After entering the UX Design industry in Spring of last year, I had thought I had gone about navigating the job market rather well.
Summer and Fall came quickly, and all I did during those months was regularly tweak my résumé towards my applications, attend tech MeetUps, LinkedIn message individuals in companies of interest, make connections with alumni of my UX program (and college), as well as schedule countless calls and coffee dates. All of this provided me great insight but I was still left thinking, “What else can I do to stand out and from the design crowd?”
Recently concluding a teaching and support role for a full-time and part-time cohort of General Assembly UX students in New York, I was hungry to freshen up my search efforts but wondered what I could do differently to advance more quickly.
A month or so ago, I asked one of my mentors to dinner after work. I wanted to gain his feedback as someone yearning to formally enter this field beyond the classroom. I wanted his insight as to how might I demonstrate who I am and what my value is to those operating in this field.
He sipped his wine and took a moment to pause and reflect. His advice was the following:
“Think of your personal brand as:
How do you learn?
How do you think?
How do you approach this work?”
Put more simply: by demonstrating what you know to be true, others will see the value that you bring to this field.
We drank our wine, munched on our fries and wished each other a restful weekend. I left our meeting puzzled about how I should act on those words and decided to let the conversation sink in as I took an Uber drive home.
I had not yet understood how to take this insight to heart but I would and very soon.
As our cohort ended and a new group of young designers prepared to enter the field, I began to double-down on my efforts in terms of UX networking and projects.
Recently, I had traveled to my parents for a quiet weekend at home. It was warm, sunny, and I was studying for upcoming interviews. I already had a dedicated notebook full of details from company websites, job postings, online presentations, recruiter YouTube videos about navigating the corporate interview process and I had even looked at what tools some of these companies offered that I could familiarize myself with should it come up in conversation.
Still I was left wondering: “How else can I demonstrate my value, and what I know to be true in this field, beyond the standard interview?”
Then it hit me. UX — User Experience Design — is not confined to a computer screen, it is all around us. It showcases itself in the machines we use, the applications we navigate, the cars we drive, the elevators we ride to reach our office floor — heck, it’s even in the unorganized restaurant menu that you have to read through at brunch to find your favorite meal.
Everything we interact with has been designed and engineered to elicit a response from those using it. We are the users of our everyday lives. So why not combine the craft of UX with navigating the ambiguity the job market and candidate interview process?
Why not UX myself — showcase my career journey, what I have worked on, how a company’s goals are aligned with my own, and the value I can provide as a UX Designer — in a brief and thoughtful presentation for the interviewer?
Wondering how to go about this? Great. Let’s get started.
1. Where Have You Been Before?
From personal experience, the majority of designers I have met did not simply come into UX. They all had their own unique journey into the field — I have met folks who came into UX from web development because of the needs of their company, whereas I came into design from the marketing industry.
Wanting to showcase my own unique career path, I wanted to provide a visual frame of reference for those considering my candidacy. While a recruiter or hiring manager might look at my résumé, this did not necessarily capture my journey holistically.
Thinking of how best to navigate this, I concluded that showing an overview of myself and my career journey, similar to the structure of a UX “Persona”, would be a great starting point. I provided my career trajectory as a visual timeline, with company logos, a head-shot of myself, my professional certifications, and a quote about what I believe is important in the design space.
While the person speaking with you in your application process might know who you are based on your résumé, LinkedIn profile, or Portfolio, this visual gives them additional context into you as a professional creative strategist.
2. What Is Your Value?
While interviews usually gravitate towards the why behind your application (i.e. why do you want to work at ______ ?), you have the opportunity to provide the company with an overview of what their goals are and how you can address them with your professional expertise, willingness to take on challenges, and eagerness to solve problems.
Start first by breaking down the core company goals and comparing them to your own professional ones. Map them out and demonstrate where you can both align. Demonstrate what you know to be true about the company and what you know to be true about yourself, as well as the value that you can bring to their team.
3. What Have You Done?
Those working in this field and hiring for it often want to understand what work you have done in the past, as well as your design process in order to deliver a solution. As this is a story about you, think of this component as the “highlights reel” of your work — what portfolio projects can you summarize and demonstrate knowledge in? Think about the projects that speak about you, your UX process, and the problems you have faced as a designer. Hyperlink these works — make them a click away for that curious someone to dig deeper into your deliverables.
Finally, in this summation (think 2–5 sentences) you should note the impact of what you have done. Did your solution solve a problem? Great. Did the client execute your research considerations? Even better. Will your work be used by others in the organization you provided services for? Amazing. Bring these gifts of yours into the conversation and let it highlight your professional value.
4. Wrapping Up — Be Confident.
The next step in this process should be your closing statement, as you want to be empathetic regarding the interviewer’s time constraints and need of filling this role. You have already shown your initiative by compiling this deliverable for their review.
In ending this overview, explicitly tell them how your personal brand will have an impact on their company for the better. In two sentences, tell them why do you want to be here and how will you put success on the agenda. Keep it short, keep it sweet and be confident in your statement. After all, the statement — as well as this document — are a part of your personal brand.
5. Contact Information & Sources
This is the easy stuff. Provide your contact information (phone, email, LinkedIn, Portfolio, etc.). Literally make the lives of those considering your application easier by providing immediate avenues to your creative works.
Lastly, it is highly likely that you used the company website, online resources, and additional tools to bring this overview to life. Site them. Demonstrate to those around you that you believe in providing credit where it is due — this can be carried over in understanding how your success as an individual does not stem solely from yourself but from your team.
So, did this extracurricular UX project sound like a large undertaking? Yes. Did this take me out of my comfort zone? Yes. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
This “UX-ing” of my interview process forced me to evaluate what drives me professionally as a designer, as well as what I can uniquely offer to others if brought onto their team. If anything, this process helped me feel more secure in preparing for upcoming interviews because it forced me to really expand on the why behind my applications.
Honestly, it is not that I need a formal UX role (but yes, that would be nice) but it is that I want experience in this field where what I know to be true — and what a partner company knows to be true — can align for us to work together towards solving business problems for others.
I hope that you all will find this overview helpful in your own journey and I thank you for reading.
— Your friend in UX, Diego