Navigating a UX Job Search

Ask UXmatters

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A column by Janet M. Six
March 23, 2020

This month in Ask UXmatters, the UX experts on our panel give their recommendations on how to navigate the UX job–search process. They discuss online services and job-posting boards that can be useful sources of UX jobs, how to let people know you’re looking for a job, and how to find local UX meetups and connect with UX professionals in your community. In addition, our expert panelists provide links to books, articles, and videos on this topic.

They suggest that, when you’re just starting out or making a major transition in your career in User Experience, you should consider where you should live. What job market would provide the opportunities you’ll need to advance your career?

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Every month in my column Ask UXmatters, our panel of UX experts answers readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, please send your questions to: [email protected].

The following experts have contributed answers to this month’s edition of Ask UXmatters:

  • Sarah Doody—User Experience Designer; Product Consultant; Creator of The UX Notebook
  • Cory Lebson—Principal Consultant at Lebsontech; Past President, User Experience Professionals’ Association (UXPA); author of The UX Careers Handbook
  • Andrew Wirtanen—Lead Designer at Citrix

Q: Do you have recommendations on how to navigate the UX job–search process?—from a UXmatters reader

“That’s a very big question because there are so many aspects to the job-search process,” answers Cory. “I collect various useful links about searching for UX jobs, in association with the Web site for my book The UX Careers Handbook. I discuss these issues in Part 2 of my book Getting a Job. Two of the best places to look for new UX jobs are LinkedIn Jobs and Indeed.

“Make sure your resume and portfolio tell a story. A portfolio is not just about deliverables, but the narrative of how you did what you did and why you know what you know. Not just a team you worked with, but what you personally have done and know.

“You need to get the word out that you’re looking for a job. While you might not want to explicitly discuss this at work, there are plenty of UX meetups out there where you can quietly let people know that you’re looking. Just taking the opportunity to meet people in person at meetups and starting conversations is so valuable in the long term. Look through your LinkedIn network—your virtual Rolodex of potential new-job connections. Let individual connections who you think might be able to give you information or help you find out about an actual job know that you’re looking.

“If you want to be more public about your job search, you can post about it on LinkedIn. Theoretically, you can exclude people at your current business, but I’d certainly suggest some caution here. Other social networks that might not be work related could be very good places to post information about your job search. After all, friends and family could potentially help you get your next job, even if they’re completely disconnected from your work network.

“Look at UX-specific jobs boards, particularly if you live in a major city with lots of UX jobs,” continues Cory. “And consider creating feeds for jobs from broader jobs boards such as Indeed.

“While a formal cover letter might not be the norm anymore, there are often opportunities to make a personal pitch—whether using a form field or by embedding it in an email message. Do your homework and take the opportunity to express why you’re a good fit for a particular company and a specific job at that company.

“No communication method is perfectly reliable, so cover your bases. When you can, follow up with companies through two channels of communication before giving up—for example, an email message and a message through LinkedIn or some other kind of electronic messenger and a phone call.”

“I would start your UX job search by deciding where you want to live and work,” replies Andrew. “Once you’ve identified one or more areas where you might want to live, do your best to try to understand what the UX community looks like in each of those areas. Are there local chapters of professional organizations—for example, UXPA, SIGCHI, or IxDA—or other UX meetups? If so, do they have a jobs board, a mailing list, a Slack account, or an upcoming event that you could attend? Do you know anyone you could talk with, who might be able to give you an idea of the area’s UX scene? Can someone you know introduce you to UX people in that area? Try to find a mentor or two who can help you navigate your job search. Bu never expect a mentor to get you a job at their place of work.

“Once you’ve tuned into the local UX scene for an area and your job search is in progress, don’t wait until you’ve been hired to get started doing some UX work. You might consider doing volunteer work, personal projects, contract work, online courses, or internships that would add valuable content to your resume and portfolio.”

Sarah recommends your reading her article “How to Approach the UX Job Search” and watching her YouTube video on navigating a job search: “The 5-Step UX Job Search: How to Get a Job in UX.”

I recommend that you read the following articles on UXmatters:

Best of good luck to you on your next job search! 

Product Manager at Tom Sawyer Software

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Janet M. SixDr. Janet M. Six helps companies design easier-to-use products within their financial, time, and technical constraints. For her research in information visualization, Janet was awarded the University of Texas at Dallas Jonsson School of Engineering Computer Science Dissertation of the Year Award. She was also awarded the prestigious IEEE Dallas Section 2003 Outstanding Young Engineer Award. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications and the Kluwer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science. The proceedings of conferences on Graph Drawing, Information Visualization, and Algorithm Engineering and Experiments have also included the results of her research.  Read More

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