Mastering the UX Job Search: Secrets to Stand Out and Succeed

Raluca Angelescu
May 8, 2023
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Finding the right job, especially when you're just starting in the field, can be a daunting task. There are numerous requirements, a significant amount of effort to put in, and sometimes we end up disappointed. While nothing can guarantee 100% success when applying, there are several strategies you can employ to make your life easier, ensure greater success, and save time and energy. I'll talk about some of them in today's article.

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Focus your efforts on what's important

When we know what we want, we save both time and money. We search for the perfect pair of jeans, knowing we love a good bootcut fit, or book a plane ticket to a long-desired destination. When we're intentional about our search, there's less frustration and a higher chance of finding the perfect fit without compromise.

This principle applies to finding a job as well. Knowing what we want and what we need to do to achieve that goal will keep us on the right track.

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Before starting your job search, write down the industries, company types, or work you're looking for. Are you looking for a more research-oriented role, or rather more UI? This will also help you tailor your portfolio and approach, as well as gain a better understanding of how to leverage your previous experience.

Let me provide you with some examples. If you've been eyeing a job in the travel industry for a while now and consider AirBnB a benchmark product, why not create a project in that area? If you're a traveler who has noticed some issues or areas of improvement, think about how you can address these problems using your design skills. Demonstrating your interest and expertise in the travel industry will make it easier to secure a role in that field.

Alternatively, if you're seeking a more research-oriented role, ensure that you have a robust research process and highlight it in your portfolio. Make your research the star of the show by presenting surprising facts and showcasing how your passion for the subject led you to discover insights that positively shaped the product's future. By emphasizing your ability to conduct thorough research and apply your findings effectively, you'll increase your chances of landing a research-focused position in UX design.

In both examples, the key is to tailor your portfolio and skills to your target industry or role. Doing so will demonstrate your passion, expertise, and ability to contribute meaningfully to your desired field, increasing your chances of success in your job search.

Understand the job posting

Many applicants fail not because they lack the skills for the job but because they need to align their expectations with those of the position.

Before applying for any Design position, review this list of criteria to align your needs with your job search. Knowing your preferences and capabilities beforehand will ensure satisfaction through the application process, as well as when you settle into the role.

Here are some of the criteria you should consider:

  1. Experience level needed: Assess whether the position is suitable for your current level of experience, particularly when you're just starting your UX career.
  2. UX maturity of the company: Evaluate the organization's commitment to UX and its overall understanding of its value and impact on the business.
  3. Your future colleagues: Consider the team you'll be working with, their expertise, and the work culture they foster.
  4. Mentorship available: Determine if the company offers mentorship or growth opportunities that can help you develop your skills and advance in your career.
  5. Design impact: Evaluate how significant the design work will be in terms of the company's overall goals and the potential for your work to have a meaningful impact on users.
  6. Size of the design team: Reflect on whether you prefer working in a large design team with diverse perspectives or a smaller team with more focused responsibilities.
  7. On-site, hybrid, or remote: Consider your preferred work environment, whether it be on-site, hybrid, or fully remote, and how this will affect your work-life balance and productivity.
  8. In-house or design agency: Weigh the pros and cons of working in-house for a specific company or at a design agency that serves multiple clients.
  9. B2B or B2C solutions: Decide whether you'd like to work on business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) solutions, as the design approach and user needs may differ.
  10. Specialist or generalist: Reflect on whether you prefer to focus on a specific aspect of UX design or maintain a broader skill set that allows you to tackle various design challenges.

By thoroughly evaluating these criteria, you can better tailor your job search and application process, increasing your chances of finding a role that aligns with your preferences and career goals.

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Curate your list of skills

Sometimes, we may find ourselves merely listing a collection of skills we believe are essential for a particular job, which can get repetitive and boring. While wireframing, prototyping, and research are crucial for a UX designer, these abilities can easily be observed in your portfolio or past experiences. So, what skills can truly set you apart? Consider the often-overlooked soft skills, such as self-reflection, adaptability, embracing ambiguity, a passion for iteration, and the ability to generate creative solutions. Reflect on your strengths in these areas and how you've helped others develop these skills. Provide examples, and make sure you talk about these during the application process.

While you're here, try to differentiate between skills that you must possess beforehand and those that can be acquired or improved through practice and experience on the job. In some cases, these categories overlap, and certain skills are both vital and capable of being nurtured over time.

As a UX designer, you'll be working closely with software developers and product managers. The ability to collaborate, practice active listening, and maintain self-accountability are essential. However, you don't necessarily need to have experience with writing the perfect design handover, using handover tools, or coding. Collaboration can vary from project to project: some teams will be more agile, and others will prefer a certain type of documentation. However, certain qualities remain constant. Adaptability, a strong sense of responsibility for your work, and the ability to articulate your decisions are all crucial skills that will serve you well throughout any collaboration (and any job, for that matter). By practicing and honing these skills, you'll have no trouble doing great work, even with diverse teams and facing new challenges.

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Identify Success Stories

In addition to defining our job search preferences and tailoring our approach, another valuable effort is to reach out to other designers within similar companies or industries. By engaging with professionals who work in similar environments, we gain a unique opportunity to learn more about their experiences and gain insights into the culture of their respective workplaces.

While it's beneficial to connect with designers within the same company, it's equally helpful to reach out to those in similar roles within the same industry. Their perspectives can offer a broader understanding of the field and provide insights into industry trends, best practices, and emerging opportunities.

You can make these connections through professional networks, industry events, online forums, or even social media platforms.

low-angle photography of metal structure

By implementing these strategies, you can increase your chances of finding the right job in your field, streamline the application process, and make the most of your time and energy. Remember, persistence and continuous learning are key to achieving success in your job search.

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