Let’s be real for a second. We all put post-it’s on the wall, push pixels to make them perfect, have a photography section in the portfolio, or reference some ambitious side project (come on, everyone has at least considered it). The way we explain our work, and ourselves is primarily through buzzwords and labels. Our stories, about us, tend to start with “I’m a UX designer focused on user’s needs.” Sadly, sometimes that is also where these stories end. Now let’s go a step past that and figure out who it is we are. I truly believe that everyone has a unique perspective, and therefore has a story that only they can tell, which is what makes you interesting and noteworthy. Sometimes it’s tricky to put what that perspective is into words. This is a safe space though, so let’s try it.
If you are looking for a way to make you and you portfolio stand out, or are going through an existential crisis then this is for you.
I have written dozens of bios for myself and for others, and have figured out an easy way to unearth that unique perspective. I’ve also interviewed dozens of people (like to hire them) and I’ve seen too many mistakes to count. It’s all about answering 3 questions.
Once you answer these 3 questions, then you should be able to tell a compelling story about yourself.
Question 1: What is the central question that surrounds your work and what are the experiences that brought you here?
You’ve gone down a certain path. Along that path are projects, classes, interests, hobbies, and stuff you avoid at all costs. Where this path leads is not important. What is important is to figure out why all of these things are on your path. There is a certain theme to these things.
I’m sure that some people may already have an answer, like sustainability, human-centered, healthcare, etc. But take a second and look again, make it specific. You know you are done if it gets you jazzed up.
Here is mine: (yours should be different)
Yuri Zaitsev examines how different people adapt to a constantly changing world and then helps them do it well. He is as comfortable behind an engineer’s soldering gun, as he is in an emergency room, as out in the field conducting ethnographic work as he looks for ways to adjust cultural undercurrents.
Question 2: What technical craft has your previous work culminated in?
Now all of those things along your path have made you good in at least one thing. Even if it’s really good at reworking code from Stack Overflow, or finding the best template to start from. I’m not saying you need to be the best at it, but it’s something that you feel comfortable doing.
I want to avoid you simply copying the skills section of your resume. These skills are actually just the tools you use when doing your craft. We must go to a deeper level than that. Michaelangelo’s craft wasn’t working the chisel and hammer. He was an artist and his craft was having an eye for what a big hunk of marble could be turned into.
Here is mine: (again, yours is definitely going to be different)
Yuri understands how to push creative boundaries from his previous role in bringing award-winning medical devices to market, as a Sr. Engineer of Advanced Technologies at Stryker, and from his following studies in design at Stanford. Since then he’s helped everyone from Fortune 500 companies in the US to magazine publications in Uganda as everyone rushes towards the future together.
Question 3: What do you do now?
This is actually the easy one. Tell me where along the path you are now. If you don’t have a job then reflect on what you aspire to do. If you are working on an ambitious side project that has its own section in your portfolio (like I am), then talk about that. If you’ve been consulting your resume while answering these then it’s whatever is the most recent thing on there.
The secret is that the answers to the previous questions now cast a new light at your work, and perhaps could help guide you to where you need to go.
Here is mine: (For this one, what the hell, if you want it can be the same)
Yuri is now studying mental resilience across boundaries, and brings his knowledge of creating physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing to new teams.
People love hearing cool stories. We evolved to crave them. So make yours a good one. It will help spark interest in the rest of us, help us make sense of who you are, and help us learn from you.