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Shannen working at a cafe

May 2019 – Shannen Keane

Recent graduate Shannen Keane speaks exclusively to UXswitch on her experience of waiting for her first role in UX, the highs, the lows and her new strategy to overcome this challenge.

Coffee anyone?

So, nine months after graduating with a Masters in Interaction Design, I find myself having had one unsuccessful interview and instead applying my knowledge of psychology and usability to working in a cafe making americanos and cappuccinos. It sucks, right?

A tough transition

Looking on the positive side, working in a cafe does give me the opportunity to observe people’s decision making processes at the coal face of Retail. I’m constantly making mental notes on how to improve our POS system and reconfiguring the queueing process for increased efficiency. On the flip side, I’d much prefer to be using my training to push the boundaries of digital and physical product design. At least that’s the dream we were sold in college. Oh the endless possibilities. Past students did warn us that the road from education into the workplace isn’t always smooth. It’s just that, right now, I don’t know how rough and long that road is going to be.

I’m not the only one of my classmates in the same position. Some have gained design employment, others have joined organisations that do not understand design, organisations who’s design practice takes frustrating shortcuts or some who have not been given any real design work to do.

I’m also aware that the competition is tough out there. The standard of my classmates and graduates of other academic courses is exceptionally high. Added to this, there are a lot people graduating from UX bootcamps who have years of professional experience under their belt in a related field. I’m talking about Business Analysts, Marketeers or Print Designers. Knowing all this, how do I go about forging my own story and make it to the design workplace?

Experience vs. potential

Currently, I’m spending around 8 to 10 hours a week scouring the job sites, customising my cv and applying for various positions. I’m a frequent visitor to the likes of Glassdoor, LinkedIn and UXswitch. It seems to me that not very many junior or internships roles are available. Organizations want to employ people with work experience, pure potential does not seem to cut it. But that’s just it, I do have experience, albeit not of a commercial nature. I’ve had 4 years of challenging assignments. I can apply an effective process and my technical skills are proven. I’m as good as, or sometimes even better, than the next guy or gal. It’s time to translate this into what employers might value, time to speak their language.

A change of mindset

I’ve realized that, if I don’t believe that I’m a designer worthy of employment, then no one else will. There’s a need to walk the walk and talk the talk, so to speak. I need to get out of seeing myself as a graduate, as a junior. Step 1, I’m going to change my description on Linkedin from ‘Recent Design Graduate’ to ‘UX Designer’. Now I’m someone who is much more likely to show up when employers or recruiters search for UX candidates. Helping me even more with this is adding to the Skills section of my profile. I’m going to add ‘UX’, ‘User research’, ‘Interaction design’ and much more, filling up as many of the 50 skills that I’m allowed. In time, people can endorse these skills and further enhance my profile.

Portfolio improvements

Recently, I put a lot of work into my portfolio. I attended a workshop by Frank Gaine of UXswitch on this topic. I reached out to him afterwards for some extra tips. Frank has written a lot on the subject and advised me to set out the process and tools that I use right there on the homepage of my portfolio website. Now recruiters can immediately see that my project work is backed up by a user centred design process and they can tick off all the skills and applications they’ve been told to look for by their client e.g. Sketch, Axure etc.

Making friends

There is that old adage in sales, people buy from people they like. Firstly, you need to be someone they know or at the very least, someone they are aware of. You can work on the liking part thereafter. Even if Tim Brown himself walked into the cafe where I currently work, I’m unlikely to get enough time with him in the right context to make an impression. Therefore, I need to go to where these influencers and employers hang out. This means networking. DublinUX, Product Tank and IxDA events, here I come.

How do you get over the nervousness of talking to these people I wondered? A friend advised me to to put too much pressure on myself to begin with. Slide on up to a group of people that are already talking and simply listen. Introduce yourself in time but listen to begin with. No direct sales pitch like ‘Gimme a job’ or ‘Any work going?’. Not yet. Get to know people. After a while they’ll naturally ask you what you do and where you are working. This is the time to shine. You’ve built up some credibility in their minds already so you’re off to a good start.

I’m also keeping in touch my classmates, swapping war stories and hoping that if an opportunity comes up they’ll think of me also.

The future

I hope that the steps outlined above bring me closer to full time Design employment in Ireland. But what if this process takes ever longer than I expect? The well worn path of immigrating to a larger market looms; New York, London or Amsterdam perhaps. Alternatively, should I start thinking about adding ever-in-need coding skills to my repertoire? How about trying to angle my skills towards those areas like as Medical design which seems to be a blossoming area of activity at the moment?

However, for now I’m going to focus on finding a role in research and digital interaction design in my home country. And it would be remiss of me not to ask you to reach out if you can help me out in any way, with advice, a starting role or even a simple word of encouragement. Thank you from the bottom of my coffee cup.

Contact Shannen Keane.



Source link https://www.uxswitch.com/it-sucks-waiting-for-my-first-design-job/

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