Identity 2017: Occupational ✅

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My word of 2017 is Identity. Trying to piece together who I am, what I do & what I want. I set a series of goals at the start of the year & have slowly started crossing them out. And this month, I get to cross one more off my list: “Occupational- Get a UX job with growth potential” … DONE ✅


The Backstory

Landing this new job is 5 years in the making. I’ve been part lucky with good managers who have taken chances on me & let me explore, but I’ve also been incredibly dedicated to perfecting the craft of UX.

My first web job (which I announced here way back in 2012… wow) falls on the side of luck. I was barely qualified, but my boss took a chance on me. Luck just got me through the door — I spent the following two years pouring everything I had into learning everything related to web design, web communications, web development, etc. And on a fateful trip to Portland (omg, remember this trip!??) in 2013, I learned about my future career: User Experience Design. UX. It was love at first meeting. Everything the “Intro to UX” panel talked about perfectly summed up my favorite parts of my web job. I knew 100% that I wanted to call myself a UX designer. So when I returned back to Texas in May 2013, I began to look into how to transition into a UX role.

Part of that transition required a move — literally. I had to move from small town Texas to the “big city” of Austin. I knew there was no future in UX where I was & it was time to make that next career jump. So about a year later, I was finally ready to make that move and began the search. Meanwhile, I discovered the online Master’s in User Experience Design program at Kent State University. I became obsessed with the idea of getting a graduate degree & it was just all too perfect that my graduate degree would be in the career field of my choice. The two lined up perfectly — almost too perfectly. I landed a web design job at a law school, moved my little family to Austin & got accepted into graduate school all near the end of 2014. This was an exceptional change for me. Absolutely necessary for my career path as well as my personal development.

My last few years at the law school have been outstanding. I’ve had two incredible supervisors who gave me the space to define myself as a designer. And I had an amazing team of developers that I learned from, grew with & explored opportunities alongside. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow as a designer. We found our footing as a team & have been doing some awesome work. Lots of UX research. Lots of design & implementation. I’ve been keeping a weekly log of our work on Year of UX & it’s so awesome to see how far we’ve come, even just in 2017.

Working on my graduate degree while working professionally was also incredible. I was able to learn something in class & literally turn around and put my new knowledge to action at work. If you’re looking for a graduate degree & are interested in UX design, I can’t praise Kent State’s program highly enough. It’s not perfect — but since it’s run by UX designers, they’re always finding ways to improve the experience. As I neared graduation, I knew another change was needed. I knew I’d have opportunities that I only dreamed about two years prior. So I prepared myself & started the job hunt. I graduated at the beginning of May 2017. And I landed that desired UX job less than a month later.

How I Prepared for the Job Hunt

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I didn’t start my job hunt in May 2017 to land a job in June 2017. (I wish!) Preparing for the job hunt actually began back in November 2016. It took me 6 months of job hunting before I found the right job.

Preparing for a job hunt required me to answer 3 questions:

Who Am I?

I knew I was a UX Designer with 5 years experience who was about to have a Master’s degree in the field. I knew I was not a visual designer, graphic designer, developer, marketing researcher or project manager. I knew my skills and I outlined them directly on my website & portfolio.

What Do I Want?

I defined the job I wanted. It needed to be:

  • An established company (not a startup),
  • Who knew what a UX Designer actually did (the job description was key),
  • Of medium size (or at least a medium team — I didn’t want to be 1 of 100 designers),
  • That did no harm (sorry fossil fuel industry!),
  • With a team of designers I could work alongside, and
  • Something that would allow me to grow.

Putting parameters on my desired role helped me to filter out the roles I had no interest in pursuing. It helped me in interviews, because it gave me questions to ask of the company. And it gave me success measures for the job hunt.

What Am I Worth?

And then there’s the question of money. Because despite how much I love being a designer, I also really like making money. Lucky for me, the career I picked is in high demand & is growing. And thanks to Glassdoor, Indeed & other salary reporting websites, I was able to set a very clear salary range goal — and have the confidence to not back down from my “walk away” number.

Interviewing

I honestly can’t tell you how many jobs I applied to. I also can’t tell you how many jobs I interviewed for, though I can guess I talked to around 30 companies over 6 months. Many of those conversations were with the initial recruiter — mostly in-house, though I did talk to a few recruiting firms through the process — and I only did about 5 in-person interviews. Here’s a few things I learned through the interview process:

  • Personality matters — especially on that initial phone call with the non-technical recruiter.
  • Way too many companies don’t know what they’re looking for.
  • You really, really, really need to know what you have to offer & what you want to do.
  • Way too many companies don’t follow up after an interview. I was shocked.
  • Being flown to a different city for an interview feels as good as you think it should.
  • Positive feedback through the whole process does not equal a job offer.
  • Have a recruiter look over your resume. (After feedback from one recruiter, my interviews nearly tripled!)
  • Have an interview outfit & stick with it. It reduces so much stress!
  • Take your time. Be patient. Don’t rush the process.

My New Job

I had a job I was 100% certain I was going to get. They made me go through incredible lengths in the interview — four hour-long video interviews and a 3-hour in person interview in Indiana, which they flew me out to do. I got positive feedback through the whole process — even down to the last email with the recruiter. He said on a Tuesday that they were “preparing a job offer” and I should hear from him by the end of the week. And on that Thursday he pulled the rug out from under me, saying it “was bad timing.” This was a devastating blow that took me weeks to recover from. I even made an appointment with my counselor to talk it through. I felt so defeated & worthless. I was ready to give up on the process altogether.

The week I was back from Paris, though, I ended up lining up four (yes, FOUR!) interviews. Two of those turned into in-person interviews. And one of those turned into a job offer! Timing really did matter — and this time it was on my side.

On July 10, I will start as a UX Architect at Charles Schwab. They have an internal creative agency — made of about 50 individuals — that handles a small percentage of the digital portfolio for Charles Schwab. I will be working in their offices in North Austin. And I’ll be one of three UX Architects, with a team of copywriters, a content strategist, developers, etc. working on projects together. It literally checks every parameter I set above:

  • Established company ✅
  • Knows what a UX Designer actually does ✅
  • Medium (team) size ✅
  • Does no harm ✅
  • Team of designers ✅
  • Allows me to grow ✅

It also helped that the personality fit was just right. They offered me the job after only one in-person interview, less than 24 hours after I left their offices. I felt the connection & possibility, and so did they.

And just like that, my job search is over. I’ve accomplished my career goals for 2017: graduate with my Master’s & land a UX job with growth potential! Now to jump in and grow even more!