The trial and error of making a career change.
First off, this is the first story I’ve ever written on Medium, and for that matter, the first story I’ve written online since college. At least this time, I won’t be graded for it.
Recently, I’ve made a major career change. Going from technical marketing type roles (email marketing and social media marketing) to design (specifically UX/UI/Product Design). I thought this was going to be easy. I come from a creative background as a classical musician, I built a network of industry professionals, and I even went through a startup bootcamp to learn more about design. I don’t bring these up because they were mistakes, however, I bring them up because there is much more work to do.
What I’ve Learned
What I learned this past year through talking with my network and the bootcamp is that a portfolio is everything. It is the key to getting past the gatekeeper. The first question I brought up was “How do I get a great portfolio if I don’t have work experience?”. At the time, I had a side project that I went through the design process for. I had sketches, user-flows, wireframes, and even a prototype. I thought this would be enough to get that first design role. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
After the first review of my portfolio, I found out how amateurish that it looked. Padding was inconsistent, use of fonts were inconsistent. It was great to get this insight but very eye opening because, for me, I thought that as long as I had the knowledge of product and can pick things up easily, it would be okay. I was also wrong about that.
I’ve had a few contract roles working with startups on projects ranging from creating wireframes, building prototypes, implementing the front-end (had to become familiar with Ruby in one week!), and building style guides. Even though it was my first time working on these types of projects, I wasn’t deterred. I did my due diligence, combed through Dribbble, behance, and other design sites to make sure I was using best practices.
I finally had some work to add to my portfolio! Uh oh… Now, how do I properly present it? I’ve always been told that I’ve got the right cards to be successful, it’s just that I need to take the time to present them in a way that’s going to get me the job.
I’ve taken a lot of hits saying that my portfolio isn’t what they’re looking for or they prefer people with more experience (even for more junior roles!) but it’s not something to give up on. I’ve invested this much into this and come this far, and I’m not about to quit. I’ve made a lot of progress on my portfolio and became an expert with tools like Sketch, Illustrator, and Adobe XD. I’ve been telling myself, “I just need that one opportunity to show what I can do!”. Now it’s just time to continue the push and not be deterred.
I got this!