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November 2016 – Jay Kaufmann

UXswitch talks exclusively to Jay Kaufmann about the value of finding your self before going to an interview for a job or organisation you will end up hating.

Last week I spoke to a design candidate for Zalando’s UX Team. Since we’re a large research and design practice with a variety of potential roles, I asked where he wants to go next:

“Do you want to grow as a people leader or increase your impact hands-on and deepen your craft to the Principal level?”

This candidate wasn’t sure.

I understand.

Just as we are now casting our net to find the greatest designers out there, I’ve cast the net from the other side of hiring as well. I was picky about who I would work for.

But I wasn’t as picky about interviewing.

I once spent over 24 hours in transit from Europe to spend less than 24 hours in Silicon Valley to interview for a job I was only half-heartedly interested in. In hindsight, I wasted a lot of people’s time and energy.

Please don’t do that to me. Or to yourself. Figure out if you’re interested in Zalando before you board that plane to Berlin.


Here are some ideas about how to focus in on the jobs that will inspire you.

Find your center.

Start by examining your values.

Values give you standing and integrity. They provide you a solid standpoint from which to engage in conversations with companies. This can help you hone in on overlapping values (“complementary fit” as psychologists say) or warning signs that the company culture might not be for you.

You might prefer to pick from a list or answer some guiding questions, but I like the following this simple 3-step “heroes” exercise.

First, put the corporate or societal values that surround you out of your mind for a moment. Find a quiet, comfortable space that feels “at home” for you, clear your mind, stay away from any electronic devices, and follow this simple exercise to explore your own core values.

Step 1: Identify heroes

Identify 3 people you highly admire. Include at least one whom you know personally.

Step 2: Name values

Why do you admire them? For each person, write down 3 values they embody … characteristics that serves as a basis for the respect and admiration you feel for them. Write each value on a separate Post-It.

Step 3: Sort priorities

Arrange your 9 Post-Its in order of their importance to you. Spend some time contemplating what these values mean to you.

Now that’ve you’ve centered in on your core values by looking inward, it’s time to look outward…

Find your direction.

Aware of your orientation, think about how to activate your values. Explore how you might word a personal mission statement.

Step 4: Turn values to verbs

Your values will most likely be named with nouns or adjectives. Explore the top 4-5 values on your list and reformulate these values into verbs. Perhaps the verb will stand alone; perhaps you want to work it into a sentence.

Step 5: Chart your mission

Now align your actions (the verbs above) to your ultimate goal.

Consider where it is you want to go. What do you want your epitaph to read? What is your ultimate goal in life? (If your first instinct feels broad, use the 5 Why’s to dig deeper.)

I performed this exercise for myself when I joined the Zalando Tech team and was drafting my own Tour of Mastery. The conditions happened to be ripe and a cohesive mission statement flowed naturally out of the verbalizations.

If this doesn’t do it for you, you might want to take a step back and walk through the well-structured mission statement builder from Franklin Covey. You can shortcut Step 9 by substituting your Heros for their Influencers. (The people who most influence us may or may not be the ones we admire most.)

Seek the conversation.

A personal mission statement is not going to magically give you the answer about whether, for example, you want to move into management or become a principal contributor. But it’s a good starting point.

After you have some clarity on your own center of gravity (values) and direction (mission), you can more effectively engage in conversations with companies who are hiring. You can stop searching for a job and set your sights on the best career opportunities.

You might…

  • Do some desk research and identify companies with matching values.
  • Ask early on in a recruiting call: What are your company’s values?
  • Tell a hiring manager your personal values and goals so they can identify if they have something right up your alley.
  • Visualize your values or mission — perhaps in concert with your objective statement — on your CV or résumé.
  • You’ll have set a basis for starting a deeper conversation.

Fail early.

Now, I love interviewing (from both ends) as a way to have interesting conversations about design practice. So I don’t mind interviewing you if you are unsure what your next career step should be or whether it’s a fit to the opportunities I have on offer.

An interview might just provide some great career counseling.

But now that you have the tools in hand, clarify your motivation for the job and the cultural fit from your side as early as possible. Cut off the interview process early if it doesn’t make sense. Say “no” to a company when you see the signs on the wall that they’re not for you. Resist the temptation to hang in just to see what they would offer you — or if they’d reject you.

Openly sharing your values and motivations will have built a connection more important than a particular job offering. Bowing out early will have saved both sides time — and possibly saved the environment just a bit of extra airplane exhaust.

Having said that, there should of course be no hard feelings on either side if it does in fact take the entire interview process to reach a decision — for the candidate or for the company.

I’m simply suggesting: Drive the conversation with a company’s recruiting team to help you see early on if you can get excited about working together.

Since many companies’ hiring processes are quite transactional, this quite strategic and personal angle might take them off guard. I hope (and wager) in a positive way. Please tell me your stories if you try.

But even if you don’t make it explicit, finding your own orientation and direction — gaining the confidence of knowing what you want — will give you standing and negotiating power in the interview process.

So start within. Make personal exploration the Sprint Zero of your career planning and job search.

If you are looking for a new opportunity come and join UXswitch or look at the many vacancies available on our Job BoardLooking for designers? Join UXswitch today as a top employer or recruiter.

jay kaufmann uxswitch zalando


Jay Kaufmann is UX Lead: Talent at Zalando, where he built the Tour of Mastery framework for User Experience designers after the launch of Radical Agility.

Source link https://www.uxswitch.com/start-job-search-within/


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