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In an open letter to UX Design graduates, Academy Xi Designer in Residence Jacalin Ding gives practical tips and tricks on how to gain a foothold in one of Australia’s most exciting industries.
Dear UX Design graduates,
Firstly, well done! You should be very proud of yourselves for going through such an extensive learning experience. The product world is brand new to you and everything you’ve learnt is about to be put into practice.
The UX Design industry is exciting and forever evolving. It can feel like a black hole of mystery. Where do you go from here?
As you prepare yourself for a wild ride into the employment market, the future might seem daunting. To help you prepare for what’s to come, I’ve put together a beginner’s guide that includes some simple steps to follow as you look to make a fast start as a UX Designer.
Before you rush off to LinkedIn and apply for every job you see, just hold your horses. Sit down, close your eyes, and really think about how you feel about your whole journey.
If you answer these questions, you’ll get a better feel for what type of role and environment suits you:
Write all your answers down on paper and revise them frequently. Self-reflection is an important activity for any designer at any level.
Now you’ve completed some self-reflection, it’s time to add a little extra flavour to your professional profile. You need to make you and your work really stand out.
There are tons of fresh UX bootcamp graduates constantly flowing into the employment market. What makes you special?
Add extra feathers to your cap by:
Maybe take a little break after you’ve completed your bootcamp, but then get started with your first self-directed project. Remember, this is your first opportunity to drive on your own! It’s time to sharpen up all the tools you’ve learned.
This time, you don’t have to go through every single step in the double diamond process. Instead, be strategic and rational about each decision you make.
Designers who create their own projects are clearly passionate about what they do. Passion is the ingredient that sets you apart from the crowd.
Here are a few tips for your first self-directed project:
For those who have been spending their lives scrolling on TikTok and Instagram, it’s time to shift gears and focus on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the place where most professional opportunities live these days.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is looking its best. List and explain your digital skill-sets, get recommendations from previous colleagues, and carefully check for spelling and grammatical errors.
Follow businesses you’d like to work with, as well as their employees and recruiters. This will help you get a vibe on the company culture. Try to network slowly and avoid bluntly asking for jobs.
Increase your visibility by posting insights and writing articles. The key is to share your thoughts, promote your work and get your name out there. It can seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry – just hit that publish button!
This is the most important part. It’s time to make sure your portfolio is sleek. Keep it simple and weave your personality into it (don’t neglect the ‘About Me’ page!). If you’re not an engineer, you can use easy-to-build platforms like Squarespace and Wix. Design your portfolio like you would a product: conceptualise, draft, write and edit before building it.
Truthfully, most of the graduate case studies I’ve seen are not even going to make it onto a shortlist. I’ll write another article about how to craft a decent case study in the coming weeks. For now, here’s a high-level guide:
Before you secure a job offer, put yourself out there with internships and volunteer work. LinkedIn is not the only destination to make that happen.
Approach charities you want to get involved with and make contact with their employees on LinkedIn.
You can also offer to help start-ups. The good thing about start-ups is that you get to work with stakeholders directly. You can find start-ups by searching Facebook groups. I recommend you approach start-ups with existing designers or a Product Manager in place, since the projects are more likely to be properly organised.
If you’re going to work for free, make sure it’s worth your time. Know exactly what you want to get out of volunteering from the get-go.
As well as LinkedIn networking, try meeting other UX Designers in person. Nothing beats real face-to-face conversations with likeminded people. Find out if there’s a meet-up opportunity near you.
In Australia, there are heaps of networking opportunities:
Plus, you can get mentored by experienced design leaders via platforms like Adplist.org.
Anyway, that’s a wrap! I hope all these tips and tricks are useful to you as you start your job search. Keep in mind that it’s totally normal to hit roadblocks and face rejection. It’s all part of the journey to success. If you’ve got the passion, trust me, the opportunities will follow!
I wish you all the best, and look forward to seeing you and your work in the industry soon.
Jacalin Ding / Strategic Product Design Lead. Consultant, Mentor, Speaker and Designer in Residence at Academy Xi.