5 min read
I’m sorry that it’s taking you so long to get hired after a UX bootcamp or education program. And, I’m sorry this whole experience of trying to land an entry-level UX role, switch careers into UX, or climb to the next level in your existing UX career has been so overwhelming and likely tainted your impression of a career in UX. Whether you attended a UX bootcamp or not, I’m guessing you can relate to a few of these situations when it comes to your UX job search.
- You’ve applied to 50, 100, or more roles and haven’t landed a single interview.
- You’ve seen other people get hired, and you can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong.
- You made a portfolio as a part of the UX bootcamp you did, followed their directions, but for some reason, your portfolio is not standing out.
- You heard UX is in demand, but at this point, it seems like a false claim because companies aren’t hiring you.
- You’ve had countless people look at your portfolio and resume, and everyone says it “looks good” but it’s still clearly not standing out when you apply to roles.
- You’re totally confused and frustrated about the entire job search and hiring process and at times, you feel like maybe you should just give up.
The process of getting hired in UX, no matter what career stage you’re at, does not have to be this overwhelming and difficult. Though you may not believe it now, it’s totally doable. I’ve made it my mission to help UX professionals get hired. Over 2,500 people have enrolled in my various UX career coaching programs and many have been hired at companies including Accenture, Amazon, American Express, CVS, Google, Home Depot, Intuit, Shopify, Vanguard, Wells Fargo, and many more.
To understand this challenge of how to get hired after a UX bootcamp, you have to zoom out so you see the big picture of why getting hired in UX is difficult. In this article, I’ll share tips for getting hired after a UX bootcamp and strategies for how you can pivot your job search so you can get hired faster.
Creating General Assembly’s First UX Bootcamp
In 2012 myself and a UX colleague, Dan Maccarone, created the curriculum for and taught General Assembly’s first UX immersive in NYC. There were about 20 students and we had a lecture and a lab each week.
After we taught the program, one of the key takeaways was that the program only scratched the surface of UX, not exactly surprising! This program would probably equate to a part-time program today given estimated hours students spent going through the program nearly a decade ago. Beyond only scratching the surface of UX, that program prototype did not even cover the job search, portfolios, resumes, or anything related to the job search at all.
Fast forward to 2017, I accidentally became the UX portfolio person. My inbox was inundated with people emailing for help with their portfolios. So I made a YouTube video about how to create a UX portfolio and then created a 45-minute workshop, hoping I would never have to talk about UX portfolios again. But after teaching the original workshop, people started to get hired. For example, Sydney was one of the very first people who got hired after applying my strategies to create an effective UX portfolio.
Why Bootcamp Career Services Don’t Deliver on Helping You Get Hired
In 4 years, over 2,500 people have been a part of my UX portfolio and career coaching programs, so I’ve learned a few things about why they couldn’t get hired before following my strategies. These people were at all stages of their careers. Many attended a paid UX bootcamp and struggled to get hired. Some applied to over 100 roles and did not get any interviews. But why?
Bootcamps have become a business. With the rise in demand for UX professionals, many entrepreneurs saw a business opportunity - to create UX education factories. Entrepreneurs saw a need and tried to meet that need. You could say, “that’s business.”
However, not all bootcamps are created equal. Different instructors result in different experiences, even under the umbrella of the same program. Some instructors and mentors at paid UX bootcamps are, themselves, recent graduates of these programs. To make matters even more concerning, I’ve noticed that some recent graduates of these programs are even creating their own UX bootcamps. And though I haven’t personally taken these programs, I have to wonder, are the blind leading the blind?
Over the past 4 years, I’ve noticed something very interesting and alarming, instructors and students of paid UX bootcamps who previously, or currently, teach at these programs are enrolling in my UX portfolio and career coaching programs. This fact leads me to one key conclusion: UX bootcamps are largely not fulfilling their promise that you will get hired after you graduate because career services are largely an afterthought.
If instructors of some of these UX bootcamps are enrolling in my program to help them get hired, then that’s a big problem. It’s no wonder that so many people who’ve attended these programs struggle to get hired. It’s my conclusion that most UX bootcamps treat the whole process of getting hired like an afterthought. They focus so much on creating and marketing their UX bootcamp and don’t give the step of getting hired the attention and detail that’s required.
I can confirm this because many people who’ve attended a UX bootcamp and also enrolled in my programs have said the bootcamps only scratch the surface of what it takes to get hired. For example, here’s what Randy, a General Assembly program participant had to say:
“I was not ready to start applying once I graduated from the program. We were doing coursework up until about a week before graduating. We had one lesson on portfolios showcasing examples of “good” portfolio design although it was purely aesthetic. After that, we were pushed to complete our portfolios by the following week after graduating in order to receive support from GA as we searched. I did have to look elsewhere for portfolio help which led me to find out about your program. I’ve so far have redone my portfolio completely about 4 times since completing my GA program. We were given advice but it was very vague.”
The Financial Consequences of a Prolonged Job Search
If what you’ve been doing in your job search has not resulted in landing a UX job, then it’s time to hit pause. It makes zero sense to continue applying to roles if you haven’t been getting interviews or offers using your current approach. And, it has serious financial consequences also.
Here’s the truth in numbers, for every month you continue to not get hired, that’s a month’s salary you are not earning. Imagine it takes you 9 months to get hired. So in month 9, you start making your new salary of $8,750 per month based on going from a yearly salary of $85,000 to $105,000.
But let’s imagine you get hired in 9 months, look what happens if you get hired in month 6 instead of month 9. You get 2 extra months at your new salary of $105,000. That adds up quickly. There is a tangible financial impact to the length of time it takes you to get hired!
At some point, you have to consider the return on investment of how you spend your time and whether or not it’s yielding the results you want. You can keep applying to whatever number of jobs a week your bootcamp says you have to apply to, and continue not getting interviews. Or, you can just say “you know, this game plan the bootcamp gave me is not working, maybe I need to try a new strategy.”
Let’s look at some tips for getting hired after a UX bootcamp so you can increase the chances that you get hired after your UX bootcamp apply those so you can stop playing the numbers game, get interviews and offers, and ultimately, get your dream UX job.
Step 1: Audit What’s Broken
If you are applying to roles and not even getting interviews, then it’s time to do an audit of every single thing involved in your job search. In this case, you need to evaluate all the variables involved so you don’t end up wasting time re-designing your portfolio or resume and neglecting other things that might actually be the true problem. There’s obviously a lot to cover, so to help you avoid overwhelm, here are 3 key areas to think about as you audit your job search.
Audit Where You Are Finding & Applying To Roles
As you audit your job search, ask yourself these questions and consider where you may need to adjust your strategy and why you may not be getting more interviews.
- Are you just playing the numbers game and applying to 20, 30, 40 roles a week?
- Are you applying to the right types of roles that truly align with your skills and experience?
- Are you looking for roles beyond the platforms such as Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn jobs, etc?
- Should you expand your job search to a different industry?
- After you apply, do you just cross your fingers and hope for the best or are you doing anything to help nurture your application and follow up?
Audit Your Career Materials
Next, you need to audit your portfolio, resume, LinkedIn, and anything else that contributes to the first-impression people have about you when you apply to a role. You have no idea which of these career materials people will look at first, that’s why you must ensure they’re all optimized to send a clear message about your skills and experience.
- Does your portfolio include the process and not just jump right to final deliverables?
- Is your portfolio easy for a busy recruiter or hiring manager to skim or scan?
- Does your resume provide tangible examples of skills in action and outcomes, or is it just bulleted lists of buzzwords and keywords?
- Did you take the time to optimize your LinkedIn profile for both the humans looking at it as well as the LinkedIn search algorithm?
- Are you strategically building authentic relationships on LinkedIn or just “connecting” with as many people as possible to build your network?
Audit Your Preparedness For Job Interviews
Lastly, consider how what you say and do in interviews contributes to the overall impression you’re making on hiring managers and your potential colleagues.
- Before interviews, are you researching the company, role, and potential people interviewing you?
- Can you have a conversation about the project? Or, are you simply reciting or reading content from your portfolio or resume?
- When asked about your skills, strengths, etc do you give vague and generic answers, or do you bring up an example of how you used that skill while working on a project?
- During interviews, are you asking thoughtful questions to convey this “design thinking” that you’re so passionate about?
- After the interviews, are you following up and do you debrief to try and learn from each interview?
If you are applying to roles and not getting interviews, or getting interviews and not getting hired, you have to look at the entire process. There are many variables that contribute to your ability to stand out, get interviews, and demonstrate to hiring managers that you are right for the job. The mistake most people make in their UX job search is they do not focus on all the variables.
No amount of re-doing your portfolio or resume will help you get hired if you’re not doing other high-impact job search activities such as looking for roles beyond just what you see on big platforms, building authentic relationships, and tailoring every interview and interaction to the role you applied to.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Time & Energy
After a startup takes a step back to evaluate its product holistically and consider all variables involved, it must prioritize what areas to focus on. This step can often be overwhelming because there are so many things that could be changed!
As a result, startups often decide to do a re-design of a part of the product. They spend weeks, or months, in re-design mode! But often, after they launch these changes, nothing changes. Why? Oftentimes the things they re-designed were too far down the line of the customer journey. Perhaps the real problem was further up, such as the homepage lacked clear messaging or the marketing was attracting the wrong type of person!
In your UX job search, the same principles apply. You can’t just keep redesigning your portfolio or resume without also looking at whether or not you’re doing everything you can to find and apply to more of the right roles.
Every minute you spend tweaking something is a minute you’re not spending on something that might have more impact on your UX job search. Ultimately, you need to stop striving for perfection and adopt a “good enough” attitude.
For example, for every hour or week you keep redesigning your portfolio, those are hours or weeks that you could be putting into building more authentic relationships with people at companies you want to apply to, or have applied to. There is a return on investment, and trade-off, for how you spend your time in your UX job search.
It is crucial that you prioritize what you work on in your job search pivot. Everything you do must be rooted in strategy and a concrete answer to the question, “Why am I doing this?”
Step 3: Always Be Testing
After a startup prioritizes what they think they should work on and in what order, it’s time to actually make those changes happen, launch, and test. This step is crucial because if a startup changes too many things at once, it will be hard to tell what actually had the most impact. Furthermore, changing many things at once might, truth be told, be unnecessary.
In a pivot, it’s important to work incrementally and see if just one small change can yield better results. Changing everything at once is also extremely time-consuming!
When it comes to your UX job search, there’s no need to spend 3-months working through your list of things to change based on the audit you did in Step 1. You might find that simply by optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you may have people reaching out to you about roles. For example, Aparna joined Career Strategy Lab and within 2 months, sent me this message:
“I really buckled down the past couple of days … I kid you not, within hours I started to get LinkedIn messages from recruiters about my dream role(s) yes multiple because I have seriously gotten 8 recruiter inquiries in the past 48 hours for roles I would actually entertain!
This was definitely not the kind of outreach I have gotten in the past! I used to only get requests from contract recruiters I had no interest in!”
To Get Hired Faster, Pivot Your Job Search
The first step to a successful job search pivot is to admit what you’re doing now is not working. If what you’re doing right now is not yielding the results you want, what do you have to lose?
If you keep doing what you’re doing, chances are in six months, you’ll still be where you are, struggling to get interviews and offers. However, if you decide to change course now, you will be hired faster, and likely earn a much higher salary than you’re making right now.
At some point, you have to have the courage to take matters into your own hands, even if that means that you maybe stop doing what your UX bootcamp instructor or mentor told you to do, or you stop following what you read were best practices in articles you found late one night while Googling “tips for my UX job search”.
The very UX skills that you’re so passionate about are crucial to landing your next UX role. It’s time to apply those same skills to your UX job search, starting today.