It’s not easy getting hired in the UX industry, especially since “UX” is sparkling new and largely undefined. What skills do you need to have? What experiences do you include on your resume? We partnered with UXSD, the student-run center of design thinking & HCI/UX at UCSD, to host a hiring panel, and a sampling of San Diego design leaders, including Qualcomm, Aquent, and VITRO. Together we explained what you need to know to find your niche in the industry, nail your interview, and excel at your UX career — particularly in the rising San Diego tech industry.
Our array of partners offered the ambitious UCSD students many insights from corporate, agency, freelance, and small-medium business life, and it was awesome to see our own dt folks represent the agency side of the UX world. We included one of our head designers, Jessica, who provided insights on life as a designer, our general manager, Laurence, who shared details about our hiring process, and one of our account strategists, Brent, who moderated the panel and shared his perspective from a career in digital.
Besides providing the students with plenty of sweet swag, the students walked away with valuable perspectives and tips on how to get hired in the design industry. Here are some highlights from what we discussed.
Where You Want to Work
Lots of research and insider pointers will help you find out if you want to work at a big or small company, as well as what sort of pace and atmosphere appeals to your work style. Two jobs with the same title can be totally different; it depends on the position’s responsibilities, work environment, and project dynamics. Find the right place for you, you need to look beyond the enticing job opening and determine whether the place fits who you are and how you work.
- Synch up with a recruiter to get the inside scoop. They can be like the friend that matches you up with another friend (the company) since they know you both, and think you’ll hit it off.
- Figure out what you value. Do you want to work at a corporation where you’re expected to patent innovative technology? Or does working with an array of clients within an agency suit you better?
- Decide your ideal pace. Corporate projects may be long-term and could be worked on for years before launching (which isn’t to say corporate can’t be crazy fast-paced!), while working at a time-strapped agency (that’s probably über fun) means you’ll be wearing lots of hats and possibly juggling your work-life balance. What works best for you?
How to Nail an Interview
It’s the big moment. You’re afraid of sounding over-rehearsed — or unprepared. So how do you keep your cool and get the job you’re excited about? Definitely practice your responses beforehand, know your resume like the back of your hand, and include all relevant experience.
Remember that you’re interviewing the company (almost) as much as they’re interviewing you. Make sure you find out if the gig is a good fit for you by asking in-depth questions about the position’s responsibilities and the company’s culture. Do you want to spend 40-50 hours a week there?
Here are the top tips from our panelists:
“Make sure the user experience for your resume is fantastic.”
(Lisa, Aquent) It may seem counterintuitive, but thorough preparation makes you appear more comfortable and confident to your interviewer. Resist the urge to wing it!
“Be very honest. Because if you’re not, you’re going to get found out.”
(Erik, freelancer) When you’re up-front about your abilities and experience, you’ll be able to excel at a job that fits you. After all, who wants to work for a disappointed employer (or get fired) within a couple months (or weeks)?
“The little things add up to the big picture that we’re looking for.”
(Shierleen, VITRO) This includes spelling your recruiter and potential boss’ names correctly. And be sure you can explain to your interviewer how your smaller experiences built towards who you are today, and how you’re an invaluable asset to the company. Which leads us to…
“No project is too small.”
(Brent, dt) Both Laurence and Brent reminded students to discuss any experience, like a website you built for your uncle’s deli (even if it isn’t currently live), or sketches of how you’d improve Facebook’s UI. Anything that shows your knack and drive for design thinking is worthy of mention.
When You Get the Job …
Keep expanding your toolset once you’ve landed your dream job. Continue learning and introduce fresh ideas to your company. Be the leader in new efforts to improve your company through best practices.
Though you’ll probably want to keep that killer job (because you did do your research before choosing to go for that company, right?), keep Brent’s advice in mind: “Hopefully your job will go really well. And if it doesn’t work out, get the hell outta there.”
- Apply yourself (after you submit your application and after you get hired). As VITRO’s Shierleen said, “Work ethic and hard work actually do pay off!” Once you have your job, keep showing you’re hungry for more opportunities and growth.
- Carve your own path. Especially early in your career, you have time to try different jobs and see what fits. But, as Jon from Qualcomm pointed out, “don’t jump ship every six months.”
- Remember who you represent. You may be at a raging party, and your company may be hosting it, but that doesn’t mean you want photos of you doing that all over social media the next morning.
Where Are You Headed?
Keeping your goal in mind — and going for it — will keep moving you forward. What advice would you have given to yourself when you first started your career? Share your tips with us in the comments!