How to land your dream job in 4 months (or how I did it anyway)

This week I had my first project meeting as a User Experience (UX) Designer at an exciting new FinTech, working with an inspirational project team – a.k.a. ‘My dream job’.

Moving into a UX role has been my ONLY development goal for the last three years, so why have I only made any real progress in the last four months?

Let’s start with my last job, where I was a top performer pulling in strong performance ratings every year, yet I never really got anywhere. Why?

***News flash*** If you’re the diligent employee in the office, working really hard and hoping to get noticed, all you get is…

…more work.

(It’s taken me twenty years to realise that).

So how did I go from that diligent girl with the overflowing in-tray to finally achieving my career goal in just four months?

Here’s how:


  1. Get a mentor
Whatever your career goal is, find someone who is good at that thing, then ask them to mentor you.

Most people will be flattered you thought of them and will be delighted to help. It’s not a huge time spend for either of you. An hour a month is plenty.

Mentors don’t just give invaluable advice. They can also open doors for you, make introductions and get you a seat at that all important table.

I’ve got three.

(I was also lucky enough to work with an incredible life coach for 6 weeks, which I can highly recommend if you’re going through a transformational period in your life. They can help you focus on what you really want and give you the confidence to actually do it).


2. Polish your personal brand

This one should ideally be done before you starting putting yourself out there. Your mentor can help by giving you feedback.

If you don’t know what your personal brand is, do some soul searching. What are the three words you’d like people to say about you when you’re not there? Make sure everything you do, say or write aligns to them.

***Lightbulb moment*** Your personal brand should match your core values. Apparently people get a bit off kilter when the job they’re doing doesn’t reflect what they believe in. I’m a classic example.

When I started in Information Design years ago, I always wanted to learn the trade, then take my skills off to work for a charity. At some point, I fell into project management, then marketing, and somewhere along the way, I forgot about my dream.

Through my life coach, I did an exercise to draw out my core values and that helped me refocus. Lo and behold, the FinTech I started working with this week exists solely to raise money for charity…And we’re back on track folks!

Once you have your personal brand nailed, project it on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is polished, and reflects who you really are and where you want to be.

Get a decent photo (i.e. not that one from the wedding you went to last year). It doesn’t have to be a professional shot. (My husband took mine in our hallway).

There are loads of articles out there on how to write a good LinkedIn profile. Read them, write a draft, reduce the number of words by half, get objective feedback (i.e. not from your mum), reduce the number of words again, get more feedback, update and you’re good to go.

Oh – and dress as if you already HAVE your dream job.


3. Get qualified

Whatever the qualification is that everyone who does your dream job has…get it. If you already have it, congratulations. Move straight to point 4.

In my case, it was a professional diploma in UX design. I left my job to do it, but I know other people who are doing the course and working at the same time.

Saying you are studying for said qualification looks great on your LinkedIn profile and is a fabulous icebreaker when you start networking (see point 4).

If there isn’t a qualification, then get reading. Medium is a fantastic source of information and you can tailor it to your specific interests. At the very least, fill up your Twitter feed with experts in your chosen field.


4. Network, network, network

This, for me, has been the game changer. In the last four months, I’ve been to more catch ups, meet ups and conferences than in the rest of my career put together. It really works.

Join groups in your area that are related to your dream role. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised how many are out there and holding regular meet ups.

Get on Meet Up, Creative Mornings, LinkedIn, Twitter and any other tool where your dream team hang out. In my case, I also joined Women in Banking and Finance, UX Scotland, FinTech Scotland and The Marketing Society.

If you meet anyone interesting or influential there, hunt them down on LinkedIn and ask if they have time to meet you for a coffee and a chat.

By networking in person you’ll get to know your community and, more importantly, they’ll get to know you.

You’ll hear about more events, make more connections and get the chance to throw your hat in the ring if a job offer comes up.

But don’t waste your time going back to a meet up if you didn’t get anything out of it. Politely decline future sessions and move on. Next!


5. Take that opportunity, regardless of the paycheque

If you’re new to your dream discipline, what you need is experience. But you want the right experience.

However shiny that shiny thing/job offer/pay rise is, don’t be distracted by it. Refer back to your core values, your personal brand and what you really want to do, then let it go.

If the right opportunity comes along that gets you a foot in door, but doesn’t pay as much as you’d like, take it.

At the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen? You might have lived on saver’s beans for a while, but you’ll have a great piece of work for your CV/portfolio that fully supports your personal brand and future career goals, making it much easier to land the better paid version next time.


Conclusion

The last four months have been a massive eye opener for me. I’ve not only learned a lot about my new calling, but also about myself. I can highly recommend it.

Now, I’m not saying you’re guaranteed to land your dream job if you follow in my footsteps and implement the five steps above, but I can assure you that you’ll be a lot closer to your goal than you are right now. Good luck!