Ah, job searching. The supposed baby step that’s actually a giant leap into the world of adulthood. All of us have opinions about it, none of them are neutral. A while ago, I noticed that most of my fellow junior designers don’t exactly find this process very user-friendly. In fact, to quote Coldplay, their most frequent complaint was ‘No one ever said it would be this hard’.
That’s when I realized that my experiences interviewing for (and getting rejected) by 100 companies could actually be useful for my fellow peers. I’ve interviewed for almost every possible junior UX position at different companies; from giants like Yelp and Facebook to family-and-friends funded start ups with three people. I can say for certain that this period will teach you a LOT about yourself. And relax, this isn’t going to be a rant about how annoying the job search is or what to do in a UX interview. This article is meant to mentally prepare you, an incredibly talented junior UXer, for what’s out there from the perspective of someone who is still facing these hurdles everyday. Hopefully, what you read will make your giant leap a little less terrifying. So, here we go.
Let’s start with a big one.
No one cares where you’ve graduated from
I cannot stress this enough. Unless you’re applying through a career fair or through a university recruiter, hiring managers or recruiters are not impressed by the name of your Alma Mater, especially for junior positions. Your work is what matters, you are what matters. Shine through your work and all will be good.
Let your personality shine on your resume and your portfolio
There are some incredible articles on Medium about refining your portfolio’s layout and tailoring the content of your resume — all to highlight your fantastic work. While this advice is very useful for beginners, we forget that it’s meant to cater to a general audience. Companies don’t just hire you based on your skills. They want to hire an individual. So, don’t be afraid to have a little bit of your personality on your resume or portfolio. Show fun animations before you display your work as an icebreaker. Personalize your resume with a logo. Subtly highlight what makes you YOU.
Trust your instincts as a designer during interviews
Again, there are lots of articles on Medium that help you understand how to navigate the design interview process or the steps you should take while conducting a take home design or onsite whiteboard challenge. But, remember that these are recommendations. These steps are not set in stone. Design processes differ based on the context. The same can be said for the suggestions. They can be tweaked and optimized based on your understanding of the problem. In fact, sticking to a single process alone is detrimental to your growth as a designer and can curb your creativity when unique problems arise. When you’re conflicted between a process that would advance a design versus a cookie cutter process that you feel you must do to get the job, always choose the former. Similarly, answer design questions based on your perspective, rather than what the interviewer wants to hear. At the end of the day, it’s not just a case of them working with you — you will work with them as well. So, if the interviewer doesn’t like to hear your perspective, maybe it’s not the place where you would be appreciated and nobody wants that.
Interviewers are people too. That means they have different personalities
Many junior designers are told to be enthusiastic and passionate as that is a distinguishing feature. Yet, sometimes that rubs people off the wrong way. Some people take time to open up and be comfortable with you. If your interviewer is an introvert by nature and you seem very enthusiastic, it can be construed as dominating. So, try to gauge the general nature of your interviewer. How do I do it, you ask? With a simple ‘hello’. Notice how your conversation with your interviewer starts. Did they greet you eagerly or calmly? Respond the same way. That smoothens the flow of the conversation. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be yourself. You absolutely should be, you’re amazing as it is. But, remember that the interview is a conversation between two people. Make sure your interviewer is comfortable with you first, establish a rapport and relax.
Sometimes, it’s not you
If you haven’t already, you probably will face a scenario where an interview went amazingly well but, you got a rejection. You’ll start wondering what you did wrong, where you may have slipped up. You’ll rack your brains for days to answer these questions but, nada. You come up short. We forget that people are different. There are lots of factors apart from your awesome self that affect interview decisions. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what a company wants from you. You can’t predict if your interviewer may have had a terrible day at work. So, relax. If you can’t figure out what you did wrong, chances are you may not have. Let it be, learn and move on to the next challenge!
So, there we have it, my fellow junior UXers. I hope this was helpful for you. If you think you won’t get there, it’s just a matter of time. All of us eventually do. Getting your foot in the door is the hardest but, it will all be worth it. The important thing to remember is to keep working and learning: as an intern, on an individual project or even on a Medium article. Hard work always pays off.
Liked this article? Want to know more about my design work? Or do you just want to grab a Peet’s Coffee in the Bay Area? Either way, check out my portfolio at http://salonijoshi.net or email me at email@example.com. Fun fact: I’m job searching so, feel free to hit me up if you like my work!