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September 2017 – Alan Pimm
Oh poo, I’ve been made redundant! What do I do now? This was the challenge I faced and I know I’m not alone. I was the grateful recipient of my first ever redundancy package when I last starting asking myself this question, what do I do now? I am also blessed with an understanding wife, who wanted me to make sure that I did not settle for just any position, but that I took my time finding something I would like. I needed something that would make me skip out of bed in the morning, ready to greet the new day, bright eyed and bushy tailed (or at least not moaning). And most importantly, something which wouldn’t prevent us from spending that whole summer holiday in our campervan travelling through Europe.
The Immediate Aftermath
Now, I would like to tell you that I set about this in a methodical way. That I decided to use my UX skills on myself. Desk research, stakeholder interviews, requirements gathering, analysis, etc. Retrospectively, I think this would be a good idea (and fun), but given the time I had at my disposal I took a more ‘laissez faire’ approach.
I did not update my LinkedIn profile. I did not network or contact recruiters. I did not search for jobs. I rejected any offers of work, because either the contract was too long (and so would interfere with our summer plans) or they were permanent roles that did not excite me. I did some pro-bono work for a friend in the council. I did some decorating. I did some paid labouring for a friend. I caught up on films and TV I had missed. I played a couple of my 150+ as yet untouched computer games on Steam. And I thought. A lot.
So, what to do next? What should I be doing with my life? As far as I can tell, this seems to be a regular question for many of my fellow UX practitioners, and most folk in general. Whether seeding from an impactful life event (e.g. redundancy, or death of someone close), an introspective moment of curiosity, or merely a moment of despair during another well intentioned, yet ultimately pointless meeting, it seems that many people are pondering what their next job should and could be. I was no different.
What if I thought of my work-life as a project resource, and that I could choose the project? Would I really say that out of all the projects available, I would reject the others in favour of the one I am now on? Or would I choose differently? Another perspective I would ask myself was “if I was watching my decisions on the TV would I be screaming at the protagonist to stop being mediocre, and go and do something special or simply better”.
Of course, we all have some constraints in our choices. Would I like to work to be a pilot, an astronaut, a doctor for Médecins Sans Frontières? I would, but even if I wasn’t too old, untrained, and physically unsuitable in more ways that I care to list, none of those would give me a daily relationship with my family. However, many constraints are of our own choosing. Are we willing to move? Is a long commute acceptable? Is the role senior enough? Is the company in a field that excites us? Are they paying enough?
Figuring out what’s important
Should I go back to an Agency, or freelancing? Should I try creating my own products, or work with a start up? None of these really fit my desire to work in a team, have diversity of work, be able to grow professionally, and to have a good work/non-work life balance. I preferred being a permanent part of a team and project from start to end, rather than an expensive temporary resource.
So, what did I want? I love UX. I’m passionate about all aspects of psychology and technology. With the wide variety of roles you can get in UX, at least I was sure about that. Phew! I didn’t want to do a purely research, or purely design role, and I certainly didn’t want a purely management role where I would not get a chance to get my hands dirty doing either of these things. I like it all, and I want to do it all.
I had been fortunate enough to conduct some interesting projects in the past that involved delivering UCD processes for an entire company, including training and support (even a prototype room to support UCD activities) for all employees from the CEO downwards. These had been the most recent projects that had excited me. These were the ones that made me smile to talk about, so roles that allow more of this seemed a logical choice.
A good compromise
I would love to tell you that I then went out and found a role that fit my exacting parameters. Or that I created a great proposal that a forward-thinking company could not refuse. However, this would be a lie. I was lucky, although I’d like to think I had something to do with creating that luck.
A recruiter I had chatted to for many years (when looking to expand my team), spotted something that ticked enough boxes to get me excited. He had my CV so the first part was painless, however nothing was going to change our summer plans, and I’d heard nothing before departure to Europe.
It was the first Skype interviews I had done, and finding good enough Wi-Fi around a Slovenian lake could be challenging, but when I was offered the job (whilst at a bus stop in Florence) we were all very happy! I start the new job soon. I won’t go into details, as I feel my first task is to define and agree, what it is I will be doing.
How about you?
Would you choose your current position, if you were to stop now, and think about where you should spend the resource that is your work-life? Are the constraints you put on your options the right ones? Are you jumping out of bed in the morning, proud of the work you are doing?
I am optimistic that my new role will allow me to answer positively to all of these questions. Without realising it, I had the strategy I needed to work out my next step. So, what is my advice to anyone else in the same situation? Stop. Think. Question yourself. Enjoy the pause, and introspection. Do not panic. Above all things, do not panic!
Alan Pimm is a Customer Experience and User Experience Lead, Designer, Researcher, Manager, Strategist, Generalist, Champion. He currently works at Vodafone Group. Alan wrote this article exclusively for UXswitch.com. If you are looking for a new role, why not join UXswitch and get contacted by only the very best employers and recruiters?
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