How to choose the best UX job for YOU
A year ago, I wrote a post about handling job rejections, but I found that I spent a lot of time talking about how one can go about improving interview skills, instead of identifying jobs and companies that would be a better fit for them.
From my experience of bulk applying to numerous companies, this is one thing you should not do: Apply to places with the only intention of finding a job or for the sake of applying because it’s easy.
I applied to many places in hopes that my portfolio would suffice, but I ended up not hearing back from majority of them. I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted to do and tactfully apply to places that would be a good fit for the company and a good fit for me.
It’s understandable why you might use this tactic for finding an internship. After all, finding your first job is HARD. When applying for full-time jobs, it’s even harder due to the expectation of having existing experience and skills.
Because the time you spend at a job is significantly longer than a 3 month internship, you should be picky or else you could waste your energy, at least for a year, working somewhere you really don’t like. Below is a walkthrough I used to determine the places that I would consider a good fit for myself before applying.
What do you want to learn?
You can gain experience in whatever you do, but where and how you gain experience can lead to more opportunities that align with your interests and values a lot faster than settling on a job just purely for “experience”.
Asking yourself the things you want to learn from a job can help you understand your interests and narrow down the number of jobs you apply for.
1. Determine your current value by listing out your strengths
Listing out your strengths will help you understand the value you are able to contribute. This will help you narrow down on companies that could really benefit from your skill set, and will make it easier to highlight your skills when applying.
Along with strengths, it also helps to list out your weaknesses because it will allow you to become more aware of what you need to improve on, and help you understand where you want to focus your energy moving forward.
2. Brainstorm what you want to learn by listing out hard skills and soft skills.
Now that you have a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, divide them up between “hard skills” and “soft skills”. Listing out skills you want to learn/improve on makes you more aware of finding places that can help you with them.
Hard skills are technical skills directly related to the specific day to day tasks you might end up doing. In design, these skills can be prototyping, visual design, user research and design strategy.
Soft skills are skills that aren’t directly related to the specifics of your role, but can help get the job done and open up different career opportunities in the future. Examples of soft skills include time management and presentation skills.
After you finish dividing up skills, make note of the skills you want to improve on or continue learning. If you have strengths that you don’t want to focus on as much, now you know how to effectively provide value to said organization or design work! This awareness can be leveraged when interviewing or collaborating with other designers.
3. List out problem spaces and industries
You will go back to the list of strengths and skills in need of improving on later. For now, brainstorm industries and problem spaces that interest you or you want to know more about. This allows you to be more intentional with your job search and finding work that you feel strongly about.
From my internship experiences, working on enterprise and e-commerce products were challenging and fun for the most part, but sometimes it felt like my heart and mind weren’t fully invested and I ended up finding myself demotivated. This was because I realized I was more interested in working on products that were related to my areas of interest which are along the lines of arts + culture, education, social good and social media.
4. Find companies related to the industry and skills that you want to learn
With skills in mind and where you want to focus building those skills, you can start strategically finding organizations that align with the industry and the skills you want to learn.
I find creating 2×2 charts helpful in mapping out the landscape of lots of information. Here are sample frameworks you can use to narrow down on the companies that best match what you want to do.
Now that you understand the companies you would like to work for, narrow down to your top five and start doing research on those first.
When I do research on organizations I’m interested in, here is what I typically do:
- Find job openings
- Understand the role and day to day tasks
- Know what the company does
- Research on the top executives who work there and how they shape the company culture
- Find core values and narrow down on the values most important to me and how do they currently apply to my practice
By knowing the basics of the company I apply for, it will set the tone of how I talk about my work to designers and how I would be able to help the company with my potential contributions.
Before applying, reach out to people
To find out more about a company, talking to employees of that company are valuable in that they can answer questions you have, and can be a helpful point of contact throughout the interview process.
You can reach out to designers through Linkedin, but before doing that, make sure that you aren’t just messaging designers with the intent of getting a referral. You want to be thoughtful and clear with who you are, what you want to talk about, and get to know the person you reached out to. Make sure the message isn’t just about you.
For tips on effectively reaching out to people, I wrote an article about networking here.
Realize that rejection can be for different reasons. It could be because you don’t meet all the skills that a company is looking for, they feel you might not fit in with the culture, you need to better highlight skills that are valued by that organization or it simply wasn’t the right timing.
If you are interested in what an organization is doing, take on jobs/roles related to the organization you are applying for and contribute value in the things that that particular organization cares about.
If you really care about something, you shouldn’t try to make yourself fit in with an organization that doesn’t align with your values. The “fit” should feel natural on both sides. It can just be a matter of finding that out yourself.
Check out my Skillshare Course on UX Research and learn something new!
To help you get started on owning your design career, here are some amazing tools from Rookieup, a site I used to get mentorship from senior designers.
- Build a portfolio with help from an experienced designer
- Essential tools to strengthen and build your portfolio
Links to some other cool reads:
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