I studied UX design in school, but after I graduated, I fell into a job at a cannabis startup and have spent the last five years doing project management. I want to transition back to UX in the tech industry, but I’m worried that I’ll only be qualified for an entry-level position. My goal is to land a new job in six months. I’d like to use this time to strengthen my application and connections. How can I best set myself up for success?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Jermaine Murray, talent recruiter and career coach, JupiterHR, Toronto, Ont.
First, I’d like to acknowledge that this person’s fears are totally legitimate. This is a common scenario in tech, where someone will join a scaling startup that has limited resources but ambitious growth goals. As a result, they’re forced into a role where they have to leverage skills outside of their job description or learn new ones on the fly. Unfortunately, this person’s fears are right – if they don’t approach their job search correctly, they could find themselves only being considered for entry-level jobs.
However, there is a way this situation can work favourably for them and their career. Before going on a full-fledged job search, this person should be looking to add projects to their portfolio. They can start by vocalizing their UI/UX desires to their current management. Request to have more UI/UX opportunities thrown their way.
At the same time, they should be looking for small businesses, startup founders, clients and generally anyone they can partner with to create UI/UX experiences and mock-ups. Slack and Discord channels are a great way to connect with like-minded people. A platform like Behance.net can easily show you what your fellow UI/UX designers are building. This can serve to both inspire and inform you.
Combine the above with their experience in project management and you suddenly have a compelling case that they can use to sell themselves as being a much more capable candidate than someone coming in at entry-level.
Bonus points because they’re already coming from a startup environment and the skills you develop in project management complements a UI/UX skill set really well. The most important take-away is that if you don’t want to be considered intermediate, get the experience that shows you’re not.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Pat Parisi, senior coach, Careers By Design Coaching, Waterloo, Ont.
People make career transitions every day. You can do the same. You’ve already taken the first step by having a clear goal.
You have developed many new skills during your five years as a project manager in an emerging industry. Sit down and name all the skills you use in your current role. Start by digging out your current job description. Look up your project manager counterparts in LinkedIn to get ideas from their profiles. Appreciate yourself for everything you’ve learned and done.
Find a UX designer’s job description on the web, one with a few years of experience. Use LinkedIn to find UX design companies. Find its designers and look at their profiles and take note: How are you similar or different?
Discover even more by reaching out to people in the UX design world. Get feedback on your background and skills, as well as valuable advice and information about the field. Discover who’s hiring, learn about new trends, find out where the jobs are, get feedback on your resume and your job search strategy, and expand your network. Great conversations unearth valuable information, job opportunities and new possibilities.
The tech world changes at lightning speed. After five years, your UX design training and skills are probably rusty. Reassure employers by taking courses or earning a certificate or diploma program to update your skills. Demonstrate your value and show your determination to re-enter the field.
Declare yourself by aligning your identity and letting everyone know. Update your resume, LinkedIn profile and interview skills. Your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile should have consistent messaging. Don’t forget that your interview style needs to pull together your UX design training and relevant project management skills and experiences. Your resume will get you through the door but that’s not the end. Be sure to prioritize interview practice because that’s what will get you hired. Persuade interviewers by letting them know the value that you deliver to them.
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