Don’t Decline a UX Job Offer You Don’t Have Yet

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

A few months ago, another UX designer told me, “You’ve accomplished so much with your career, Jess. If you needed to look for another job, you could probably work anywhere.”

I was flattered, and I thanked him.

At the time, I agreed with him. After all, I have a lot to offer as a designer. I have nearly 15 years of industry experience, and I’ve worked at several prestigious companies.

I’m currently a faculty member at Center Centre, the UX design school. After building our curriculum and coaching students through our UX program, I have a thorough and well-rounded understanding of UX design. I work for Jared Spool, one of the most sought-after UX experts in the world, and Leslie Jensen-Inman, a highly-regarded pioneer in design and UX education.

Any UX hiring manager who knows what they’re doing would hire me in a heartbeat, right?

Not necessarily.

I’ve since learned it may be just as challenging for me to find work as it is for other designers with less experience.

Meet Alex, the Successful Designer Who’s Struggling to Find Work

I recently spoke with a designer I used to work with. Let’s call him Alex. Alex has been in the design field for over 20 years.

He’s more well-known than I am. Alex is a published author who speaks regularly at industry conferences. He leads workshops on a niche topic in design. He knows hundreds of UX designers all over the world.

And he’s currently struggling to find work.

He interviewed with a few companies and did not get an offer. One company declined to make him an offer. When interviewing for another company, he and the hiring manager agreed he wasn’t a good fit for the role.

At first, I was surprised to hear this. I asked him why this was happening.

He explained to me that he’s no longer proficient in UI design, which is what many hiring managers are looking for right now. He told me:

These companies want me to manage a UX team and do UI work. They want me to dive into a Sketch file and make high-fidelity mockups and prototypes. I don’t have that skill set anymore. I’ve barely used Sketch in the last few years. And I haven’t managed a team like that in more than five years.

Alex has a problem I didn’t know existed until now: He’s so specialized that he’s not qualified for many of the UX jobs out there.

I’m confident Alex will find a job. It will take time, but he will find one. Right now, he has to do a lot of work to find the right job — a job that works for both him and the organization that hires him.

This conversation was eye-opening for me. I realized that just because I’m well known and good at what I do, it doesn’t necessarily mean I can be picky about where I work next. I wouldn’t qualify for that UI management role, either.

I don’t plan to leave Center Centre any time soon. When I do, I’ll be strategic. I’ll need to find a UX job that’s right for me at an organization that needs my unique skill set.

Don’t Say No to a UX Job Offer You Don’t Have Yet

We have a mantra at Center Centre that we repeat to our students: Don’t say no to a UX job offer you don’t have yet.

We advise students to be open to all potential job opportunities. We tell them:

Applying to jobs is a numbers game. The more opportunities you pursue, the more likely you are to get a job.
Don’t turn down an interview because it’s not the type of UX work you want to do. Finding UX work is hard, even when you’re qualified to do the work.
Even if you’re skeptical of a UX job, go through the interview process so you can learn more about the role. If you get an offer, then you’re in the best place to decide if the job is right for you.

I used to think this guidance was relevant to my students and not to me. Since then, I realized it applies to anyone in the industry, including me.

Career Shifters, Be Especially Open

If you’re shifting your career to UX, be especially open to opportunities.

As of this writing, the UX job market is flooded with early career UX designers trying to find jobs. Many of these early career designers have little work experience or no work experience.

If this is your situation, know that competition is fierce. You probably don’t have the luxury to be choosy.

I recently spoke with a friend of mine, a career shifter, who interviewed for a UX job. He was in the process of transitioning from visual design to UX design.

I asked him how his first interview went. He was deflated and disappointed. He told me:

It’s not a true UX job. It’s a hybrid UX and visual design role. I won’t be doing as much UX as I would like. If they ask me to go in for a second interview, I think I’ll decline.

I was surprised. I instantly thought to myself, he’s turning down a great opportunity. I reframed it for him and encouraged him to continue interviewing. I said:

If I were you, I would continue through the interview process. As a career shifter, your options are slim for UX jobs. There are a ton of people trying to get into UX, and there are not many “true” UX jobs for entry-level designers. While not perfect, this could be an opportunity to shift your career and begin your journey to where you want to be. Some UX experience is usually better than none.

He thanked me and told me I had a great point.

Luckily, he continued interviewing and got an offer two weeks later. He was happy with the offer. It was more money than he was making at his current job, and he saw the role as a chance to begin his new career.

I gave him a high five when he told me this.

A Lackluster Opportunity Could Turn Into a Gem

While looking for UX jobs, ask yourself, “What’s the best job option that’s available to me right now?” Avoid asking yourself questions like, “How can I find the most awesome/enviable/perfect UX job?”

Of course, strive for the best UX job you can find. If you get an offer for your dream job, great! You are a lucky designer.

However, if you turn down interviews because you’re waiting for the ultimate UX job, it could take you years to find work. If my friend declined the UX role because it didn’t seem like a “true” UX position, he would’ve missed out on a great job offer.

Even When in Doubt, Say Yes

Say yes to interviews and networking opportunities whenever you can, even if a role seems “off” to you at first.

It’s often hard to tell what a UX position is like by reading the job description. You won’t know if the job is right until you go through the interview process and learn more about it.

We regularly remind our students and graduates to say yes, even though Center Centre students are ahead of the game.

By the time they graduate, my students have almost two years of real UX work experience. It’s easier for them to find work than career shifters who don’t attend Center Centre. But the job-hunting process can still be challenging for my students, and we highly encourage them to embrace each job option they find.

Remember that every UX job is a stage in your journey. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Each job is a stepping stone that will give you an opportunity to learn and grow, even if it helps you learn and grow in unexpected ways.

Thanks to Jacqulyn Boyer and Elizabeth Harp for their input on this article.