So, you’ve finished your course, degree, bootcamp or self-taught journey. Congratulations! Now begins the all important process of landing the job. This is where it gets real, where you put what you’ve learnt to action. You now have to convince a company you know what you’re talking about, and that they should pay you to do it. It can be a tricky period of rejection and frustration.
But, fear not because I’ve recently completed it. And I’m going to share every single thing I did that landed me my first job. They are tips, tricks and tactics I collected while on my own job search — and resulted in me getting one.
Naturally, I can’t tell you specifically which tip made the difference. Did I need to do all of these things? Maybe I only needed to do 75% of them, maybe just 50%. I will never be able to tell. I just know that I did them, and I landed the job. So have fun, and pick the ones you feel are right for you.
Some information about me before we kick off. I’m 2 months into my first salaried UX/UI Design role. My experience included bootcamp case studies, free redesigns, and online learning and courses.
The job I’ve landed is for myenergi — a fast growing eco-tech manufacturing company in the UK.
Before, I spent 6 years in creative digital content at the UK’s largest national children’s charity.
That means I’m a career-switcher. For me, though, the switch took quite a few months. Much longer than I expected. That means I’ve tried a lot of strategies to improve my success rate. Some worked, most didn’t.
I’ve excluded a few things that are ‘general good job hunting advice’. I haven’t spoken about how to write a resume or a cover letter. I haven’t spoken about presenting case studies. I haven’t spoken about how to answer specific interview questions. I haven’t spoken about how to talk about your past experience. These are better answered by other people, and it’s up to you to find that.
The tips, tricks and tactics below are all the gems I have collected and used on my own, personal job search. They are the things that made a clear impact on my success rate, and the ones that tipped the scales in my favour.
I hope they can work for you too.
To survive this period of searching and applying, you need to be in the right mindset. This whole thing could take a long time — you need to get used to that. You also need to get used to rejection because you will experience A LOT of it. But that’s normal. In life, you will apply for many, many more jobs than you will accept. So get comfortable hearing ‘no’. It’s not personal, it’s business — as they say. And the business is looking for someone different.
During my hunt, I found it helpful to remind myself to ‘love the process’. To accept the fact I am far from the finished article, and to embrace the process of trying to get better — one step at a time. It relieves a lot of the pressure you might otherwise put on yourself. We all have unrealistic expectations — I did in expecting to land a UX/UI Design role so quickly. And when I didn’t get it, I thought there must be something wrong with me. That I’m not good enough, or I’m not cut out for this industry. I questioned everything. That was until I took a deep breath and a big step back and realised that I am on a journey. You are on a journey too.
2. Find mentors
One of the best ways to develop professionally is by connecting with those who are further along a career path than you. They get it. They’ve done the things you want to do. They’ve felt the things you will feel. They can help you in ways most others cannot.
ADPList (Amazing Design People List) is an incredible free platform that democratises mentorship. It doesn’t need a long term commitment of time and effort (which might be a turn off). It allows you to book single 1:1 video calls with senior designers and design leaders from all around the world. I’ve had calls with a Chief Design Officer, a Co-Founder, a Senior UX Designer and a global design leader/ podcast host. Their help has been invaluable in getting my role, and even form some of the job-hunting tips I am sharing in this post.
Practicing mock interviews, reviewing your portfolio, planning your career path — mentors on ADPList can speed up your early career growth and help you find that first job. 100% recommend.
Side note: if, like me, you are interested in the ethical/ responsible technology space, I suggest checking out All Tech Is Human. Specifically, their Responsible Tech Mentorship Program. This is a selective, 6 month programme where you are mentored by an ethical technology expert who offers career advice, professional growth, and connection opportunities. I am in month 2 of the programme and loving it.
3. Discover your identity
An essential part of your early-career phase is developing your identity. Who are you, as a designer? What is your design personality? This won’t come naturally. It doesn’t come naturally to me — and is something I’m working on all the time. But as a junior designer, you need to think about this. You need to think about what you care about, what interests you, what problems you want to solve.
Your identity will change as you mature as a designer — as it should! But it’s important to start thinking about what you want to do in your design career now — and how you want to talk about it.
Discovering your design identity will impact every part of your job search. You will write with greater clarity and authenticity. Your resume, portfolio and LinkedIn profile will all improve. You will better communicate your journey to mentors and hiring managers. You will gain a deeper understanding of who you are and how you can make an impact.
Posting on social media
Posting on social media is a great way to start — especially on LinkedIn and Twitter. Whatever it is — eco-tech, responsible tech design, charities, design software, cat GIFs. Get comfortable sharing your thoughts on things you care about.
This will be weird at first as it makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. What if my opinion sucks? What if I get something wrong? Or, god forbid, what if nobody likes my post? Well, the only way to find out IS to post. Post, post, post. The process will make you more confident sharing your ideas. You’ll get used to exposing yourself to feedback. You’ll build your online presence and you’ll hone your identity as a designer.
I’m interested in the ethical design of technology and how modern apps exploit users. Once I realised it interested me, I started talking about it on LinkedIn. Yes, it was awkward at first (it still is!). But it’s opened doors, created new connections and opportunities. It allowed me to develop a sense of self as a designer. I could see my design identity taking shape on screen.
Connect with other designers
This was a tip from my bootcamp instructor, Zander Whitehurst. He suggested reaching out to the designers of the apps you like to use in your daily life. It could be a podcast app that you love. Or a photo editing app that has upped your editing game. Whatever it is, real people designed those apps. You should consider telling those people that their products have improved your life. Besides strengthening your identity as a (cool) designer, this can:
- increase your confidence
- make you think deeper about what makes a good app/ product
- build out your network
- brighten up their day, and in doing so — brighten up yours too!
4. Optimise your LinkedIn
Once you’ve worked on your identity, it’s time to share it. UX/UI Design is a competitive industry. There are more junior designers than there are junior design jobs. This means you are competing against loads of people just like you. This is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, and this is where you need personality.
First, get on LinkedIn. If you’re not, get on it. Non negotiable.
I got this tip from Sarah Doody, a UX consultant with an amazing Youtube channel. Write a short, punchy LinkedIn headline that squeezes in as much info about you as possible. So many designers will have “UX Designer” in their headline. But that offers the hiring manager very little information. You need to stand out if you want an interview.
Interested in any specific industries or companies? Your headline could be “UX Designer interested in Fintech and Education” or “Product Designer interested in Saas and enterprise products in Fintech”.
A career switcher with relevant previous experience? Your headline could be “UX Designer | Previously practiced psychology for 5 years”.
I combined these into my own… “Junior UX/UI Designer interested in ethical technology | Previously spent 6 years in creative digital content”.
This is good because it shares my experience level, area of interest and past experience. Much better than plain old “UX Designer”. To go deeper, check out Sarah’s full video.
I got this tip from a design mentor on ADPList. After reviewing my career-switching resume, he felt I needed to fill in some of the gaps in my timeline. He suggested I add a new, freelance experience section on my LinkedIn:
Was this a little bit of a stretch? I wasn’t a paid freelancer, but I was doing UX work… side projects, courses, redesigns. Maybe these activities do count as freelance work? Maybe I was a pro bono UX consultant? Either way, I recommend you add in that freelance section too. It made my profile stronger.
I created a tailored Notion portfolio for every job I applied for. I know there are many great options out there, but if your site doesn’t let you do that, consider trying Notion.
Note: I must credit this to a kind and helpful designer who reached out to me on LinkedIn out of the blue — and shared this tactic with me. Thanks Catalina!
Okay, so here are the steps:
- Click on this portfolio template I created in Notion.
- Duplicate it into your personal Notion space. (The button is at the top right).
- As explained in the template, add the company logo. The best source of these is from the company’s LinkedIn page.
- Change the colour to match the main company colour.
- Add in 1–2 keywords/ phrases from the job description. Collaborative, research-driven, detail oriented, thoughtful, curious, proactive? The company is describing their ideal candidate. Confirm you are that candidate by using their own language back at them.
- Add in your own resume (more on resume’s below).
- Add your LinkedIn profile URL to the LinkedIn button.
- Complete the ‘About’ page.
- Add in 3–4 case studies.
Once you’ve made it once, you can duplicate it over and over. Make sure you tailor each new page to the specific job.
Yes, it’s not the prettiest portfolio site. But it’s easy to scan, build and duplicate. It’s personalised to the job/ company and it allows you to show off your personality.
The recruiter who offered me the job told me she loved the format. Try it yourself and hopefully you get the same feedback.
Tailor your resume
In the same spirit of the Notion portfolio, I tailored each resume to the specific company I was applying to.
- Build your resume in Figma.
- Identify the company font(s) and brand colour(s). I did this by visiting their homepage and using Fonts Ninja and CSS Peeper.
- Use the company font(s) in your resume. Myenergi used Overpass for titles and headers, and Nunito Sans for main body text. So I did the same in my resume. One of the reasons to use Figma here is because it already has loads of pre installed fonts. If it doesn’t have your company’s font of choice, you can find online, download it and add it to Figma.
- Use the company brand colour(s) in the resume. You will have to play around with this to get it right. My company used heavy black and bright, neon green — which could make the resume illegible. Instead, I added a slight gradient for the background, moving from white to green. This points toward the company’s use of green and guides the reader’s eye down the page.
- Add to your custom Notion page.
Here is the resume I used to get the job. Nothing fancy at all. But it did the trick.
6. Use better job sites
It feels like there are hundreds of job sites and it can feel overwhelming. Here are 5 great sources of UX/UI design jobs that I used on my own job hunt.
- Otta — focused on tech jobs, Otta helps you find high quality roles that are relevant to your interests. The single best job site I’ve used.
- LinkedIn Jobs — lots of jobs, great for exploring companies and employers. The site I found my current job on.
- Memorisely — the job board hosted by my bootcamp. Seems to be currently offline! It’s focused on high quality remote and hybrid roles. Despite a US/ North American bias, I found and applied for many good looking opportunities in the UK and Europe. I will update the blog if it comes back to life.
- VV Network — job board curated by designer and internet phenom, Jack Butcher. All candidates and companies are vetted for entry. High quality jobs, although sometimes not a large selection.
- UX Collective Jobs — from the popular, Medium-based design publication.
7. Stay sharp
This whole process will take time. If you’re very lucky, you could land a job in a month or two. But if you’re not, this could take many months — as it did for me. So the advice here is to stay sharp. As you don’t know when the job offer will come, you need to stay sharp and stay learning. This means whenever the offer does come, you’ll be ready.
Here’s how I stayed sharp:
- Youtube is an incredible source of UX/UI information and inspiration. Some great channels: Michal Malewicz, AJ&Smart, DesignCourse, Wired to Design, NNgroup, Mizko.
- Blogs are a great way to stay up to speed with the UX/UI industry. Some good ones: Figma, Facebook, Maze, Hotjar.
- Courses can be excellent at developing your skill set. A bonus is if they are formally recognised or get a certificate. During my job search, I did Foundations of Humane Technology by the Center for Humane Tech. I also did Introduction to Human-Centered Design from Acumen. This hands-on course is all about Human-Centred Design (HCD) — a key design framework in the UX/UI world. Both these courses are now on my LinkedIn and resume:
- One Minute Briefs is a daily design challenge that asks people to quickly solve a creative brief. It might be ‘create posters to promote recycling’. It might be ‘design a social media post for the new James Bond movie’. In some cases you can even win prizes (I won a t-shirt and a pair of Apple AirPods!). It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s rough — and it’s brilliant at keeping your creative juices flowing.
- Permissionless Apprentice is a method by Jack Butcher. It teaches how to create opportunity using the internet, without ever asking for permission. Following it, I built a very rough app concept for Guinness and a simple new homepage for the podcaster, Lex Fridman. In both cases, I shared the creation with the target. Despite them never message back (lol 🥲), I stayed sharp. I created opportunities to practice my craft, I built things I can use as proof of work, and I got better at promoting myself and making things online. Big recommendation!
8. Ace the interview
I know, much easier said than done. Interviews suck. I hate them. I get nervous, my hands get clammy, I forget my words and I don’t give the best account of myself.
Practice your answers
But until we devise new and better ways to screen candidates, we are stuck with interviews. Which means get good at them. This looks like preparing and practising like a crazy person. It’s the only way to get good at interviews, especially if — like me — they don’t come easily.
The steps I took:
- Identify the most common questions that are asked in Product/UX/UI Design interviews. Shared below.
- Prepare a detailed answer for every question. This might take some time to get this right, but it’s necessary. No shortcuts. Often, with interview questions, you’ve got to think what are they really asking me? They want you to expand on the themes of the question, so be one step ahead in your preparation. Also, if you’re stuck, look online to see how you should prepare good answers.
- Practice answering these questions. Start by reading in your head, then out loud. Next, record yourself answering the question with your phone or laptop camera. Part of the anxiety in interviews comes from the unknown-ness of it. If you are answering a question for the first time in the interview, there’s a good chance it isn’t a great answer. But if you’ve spoken that answer aloud 10 times already, you will ooze confidence in the interview. This works, trust me!
- Once I had the answers in my head, I would go on long walks with no music or podcasts. I would simulate answering the questions on the walk, talking out loud to myself. I’m unaware of the science behind memory recall and walking, but this step was very helpful at memorising the answers.
The questions I prepared answers for:
- Tell us about yourself?
- What is the value of UX design?
- What is the difference between UX and UI/ other disciplines?
- What does Product Design mean to you?
- What do you think a Product Designer is responsible for?
- How would you improve the UX of our product?
- What is a product you admire and why?
- What product did you recently stop using because of the experience?
- How would you measure the success of a design?
- How do you react to negative feedback?
- Could you describe your design process?
- How do you balance user needs, business requirements and technical constraints to create the right experience? What are the areas of compromise?
- What software and tools do you use and what’s your proficiency in each?
- What is your weakness?
- Talk to me about where you’ve performed user research as part of a design challenge.
- Explain how you’ve created prototypes at varying fidelities and how you’ve tested these?
- How have you collaborated with other teams in the past? What have been the positive benefits and also the challenges to overcome?
- Tell us about a time when you didn’t agree with a decision in the team?
Use their products
The job spec might tell you that you’re going to be working on certain websites, apps, products or platforms. I recommend you download them before the interview — if they are accessible.
It will give you a deeper understanding of the job requirements and of the product itself. It will also prepare you for any question or discussion about the product that comes up in the interview. I had downloaded and reviewed the app, and made a long list of suggested changes. I got to mention a few of these changes in the interview, which made me look proactive and interested.
If you can’t download an app for some reason, at least check out screenshots and reviews on the app stores.
Do your research
Another way you should prepare is by researching the company. Again, don’t skim this bit. I’ve had interviews when I cut corners in my research, and it showed. I’ve also had interviews when I’ve spent several hours digging into a potential employer company. And that shines through in the interview.
If you’re not sure where to start, try this simple research framework:
- What makes them specialWhat do they doValues and missionProductsSizeLocationHistory (major successes/ defining moments)
- Financial healthAnnual reportsNew productsInvestorsFundingAcquisitionsRecent hiresPress releases/ news
- CommunitySocial mediaLinkedInBlogsComplaints
- CompetitorsHow does the company fit into the industry?Other companies people viewed on LinkedInCrunchbase
(Be sure to record this somewhere that is neat and accessible. I used Notion.)
This is an easy one — send a follow up email after the interview. It’s polite, proactive, and another opportunity to strengthen your profile. You should send it the day after, but not later than 48 hours later. After this, you may have drifted from their mind.
Many websites will tell you to be formal for the follow up email. But that’s not my style. I’m not going to be stiff and formal if I get the job, so why pretend to be stiff and formal when I’m applying for it? Show your personality. You want them to have a great image of what it’s like to work with you. You want to be a friendly, easy going teammate.
Here’s a template you can use:
Subject line: Thanks for your time!
Hi [hiring manager’s first name],
Thanks so much for your time yesterday. I loved learning about the [the position you’re applying for] role with [company name]. It was fascinating to hear [something you spoke about in the interview] and about your [innovative strategy / upcoming challenges / core values / industry insights].
If you need any more information from me, please don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.
So there we go. A messy list of all the things I feel made a big difference in my hunt for my first UX/UI Design job. If they help you achieve some success on your job search, I would love to know about it. I promised myself that when I got the job — when I got my first step on the ladder and got my first bit of momentum — I would try to help those who come next. Navigating this whole experience can feel daunting and lonely. So I want to help those in that position, because I wish I had it myself.
Anyways, enough rambling. Good luck in your job hunt. And remember — ‘love the process’. 🤘