2: Create your Career Value Criteria
Once you’ve done some self reflection and a bit of research on yourself, you need to start developing your Career Value Criteria. This is a set of criteria that you’ll use as a filter for all job opportunities that come your way. In theory, you should automatically disregard any opportunities that do not align with the criteria in your Career Value Criteria.
Without a filter, you’ll waste a ton of time entertaining different opportunities that if you were honest with yourself, you might not say “yes” to if you were given an offer letter. This is your deal-breaker list. It will help you get very clear on what companies and roles to apply to. You could also let recruiters know about your criteria in advance to help increase the changes they only bring you roles that are a fit for you.
Your Career Value Criteria (CVC) should include criteria such as:
- Company size: Working in an early-stage company with 4 employees will be a lot different than working at once with 500 or 5,000 employees.
- Company type: If you go to a UX agency, you might get to do a lot of projects, but you may not seem them through or get to iterate on them. If you’re on a product team at a company, you may have the opportunity to go deep on specific products or features.
- Team size: Does being a UX team of one excite or exhaust you? Do you want mentorship from teammates? You won’t get that if you’re the only UX person at the company.
- Industry: Do certain industries light you up? Can you deal with the possible design limitations and regulations you may face when it comes to industries such as government or healthcare?
- Company’s design maturity: How much does the company value and invest in design? Are there people there you can learn from? Or does the company just know how to spell UX (resulting you being the UX educator, fun if that’s what you’re into, exhausting if it’s not.)
- Benefits: Beyond salary, what perks matter to you? Work from home, commuter benefits, gym membership reimbursement, budget for conferences and education, paid time off, parental leave, adoption benefits, pet friendly office, and more!
- Location: Are you open to a remote company? Do you only want to commute within a certain mile radius of your home?
- Culture: Love the structure of corporate or does that feel like a straight-jacket to you? Feel like you would thrive in an early-stage startup culture? What cultural things matter?
- Growth opportunities: Refer back to your list from step 1 and consider what you need from the role. Need to acquire more qualitative user research or managerial experience?
- Travel: Will the role require travel? How often? To where? With whom? Business travel is fun until it’s not.
- Salary: Intentionally left last! Of course, you must have a salary range in mind. But too many people only think about the salary. When you consider all the other criteria, this helps you apply to more of the right roles. And bonus, you now have an idea on what you could negotiate on beyond salary.
If you haven’t realized it by now, these criteria also arm you with questions that you can use during the interviews. As you go into each interview, you must approach it with the attitude that you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Before you ever get on a call or go to an in-person interview, create a list of questions you can ask to ensure that you get answers to the deal-breaker values in your Career Value Criteria.
Step 3: Work your sources & find UX roles that suit you
Now that you see the value in taking a proactive approach to your UX job search, you know that it’s going to take some work. You’ll need to find roles to apply to because it’s rare that the perfect role will fall in your lap.
This is why it’s so crucial to develop your UX network. Even after a role is formally posted on a UX job search site, it’s often through word of mouth that candidates actually find out about that role.
Other times, UX jobs are posted within professional groups online. Many of the UX communities have specific channels and areas to discuss and promote UX job openings. These groups are a great place to find out about jobs earlier than you may if you were searching on your own. But more importantly, these groups are crucial to you developing your UX network.
When it comes to finding UX jobs, you have to go beyond the big job sites. Consider these sources for finding UX job opportunities:
- UX communities and groups: There are so many UX communities but to start, check out Mixed Methods, Hexagon UX, DesignX, UX Design Community, UX Mastery.
- Twitter: Jared Spool tweets a monthly hiring thread where hiring managers can post opportunities.
- Job sites: Beyond LinkedIn think about more niche job sites such as UX Jobs Board, UXPA Job Bank, Remote UX Jobs, Authentic Jobs, Designer Hangout Jobs, Smashing Magazine UX Jobs.
- Ask your network: Depending on how public you want to be about your job search, let your network know. Post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Also, be sure to send an email to let people know because you never know who may know someone.
If you want to get a UX job, you need to apply a little bit of UX to your job search process
The speed at which you get through the UX job search is dependent on how well you manage the process.
A passive approach may lead to recruiters contact you on LinkedIn, but what is the quality of those roles? Do the roles truly match up to what you’re looking for? And, you’ll likely end up entertaining job opportunities just because they reached out to you, making you feel wanted. In reality, it may not be the best job for you.
Instead, you must be proactive. You must take control of your UX job search. Focus on quality of roles you apply to, not quantity. You can only do this if you do a bit of pre-work before you start clicking the “apply now” button.
When you invest the time to identify your career needs, what you value, and what your dealbreakers are, it makes the UX job search much easier because you’ll have a filter for which you can quickly decide whether or not to apply to or pass on roles that you find.
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