6 things I learned whilst looking for a job

In late 2010 I set out to find a new UX job in London. I’d like to share with you some of the things I encountered on my quest for a workplace.

1. Know yourself.

The first thing I learned was that, although the job title might be the same, User Experience Designer can mean many things depending on the environment you are looking at. A start-up might expect you to be knowledgeable in user testing whilst also capable of doing some front-end coding. An agency might expect that you’ve have created and presented pitches, whilst client-side might expect you to design email campaigns as part of your job.

Because all of these different expectations it is important to know what you want, what you can do and where you might find the most realistic fit for those two. In my case I found that what I want, –growth in my knowledge and skills in designing advanced web-applications– was quite hard to achieve with my mix of skills (best to be described as senior web-designer). This showed itself by the variety of salaries that companies were willing to pay me for roughly the same job title. Best advice would be to contact a more senior practitioner, who knows about your work, and gain a good understanding about your strengths and interests.

More to read:
How to get a job at a webdesign agency.

2. Have a portfolio

You might have a well written CV, hundreds of connections on LinkedIn and Twitter, and a well maintained blog, but without a good portfolio you’re unlikely to land an interview. I would advise to have three versions available: one pdf version that you can send out to recruiters, an online version that you can link to, and a set of printouts that you can take with you to an interview. You’d be surprised to find out how many times it’s quite a challenge to get online during a job interview.

As for what should be in your portfolio, have a look at Jason Mesut’s rant over at London IA.  As you can see from my portfolio there is still room for progress. It’s not completely clear which story I want to tell: am I a visual designer with some IxD experience, or a beginning IA with some visual design experience, also the items seem to be in a random order. The positive feedback that I received was mainly on my sketches and more conceptual work; which probably proves the point that the process is more insightful to look at than the end product.

More to read:
To portfolio or not to portfolio that is the question

3. Recruiters

As soon as you’ve uploaded your CV on Monsterboard you will get plenty of phone calls from hungry recruiters, all of them will promise you that you are exactly the right match for their inspiring position. Therefore make sure you’ve done your ‘know thyself homework’ and are able to quickly judge if the proposed job is matching your criteria. From my experience, there are some recruiters who are really good, who are interested in you and are willing to invest time to follow up on conversations. Here are some agencies that took the decency (or precaution) to ask me to come over for a talk: ZebraPeople, Futureheads, Propel London, Ecom recruitment and Vanburn at ITHR. Don’t forget, however, that many companies don’t (or even refuse) to work with recruiters, so it’s worth doing some active searching yourself.

4. Automate your search

No need to keep on visiting websites to hope for an update; modern technologies come with plenty of options to stay in the loop without working too hard. The following services allow you to sign up for an email update on your search query: the Guardian, Monster, the Ladders. And these services you can follow by RSS: uxwork, UK UPA jobs, London IA jobs, etc. What also might be an idea is to search Twitter for UX jobs and to choose the ‘show tweets nearby’ tab.

5. Linked In

LinkedIn was for me the site where I kept coming back to. It has the ability to do background checks on the companies and the people who are interviewing you. Also more and more companies are actively using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.

6. Quality over quantity

At the moment there is a strong demand for UX designers in London, therefore if you aren’t too sure about a company don’t worry too much about turning down a job offer. In the end it’s better to only go to job interview with companies you are interested in, better one well-researched and prepared interview then ten careless conversations.

more to read:
Improve your changes of a job in UX
Grow your UX skill set
Things you need to know to get an IA/UX job
Getting hired

Please let me know in the comments how you’ve experienced finding work and which knowledge you’ve found essential. And if you have some free time, maybe now is the right moment to brush up your skills.