How I Landed My First UX Design Job — While Still Completing My UX Design Bootcamp
uxdesign.cc – User Experience Design — Medium | Vivianne Castillo
I recently accepted my first full-time UX Designer position — while still completing my UX Design Bootcamp at Bloc — and have been flooded with emails and phone calls asking the same questions:
How long has it been since your career switch?
What types of questions were asked during your interview?
What do you think was the most important part of your job search that secured you a position?
Would you say that anyone can be a UX Designer?
How far along were you with Bloc’s Designer Track before you started applying for jobs?
While these questions seem helpful, they unfortunately cause people to focus on what is out of their control instead of what is in their control.
Whatever your reason is for doing a UX (or coding) bootcamp, I hope these 10 tips will make the journey a little lighter, more fruitful, and less lonely.
1. Before you even sign up for a bootcamp do your research and interview other graduates.
I spent almost three months researching different bootcamps, emailing their student advisors and talking to alumni before I selected one.
If you’re going to invest time, money and the occasional emotional breakdown into a bootcamp, you should know what you’re stepping into.
Do not go off of romanticized daydreams of what your new career will be like. Do not base your decision on if the program offers tuition reimbursement if you don’t find a job. Find out what the student experience is like (e.g. what you’ll be learning, how they go about mentorship, how do they support their students). Then talk to real graduates — don’t just go off of their testimonials — see if the program actually prepared them for their new career.
Interview graduates and learn from their mistakes and learn from their success — but especially learn from their mistakes. My favorite question to ask: “If you could go back and give your just-began-the-bootcamp-self advice, what would you say?” Ask about life during and after the bootcamp. A lot of the times we want to rush to how life turned out for them after the bootcamp without hearing about the journey.
2. Do not, I repeat, do not depend solely on the resources and mentorship that your bootcamp provides you.
The program that I am a part of is great. Great resources, solid mentorship, and a vibrant online community. I’ve heard stories, read blog posts from students who are disappointed with their bootcamp experience and often blame the bootcamp. Most students find themselves in that predicament because they wanted to be told what to think about UX Design instead of learning how to think about UX Design.
In other words, expose yourself to other professional UX Designers and their way of thinking. If you don’t you run the risk of experiencing designhemorrhaging. Example:
“What?! How could you say that! [Insert name of well-known UX Designer, your mentor’s name, my mom] said that you don’t need to know how to code as a UX Designer!”
Designhemorrhaging is treatable and it involves actively pursuing knowledge and practice outside of your bootcamp.
Hint: podcasts, Flipboard and Twitter are great places to start (see point #7).
3. Networking is a nonnegotiable must.
It takes practice and it might feel awkward. You might be saying, “But I’m an introvert, I just can’t do networking.” To slip back into my previous life of being a counselor, “can I?” is the wrong question to be asking yourself. The right question is “will I?”. I’ve made it a personal goal to go to at least one Meetup/networking event each week. Which means that I personally schedule the event into my life (type it in my cell phone’s calendar and write it in my journal). Try bringing with you friends who are interested in what you are learning or who are just curious about this area of the tech scene.
At the end of the day, your future employer will not care that you are introverted or that you hate talking to people you don’t know. They’ll want you to be able to talk to clients and the people you are interviewing without passing out or without causing them to want to run away from you.
The gift of grace is that you have time to work on this now. In my Shaun T. voice: YOU CAN DO IT!
My Challenge to You: take the first step, go to meetup.com and commit to going to at least two events this month.
4. If you can, find and complete an internship doing real client work while you are also in your bootcamp.
About a couple months into my bootcamp, I began to read articles and stories about graduates who had decided to pursue an internship after graduation. I believe that learning is best done with hands on experience, implementing what you’ve learned into the real world. I had the amazing opportunity of securing an internship with Webjunto, a company in Philadelphia that specializes in user experience design and mobile app development — and they are intentionally a diverse workplace! I’m well aware that I have been spoiled by being in such a diverse and collaborative work environment (in comparison to most companies in tech). Another reason why that experience was priceless.
To say that I learned a ton would be an understatement and I was able to gain the real-life experience that bootcamps often do not provide (e.g. presenting research to real clients, defending and presenting design decisions to a group of people, and collaborating in a team-oriented, agile work environment). It also gave my current employer confidence and peace of mind knowing that I have experience working with real clients.
5. Start updating, changing, rewriting your resume now.
When it comes to resumes, I think the hardest part is the art of highlighting transferable skills in your previous work experience. While I recognize that most people are not in my shoes — having my side resume writing business and 24/7 access to my mom and her 20+ years of HR experience — I still think that all students have access to the tools, resources, and people to create resumes that can translate to prospective job interviews.
DO: Ask professional UX Designers if they’d be willing to take a look at your resume and offer any advice.
DO NOT: Overly depend on your bootcamp classmates. It’s more helpful to hear from someone who already has their foot in the door.
DO: Consult outside resources (like TheMuse.com) and read resumes of other UX Designers.
DO NOT: Copy and paste/plagiarize your resume. Have integrity or get out of this field.
DO: Highlight your transferable skills in your previous experiences, even if it means rewording your resume.
DO NOT: Be dishonest about the level of your skills, provide half-truths or alternative facts. You will be found out and it will eventually come to light.
6. “Choose the pain of discipline over the pain of regret.”
I tell myself this quote every single day. In other words, make sacrifices (besides money) and fight for what you want. Here’s how “choosing the pain of discipline” has looked like for me:
· Dropping out of my graduate school program so that I could dedicate all time and focus to UX Design — even with only 1 semester left.
· Having select days where I choose to not watch Netflix, TV, or go on social media.
· Scheduling what time I’m going to be working on my UX Design skills.
· Going to a Meetup when I’d rather be at home or doing something more fun with friends.
· Budgeting. Yes … budgeting. Don’t act like I’m the only one who thinks budgeting is painful.
· Listening to a podcast in the car instead of jamming out to Tom Misch or Erykah Badu.
· Saying no to events and fun outings that would cause me to not touch UX Design all day.
· Waking up early on holidays to work on my craft so that it wouldn’t disturb family time.
· Waking up early or getting out of bed when my husband is asleep to work on UX Design skills so that I don’t neglect my marriage.
And here’s what the “pain of regret” would look like for me:
· Not getting a job as a UX Designer.
· Not being able to financially provide for my family.
· Wasting time and money.
· Not being a career that I love, wake up for, and enjoy.
· Knowing that I missed out on something that was within my reach.
I would encourage you to make your own lists and fight for what you want. The bootcamp owes you nothing. It is a tool, a resource. You have to exercise discipline and self-control to get the career you want.
7. Believe it or not, Twitter is your friend.
Can I be real with you for a second? I hate Twitter.
I hate Twitter because of the unnecessary stress it can give you, the “Am I posting enough?” or “Should I like this person’s tweet?” or the fight against comparing myself to other people with, “Wow, they have a lot more followers than me.” I hate how a tool that’s supposed to connect us to each other can cause people to become more disconnected with themselves.
Yet, I love Twitter. I love how I have daily access to tons of articles, case studies, and job postings. Yes, I said job postings. Search “philly ux jobs” or “Philadelphia ux jobs” and you’ll be surprised by how many people and companies actually post jobs on Twitter! I love having 140-character insight into the minds of UX Designers I admire and companies/organizations that are doing amazing work in the field.
Twitter is part of the reason why I was able to connect with my design hero, participate in his workshop, have lunch with him and some of his team in San Francisco and have continued to be blessed by his friendship and wisdom.
Twitter is part of the reason why I met my friend Mike — the most woke white person I know … yes, I said woke — who cares about diversity in tech, restoring humanity to the workplace, and wants to harness the powers of design for good instead of evil. Learn more here.
Twitter is how I learned about the company that would offer me an internship.
Twitter is where UX Designers have been willing to engage with me via DM about topics related to my career path, UX trends, etc.
Twitter (while it’s still in business) is your friend.
8. Eat well, work out, and sleep.
Let’s be real. You have a lot of goals that you want to accomplish and it can be holistically taxing: emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally and socially. So do yourself a favor and take care of yourself.
Self-care is key. Start today.
9. Be vulnerable.
Being a UX Designer is a call to be vulnerable, but you can’t embrace that idea unless you understand that vulnerability is not weakness. While you may not have time to read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, you do have time to read this excerpt.
Being vulnerable is the key to staying humble: arrogance will always prevent the UX Designer from reaching their full potential.
Being vulnerable allows you to ask for help: this protects you from isolation and can allow you to flourish in your areas of weakness.
Being vulnerable exposes you to new levels of creativity: showing your work and opening yourself up to constructive criticism is difficult, but you can’t grow without it and creativity will be stunted without it.
Being vulnerable means taking off the mask: when we’re honest with ourselves and others where we are, what we’re struggling with, the doubts that seem to consume us, imposter syndrome, we also open up ourselves to community, support, encouragement and moments of empowerment.
I imagine that if the UX Design community embraced vulnerability more, we would create more impactful experiences, engage people without confusing pity for empathy, and talk more about the one thing people don’t want to discuss when talking about the issue of diversity in the tech field.
Indeed, another post for another day.
10. Choose courage over comfort.
I’ll leave you with this quote:
“We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” (Brene Brown)
It is more comfortable to depend on your bootcamp for everything instead of venturing outside of it to learn and grow. Choose courage.
It is more comfortable to stay in the career you hate and give up on the one you want to pursue. Choose courage.
It is more comfortable to not network, reach out for help, or ask the person who is currently working in your field out for coffee. Choose courage.
It is more comfortable to complain, blame your bootcamp, blame your mentor, blame recruiters and employers who “don’t know the difference between UX and UI.” Choose courage.
It is more comfortable to compare yourself to others in their UX journey than to make a game plan and commit to how you’re going to excel in yours. Choose courage.
Stay humble. Hustle hard.
How I Landed My First UX Design Job — While Still Completing My UX Design Bootcamp was originally published in uxdesign.cc on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.