Listen to the full episode:
ABOUT THE EPISODE
In this episode of the Honest UX Talks podcast, Sarah Doody shares strategies for applying UX and Product Management principles to your job search so you can get hired without applying to hundreds of jobs.
UX professionals who’ve worked in the industry for 10 or more years, people switching to UX, or those starting out all face similar challenges in their job search such as:
- Getting stuck in self-doubt and comparison
- Lack of clarity about their short and long-term career goals
- Struggling to create a resume and portfolio
- Unsure where their skills fit in the world of UX
- Low confidence and imposter syndrome
As with everything in UX, establishing context is critical to develop a deep understanding of a situation so you can more effectively identify problem areas and propose solutions.
Get the sketch notes for the Honest UX Talks podcast interview!
We hired a sketch notes artist to create a visual representation of this podcast interview.
Enter your email and we’ll send you the sketch notes for this episode, it’s free!
Get the sketch notes for the Honest UX Talks podcast episode
We hired a sketch notes artist to create a visual representation of this podcast interview.
Enter your email and we’ll send you the sketch notes for this episode, it’s free!
Hello, dear designer and welcome to a new Honest UX talk and a very special one today because while we typically don’t feature guests on our show, this time we have an exciting surprise for you. This is most of the questions we get are about building a design career, optimizing your UX portfolio, optimizing the job hunt for a UX role showing more confidence in interviews and so on.
We decided to invite an industry expert to answer all the juicy questions and make sure that we’re following a coherent structure. In this conversation, we’ll be specifically looking into what the title of today’s show is. And that is how to stop applying to 100 UX jobs.
And before we jump into the juicy questions we have for today, I’m gonna quickly introduce our amazing guest, Sarah. So Sarah doody is the founder and CEO of Career Strategy Lab UX career accelerator that helps UX professionals design fulfilling careers and get hired without applying to hundreds of roles. And this is specifically what she is going to help us with unpacking today.
Sarah’s work has been featured in a lot of places, you’ve probably ran into some of our work already in Forbes, UX magazine and vision, Adobe, New York time and she’s been on a lot of podcasts, user defenders, UX podcast, mixed methods, and yay, honest UX docs. Yeah. Sarah, I want to thank you for joining us today. We’re super excited to have this conversation. And maybe before we jump into the hot topic we have planned for today, maybe tell us a little about how you became such an articulate voice in the UX career space.
Sarah Doody 2:13
Yeah, thanks for having me today! You know, it was never really on my personal career roadmap or product roadmap for my career, to get into this space of UX careers, jobs, coaching, etc. It all really happened as an accident. But in hindsight, I can see how my kind of researcher brain led me along that path.
So to kind of rewind a little bit back in around 2017. I noticed that my inbox and my DMs everywhere were flooded with questions such as, how do I make a portfolio? Or how do I get hired and have a portfolio if no one will give me a chance and hire me so I can get experienced? Right? It’s the whole chicken and egg situation. And I’m sure a lot of your listeners can relate to that chicken and egg issue. But one thing I realized was after almost ignoring these questions for a while, because it was so overwhelming, I finally decided to do something about it. So I did two things.
I honestly can’t remember which thing I did first, I think the first thing I did was, I decided to do some YouTube videos. And my very first YouTube video was how to create a portfolio without experience. And now it probably has 60 or 70,000 views. But that got a tonne of response. And I thought, maybe I’m onto something.
So then I created a kind of hour long workshop about creating a portfolio that’s sold out and then people started to get hired. And then they said to me, this was awesome. Could it be four weeks long instead of one hour long. And that led me down the path of really creating all these trainings, toolkits, templates, etc. Now related to every part of the job search, not just the portfolios, talking out that experience, I’m sure you can see how the researcher in me just kind of like led me down this path, but it definitely was not a part of my career plan.
Let’s say that’s fascinating to see how the path guides you itself. I mean, it just takes it’s supposed to take in a very natural way without you having to like you just pay attention to the questions that come towards you and that shape, the way you articulate your ideas and what ideas you need to articulate.
Sarah Doody 4:56
Yeah, when when I was a child, I didn’t know if you have these books when you were Growing up, but we had these books called choose your own adventure. So you read the chapter. And then at the end, it says, you know, if you would want to see what happens to Johnny, if he does this, go to this page, if you want to find out this, go to that other page.
And I feel like that’s kind of why I love user experience so much. And it’s that element of curiosity and almost like being an explorer of life than, at least for me, I know where I’m headed. But there’s always unexpected twists and turns, if that makes sense.
Definitely, and it’s really beautiful, and also relatable, I feel like you’re speaking to my own path. And the past few years where I just, I feel like something led me down down this road as well. So it’s a it’s a very beautiful way of starting this conversation.
And now I want to jump into something that’s less beautiful, or is the is like the negative side of the UX industry. And I’m gonna specifically ask you around the current situation of the UX job market, there are several controversial corners in it, and a lot of criticising that you can bring to how the industry is shaped right now, in the job market.
So probably you’re one of the person who knows best what’s going on? What’s wrong with the US market right now? What what do you think, is broken in the US job market at this moment?
Sarah Doody 6:24
That’s such a big question. And I think one thing to address up front is the idea that companies slow down with hiring because of the pandemic situation we’re in and I find the opposite to be true. I’ve seen a lot more companies hiring I don’t have exact data on this.
But just anecdotally, I think, as more companies went remote, it made everyone realise the importance of better and great user experience, whether it relates to ecommerce or the tools they use on their own right to run their remote teams. So I think number one, there might be this myth that hiring has slowed down, but I find the opposite. And then, to kind of get to the controversial stuff, I think we have to look at this from two, two angles, right?
We have to look at the candidate side. And then we have to look at the company’s side. So let’s start with candidates, because they’re who’s listening, I think, largely right now. And I think some of the things that candidates feel like are broken are, there are not enough roles for junior designers, there’s the chicken and egg of how do I get hired and get experience of companies won’t hire me.
I think there’s the challenge of more junior designers getting hired into companies, and then realising there’s no one there that has the time or space or energy to mentor them. And then I think candidates, you know, they face a lot of competition right now, especially if you’re earlier in your career, because the onslaught of candidates being produced by education programmes, whether it’s University College, etc, or bootcamp programmes, you know, of all ranges, right?
It could be a one month boot camp, it could be a like one year boot camp, but they all result in more candidates applying out there. So there’s a lot of variables at play for those candidates. I’m curious if any of those jumped out to you as ones that you hadn’t thought about or that you definitely see kind of a giant spotlight being shone upon?
It’s a real very interesting question to reflect on. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection work myself, I will be curious to hear on Anfisa’s thoughts as well, as our listeners know, and probably you know, we also have our own educational tracks on visa runs into UX. It’s a course a very successful course, I think she has 700 students already. And I also run a boot camp called mental Design Academy. So we’re pretty immersed in this problem space. And we know the realities of how difficult it is for these junior designers to actually land the job. Once there. They’re out there after the bootcamp or after even university or any kind of formal education.
So most of the things you’re talking about speak to us because we face them and we actually have to tell very uncomfortable and tough truths to our students all the time. What I would add to your comprehensive list is that the problem is also because of the UX education programmes that kind of advertise false results quick results very easy path of transitioning and this like milk and honey world where you’re gonna be UX designer in three months and then all the companies will rush in to hire you and they have pretty unrealistic expectations and that’s where the pain comes from. When when you face a reality and this this high has been my experience and it’s something that I’m trying to change through mental Design Academy and I’m curious to hear if and FISA resonated with everything you shared. Yeah, I mean,
Obviously, yes, definitely! A lot of things happens every single time somebody’s finishing the programme and says, like, oh, well, there’s so much work to do now, like, I just got this education. But now well, the whole new education starts about how to how to make my CV or portfolios and what to write in a cover letter, how do you go through the interview process like all this new slug, you need definitely new course for that, to actually make sure you come in into it prepares, because otherwise, it’s definitely very hard to stand out, it’s very hard to make sure you know your worth.
Especially if you’re coming from like this boot camp, where process is pretty standard in you’re just trained to learn the process. But now, what are your strong sides? How do you tackle solving complicated problems and working with a lot of constraints? Or I don’t know, working in their biggest projects and other settings? And so yes, definitely very familiar.
And one thing I can maybe add here is that also some demographics are different from each other. So there are more competitive markets when the competition is more fierce. And I don’t even know how to stand out there. Like it’s not, it’s not easy, as you know, here’s the recipe and go use it. But there are also some less competitive markets. interesting observation is that in Czech Republic, my first initial assumption was that in Czech Republic, where I’m living at right now, as should be the same should be a problem, it’s very hard to find for his job. Though, interestingly enough, I noticed that many of my students from Czech Republic could find the job.
And within like, two months, I was like, Well, that’s pretty good timeline. How do you do this? And it appeared that in Czech Republic, there are more offers, especially this last, I don’t know, half a year when, you know, companies starting to reopen their positions and unfrozen the hiring. And so it might be that in some demographics, well, I guess it’s in good news that some demographics have more offers than demands even. But it’s not it’s more of a rare occasion, I guess. So it’s not as easy. It’s still pretty, pretty hard. I just wanted to add this little posit do not,
Sarah Doody 12:07
And you mentioned a few things that I want to just point on. I think the theme that we’re all kind of getting at is, like you said, many of the boot camps, I almost feel like they just treat candidates like factories, like to be honest, because we’re on honest UX talks.
But I really do feel like some of these boot camps are created by tech bros, who just want to get on the bootcamp train. And then they make all these promises, like you’ll get hired, or you can join our boot camp, don’t pay us any money. And then you will pay us back after you are hired. And it’s just, it’s, it feels very icky. And all of the promises just don’t set people up for the real world. And I think if people are listening who are currently in a boot camp or thinking about a boot camp, number one, make sure you do your homework before you join one.
But number two, have really realistic expectations and know that user experience is not just about memorising processes, learning software, knowing how to do the latest process of the week, because it seems like people are renaming processes and methods, you know, all the time just to get more Twitter followers or something. And like realise, there’s a lot more than just software and processes and methodologies.
Definitely we stand by that we are also big, big advocates of these ideas. And actually understanding that UX is much more than just going through five stages, and then creating a portfolio where you tell everyone that you’ve been through the UX checklist, and you did the persona, and you did a customer journey, and this is what I learned and hire me. Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.
Sarah Doody 14:05
And the other thing I would say is back to what I focus on because it’s funny. Over the years, many people have come to me and asked me if I would create a boot camp or make their boot camp curriculum. And a sidenote I did back in 2011 or 2012. Well, and 2012 create General Assembly’s first version of there. I forget what it was, but it was the 11 or 12 week immersive in New York City. And although I am passionate about UX education, you know, when I was accidentally falling down or going down this path of UX, career, education and such,
I realised there’s a lot of people already doing bootcamp education and UX 101 and all that stuff. And I realised not many people were focusing on how to what I now refer to as Like treat yourself like a product. And as I said, In the beginning, have a product roadmap for your career, know how to articulate your work, create a portfolio, create a resume, conduct a job search, prepare for interviews, like all those things that come after your education.
So that’s what I’m really focused on. But I feel like a lot of these boot camps, and even University programmes, a don’t teach it or be treated like an afterthought. And their solution is just to have quote, mentors, whatever that means, or people who recently graduated, you know, just have endless coffee chats with each other and go through it. And my whole programme is really rooted on, you don’t need more conversations and pep talks and things. You need the detailed set of instructions to help you take action to do all of these things. So should we flip over to companies, though? And what’s broken over there?
Absolutely. That’s another interesting angle that we definitely want to learn more about.
Sarah Doody 16:06
Yeah. So for companies, it’s really interesting, because I just pulled up some research on my big monitor here. But I have been very focused on the candidate side of this problem, right, and ensuring that candidates are more prepared, so they can get hired faster, without applying to hundreds of jobs. And many of our testimonials, say that I mean, not literally. But if we were to paraphrase, people are no longer applying to hundreds of roles, they apply to a handful of roles.
But now I’m starting to do some research with people involved in UX hiring at companies, whether they work in HR, or they are like the VP of the department, or whatever. And so some of the themes that I have been hearing from them are that they are frustrated when candidates apply for roles that the candidate is clearly not not qualified for, which goes back to the whole idea of applying to hundreds of roles, because I feel like a lot of times candidates right now are just, we have this phrase, I don’t know if you have it, but throwing spaghetti at the wall.
So you just see and throw all these options and see what happens. And that’s what candidates are doing with their job search. And I think part of it is because it’s so easy for candidates on many of the job platforms to just click, you know, click Apply, or whatever the button says. And that causes issues on the company side, because I just talked to someone the other day, and I think they said they had like 500 people apply for some junior UX role. And a lot of them were just clearly not qualified, or just had cookie cutter portfolios that just showed deliverables and didn’t show knowledge or thinking.
So companies suffer from overwhelm of candidates, quality of candidates, another problem companies have, and this is more related to companies that are not a FAANG company.
But I have a list of companies that are hiring, or have paid internships, and they’re not a fang company, but they would be amazing to work at. And I think there’s this shift that needs to take place on the candidate side of not being obsessed with working at a fang company. Because I think gone are the days of a fang company, you know, helping you stand out and being a badge of honour you must achieve in your career, let’s say because there’s so many other companies in different industries, etc. That would be amazing opportunities to go to and gain experience and learn a tonne.
So it’s just something to think about for candidates as well. Broken on the company side, also, I think, I mean, let’s be real. A lot of times the job descriptions that companies put out are inaccurate, have titles that don’t really make sense. And this is something that candidates really love to complain about on Twitter and everywhere else. My attitude is like, you can continue to spend your time and energy complaining about that or focus on the things that matter, like making a better resume or something. But I think it’s fair to acknowledge that companies have some work to do around how they talk about the roles they’re hiring for, et cetera.
And then the other problem that I think needs to be addressed is the kind of equity of the hiring process, right? So many companies, make candidates, especially UX candidates, jump through various hoops, like do this design exercise at home before you come to the interview. It’s the whole you know, debate about whether or not you should do those types of activities. But I think it comes down to like Is that creating a fair hiring process? Right, not everyone has extra time to do those things.
So in 2022 one of the things I’m really focused on is that other side, which is the company side of things, because I’ve really honed in a solution for candidates in terms of making them ready to apply with amazing materials and such. And now I’m beginning to work through some of those can those company problems, but it’s a lot of work. So I don’t know which one we’re really going to tackle first. I’m still kind of in research mode, to be honest. But it’s a lot of fun.
I just wanted to add, because like, it’s a problem that I constantly discuss with my peers that I have some friends who are also design managers who are hiring, and they also complain a lot about, you know, got the senior role. But since while there are out out there, there are mainly on the senior roles, like you can find that no 20 senior roles and one Junior role in the market right now, usually, I don’t know, I think the ratios are different everywhere. But in general, you’ll see much more senior roles, everybody needs experienced designers.
And so they would complain a lot about that you would have so many juniors applying to senior roles. But that’s again, the problem of chicken and egg, knowing that there are not enough of the offering. And again, the markets are different obviously, of course, the competition is different as well. But point is it’s very understandable why it is happening.
Because if we imagine ourselves being you know, aspiring designers just out of the bootcamp or whatever, trying to find a role and you go in the market and you find like, I didn’t want Roll over 500 people applied already. And then you see like 20 other senior roles that stand there for like two months and nobody’s you know, it’s not being closed.
So obviously, they’re still open, you’re trying your luck, you’re trying if you can get there, you trying to cut your way, or maybe I’m fake it till you make it or whatever. Everybody’s like just brilliant trying to figure it out. And I see why it is happening. And obviously this ratio, it’s one of the biggest problems which I own honestly don’t know how to solve. And I’m really excited to hear that somebody’s trying to understand what’s going on market perspective as well. So it’s definitely a big thing I wanted to make sure because it is well,
It’s actually very interesting to listen to this angle as well, because most of the time and in our in our work, we’re pretty close to the candidates’ perspective, and there’s this general tendency of demonising the companies.
Yes, they’re awful hiring practices. And the process is not optimised. And just like you said, all the issues with the take home assignments and job descriptions that are broken, and so on. But at the same time, there’s a person that’s behind all that. And since we’re designers, why not build the famous empathy that we use so freely? Why not build empathy for those people who are actually trying to hire the right person for the job, and maybe they just need guidance or they need for me, it was always probably interesting to explore.
But it feels so daunting that I don’t know who I think they’re extremely brave, to go ahead and try to understand and unpack that problem space and try to do something about it. I, we support you brought this I think it’s great that you’re on it. And yeah, but to maybe go a little back in the candidates shoes, because that’s where where you feel most comfortable. In this conversation, let’s see, what are, from your perspective, the most common mistakes that candidates make in the job hunt?
Sarah Doody 23:32
Yeah, so I think it’s, it can be kind of divided into two sections. Section number one is mistakes around how they present their self and their what I refer to as career materials. So their resume, portfolio, LinkedIn, cover letters, like all of those things that form that first impression. And then I think there’s the second part of the actual job search.
So let’s talk about those career materials first, because I think a lot of people listening are probably currently working on those or trying to figure out why maybe they aren’t getting interviewed some where the problem might be, and is that your resume is your portfolio, etc. So the kind of really overarching problem I see is that a lot of people do not know how to effectively communicate in a written format.
I mean, to be at the 30,000 foot view of this conversation, because a lot of what we do inside Career Strategy Lab is teach you how to write so for example, with your resume, like we have a bunch of lessons on what makes a good resume bullet point better best resume bullet points, and it was amazing in the beginning for me to realise that no one knew how to do this because it comes to naturally to me, but that’s kind of the IT expert phenomenon I guess, right like things you are very natural at.
That’s why people consider you an expert. So teaching people how to communicate super, super important. And then I think the other big mistake people make is not just showing the deliverable or stating literally what you did, but articulating the details of that, and your decision making behind that.
So let me give an example. So this is really tangible for people.
Last week, we had a vice president of user research, join us inside Career Strategy Lab for these things we do called portfolio Demo Day, where people get 10 minutes to present their portfolio, and then we give 10 minutes of feedback.
So one person was presenting a research portfolio. And one of the slides said something along the lines of next I interviewed 23 stakeholders, and did usability tests, something like that. And then on that slide, it showed some sample questions that they asked for the interview, and tasks that they had them do for the usability test. And then it moved, the next slide was, and here’s what we discovered. But let’s focus on that specific slide. So just saying, I did user research interviews with 23 people and did usability tests. That’s good. But that leaves a lot of questions in someone’s mind.
So if you want to stand out as someone, not just who can say they do usability tests and interviews, but prove to us or provide evidence that you did the right things to achieve that outcome, if that makes sense. So as an example, this person could have added details such as, why did you choose to do that research method in the first place? Right? Why was interview and usability testing the best option? Why not a survey? So why did you choose that method? Then? How did you find and what were the criteria for those 23 people? Right? Like, what was? What was the strategy behind choosing those people, and then maybe even details, like the software you decided to use for the usability testing if there was software involved.
So that’s what we mean, when you see tweets and medium articles, you know, all day, every day about tell the story tell the story, telling the story is not I did usability testing.
And then I made an affinity map. That’s another one. So many portfolios, say like, next, we made an affinity map. And then there is a diagram of an affinity map. And that’s it. And it’s like, well, great, I know that you went to Miro and grab some affinity map template and put a bunch of post it notes all over the place, and move them with your hand with your mouse, you know, but I don’t have confidence yet that like, you thought through the details of why things are in each quadrant and its stress.
So I wish I could ban the phrase like tell a story show your process because I’m so sick of hearing that. And that’s, I think, why people gravitate towards me, because I actually go into the details of how to actually tell the story and show your process.
Just wanted to say that I usually would differentiate those as like showing the report you did and telling the story like what was your thinking process and, and I definitely see how many people are doing the reporting thing, like, here is the exact steps I went through it. It’s definitely copycat all replaces all the time.
Cookie Cutter, I like to call it the checklist portfolio!
Sarah Doody 28:46
It’s true. And that brings up two more points, hopefully I can remember both of them. One of the points is a lot of UX people, for whatever reason, and I would love to know who is spreading this lie around the industry. But it’s the idea that your portfolio must like you said, check every box of the UX process, it has to go through the double diamond process or the human-centred design process, whatever you call it.
And my attitude is, not every project in every portfolio needs to show each tick of the box of the Double Diamond process, let’s say because a user researcher, for example, like or a UX writer, you know, they may not have high fidelity designs, you know, so I think we need to stop obsessing about that because I think that’s why a lot of people are spending really a lot of time working on fake projects, mock projects, whatever you want to call them, so they can show evidence in every project in their portfolio of this ticking of every box.
The other kind of problem I see candidates make it goes back to how they talk. about their projects. If you’ve been to a UX education or bootcamp programme, you probably have some presentation that you made about each project you worked on. But who was the user or stakeholder of that presentation? It was your instructor. Right. And the point of that presentation is to demonstrate to your instructor that you know, and learned all the things you’re supposed to know and learn a lot of people, you try and use those exact same presentations as their portfolio projects.
The problem in my mind, and I hear this quite often from hiring managers and such is that they’re not the same user. Right. So a lot of times these presentations made for a bootcamp, let’s say, we’ll say something like Next, we made personas to help us empathise with the users and understand their problems and needs. Like if you Google that it’s probably in 10s, of 1000s of portfolio web pages.
The problem with that statement that I just made, is the person hiring you doesn’t need you to waste their time telling them the definition of what a persona is. They want to know, the research that led to these personas, and what are some of the key tasks are like how do these personas relate to the user flows, you’re going to focus on things like that.
So affinity maps are another one, like at the top of the page, it will say next, we made an affinity map to find and organise the themes. And it’s like, well, obviously, but what were the themes, you know, so that’s just I’m kind of ranting, but it’s a big one. And hiring managers, a VP of research from Chase said this almost verbatim last week, like your your portfolio doesn’t need to sound like answers to questions on a UX exam,
We strongly we definitely relate to that. I mean, yeah, it’s a rant that we probably have experienced in our minds as well. But you said beautifully, I mean, it’s just, it’s just very compelling to listen to you. Because you put things very well into place, it shows that you’re the expert in this issue.
We’ve been kind of circling around arbitrating these themes in our podcast, but I feel like today, we kind of nail them down like, very, very clearly stating the issues and what’s wrong with with UX these days from the angle of the job market, and the job hunt and portfolios and everything. So we know what’s wrong. Now we’ve explored some of the issues that are out there the mistakes candidates make the issues with companies and everything.
I think we’ve been through some very interesting perspectives in this conversation already. But now let’s move into the positive side of things. So my question to you Sarah, is do people need to apply to 100 jobs? Or is there a smarter way to go about this process? What can they do to optimise? What are your tips and tricks for someone who’s looking to lander UX first or not? Not necessarily first UX job, a better UX job?
Sarah Doody 33:09
Yeah. So, so much of our conversation today, there’s so much irony, because a lot of the mistakes that we make, we would not make them if we were applying UX and product management and product strategy principles to this very situation.
So you know, looking at the job search, for example, imagining if there was a product manager for your job search, and you applied to 100 roles, or like 50 roles and didn’t get any interviews, that product manager would probably kind of raise a little yellow flag and say, well, before you apply to job 51, let’s kind of check in, that’s what product managers do a lot of times, right?
That’s what you know, even if you’re not a product manager, at least, me personally, in the UX work I do, I’m always thinking about like, is this working? Is it not? Should we keep going? Should we step back? So question number one really is, what’s the strategy for your job search. And my attitude is, you should apply to less jobs, but put more care and attention into those jobs you apply to.
So what does that mean tangibly? First of all, it means reading the actual job description, honestly reading it. And then after you read it, determine the likelihood that you match up to that. And if you’re not sure, if you’re on the fence, ask someone you worked with or you know that you trust to see what their gut reaction is, if there’s a couple of things on their requirements list that you’re worried about, maybe get a second opinion.
The other thing to think about is, before you even I think start searching for jobs, you need to make what I call a career value criteria list, which means what are you looking for in a company? What Are you looking for in a team? What are you looking for in a boss? So almost like if you’re looking for a partner, you know, you might have a list of things that you want and would maybe compromise on and this, that and the other. It’s the same for a company and your career.
If you do that, you will minimise the likelihood that you get kind of wooed by some opportunity and then get hired and think, oh, man, like, I hate this company culture or something. So get clear on your goals and needs once as a person seeking a job when it comes to actually applying to those jobs. So simple things like customizing your resume customizing your portfolio, writing a cover letter, and it doesn’t need to be like 1000 words long, I just had this conversation with a hiring manager the other day, because there’s debate everywhere, right?
Our cover letter is dead. And you have to think of the function of a cover letter. So the function of our cover letter is to highlight the top things that someone would need to know about you. Like, imagine if they didn’t read your resume or open up your portfolio? What do you want them to know? That’s what should be in your cover letter.
Ideally, you connect your skills and experience to how that could relate to them like so for example, if you were previously a flight attendant, and now you’re switching into user experience, and you are applying to a company like hotels.com, or like KLM airlines or something great. That cover letter is an opportunity to connect the dots between your experience in the travel industry and that domain knowledge that you bring to that travel company you’re applying to.
So when it comes to customising resumes, and portfolios now, I know a lot of people are probably thinking, that’s so unrealistic, how do I make time to do that, and when I say customise your resume, for example, I don’t mean rewrite the whole thing from scratch. I mean, you might just be rearranging the order of bullet points, adding a bullet point removing a bullet point, based on that company you’re applying to. And same thing with your portfolio.
I personally teach everyone in Career Strategy Lab, your portfolio needs to be a presentation a PDF, which is why it makes it easy to then customise it, because in a PDF, you can just drag project three up to be the first one instead of the third one, or project two down up to be number one, if project two is super, super relevant to that role you’re applying to.
So ultimately, like, apply to less roles, be clear on the roles you’re applying to tailor your materials. And then I would say, focus on relationship building, with people at the companies you apply to or want to work at in the future, because that is a big part of either getting hired or knowing that jobs exist, like just go on LinkedIn and do a search for hiring a user researcher or hiring a designer. And what you’ll see is people posting that their teams are hiring, and then guess what, go connect with them, send them a message, comment on the post. And that’s how many people in my programme ended up getting kind of a foot in the door.
I like the fact that you’re saying like tailor it to the don’t just apply to anything you you don’t even check. I also feel like the one thing we’re missing or many people are missing is that yes, industry. Yes, if you have to show the cases that are relevant to the industry, or at least the challenge that is similar, maybe facing similar user base, but in other parts of it is also trying to understand what companies you’re trying to apply.
Because we sometimes miss the fact that if you’re applying as a freelancer, it’s one kind of job, you’ll have to use different sets of skills than it’s if you’re working in an enterprise culture. Or if you’re applying for a startup, or if you’re applying to design agency, they all might look for different skill sets or different kind of soft skills you’re you’re having or even like the personality types or interests, etc. So it’s one thing, if you’re just applying to any like, there’s a let’s say, bucket of all those job posts, they will all have different needs.
And like you’re definitely losing your time applying to some like especially if you have like this generic portfolio, I can do everything I can do videography, and I can do photography and I can do UX, right? Why then why not coding? It’s like it is it’s just minimizing your chances with every single new line of what you can offer. And so this is something we should also try not forgetting that it’s like the more you’re tailoring it, the more better fit you are, the more chances you probably will get loose get into the first stage in talking to your design manager to then making a better impression.
Sarah Doody 39:57
Think of what we do on a day-to-day basis but the products we design, right? Like, let’s imagine a dashboard. What makes dashboards great is when they’re personalized. And so when we work on products, we obsess about creating, like personalized experiences based on the research and all the wonderful personas and all this, and why aren’t we doing the same with our portfolios and resumes, etc, and trying to create a personalized experience for those people, or stakeholders, you can even maybe call them customers that are hiring us, you know, and I think that in the same way that candidates want the hiring process to be more human, and you know, there’s all the complaining that happens, the change kind of has to start with you make the presentation of you more human and more personable.
And one thing I tell everyone in Career Strategy Lab, when they get to their job search is that you have to prioritize people over platforms. As tempting as it is as it is to just rely on LinkedIn, and indeed, all the job boards and things, it’s far more likely that you’re going to find roles, and then be able to find people at those companies.
If you are following people on Twitter that work at the companies that you want to work at, or go follow them on LinkedIn, see if they’ve written any medium articles, or blogs, or have a YouTube channel or something. That’s how you’re going to hear about roles. And then you’ll also have a person attached to that post. And you can follow up and have a conversation, which oftentimes leads to either the opportunity to learn more about the role in the company, right?
So you can decide, do I really want to apply to this job, or once you do apply, you now have contact with someone on the inside that you can follow up with questions are asked about the status, etc.
I wanted earlier to just jump in and applaud this point about just clap for the idea of networking and reaching out to people directly. And I think that there’s a general reluctance towards doing that. Because sometimes people fear what if I’m spammy? What if they get like hundreds of messages? What if you don’t have to be spammy? I think that you can do it in a very intentional, meaningful, careful way.
And if you like, just connect to these people, and you reach out to them contextually like when, like you said, when they share the job posting, that’s the right moment to tell them, hey, I might be interested in this and, and not just send out a mass message when you say, Hey, this is me, I’m I do product design. And please hire me, that’s not that spammy.
But if you go in an unintentional way towards them, and just cultivate this honest relationship with those people, that’s totally possible. I mean, people sometimes fear reaching out to, like a cold message to someone they don’t know. But it’s so important.
Sarah Doody 42:52
I’m so glad you brought that up. Because we have this whole series of lessons inside career strategy lab about how to cold email people at different stages, you know, before you’ve applied, you applied, and now you found someone there, you want to let them know, you applied. And I agree, there is this major fear around putting out these messages. But I think, you know, it kind of boils down to common sense and being intentional. And, for example, so often on LinkedIn, I’ll see a hiring manager say, hey, my team is hiring for this out the other roles. And then in the comments. Without fail, people will reply and say, I’m interested, can you let me know more? And I’m like, No, like they’re busy!
You need to send them a message, that message better not say, Hey, I saw your post, I’m interested in the role. Because what does that say? It feels very lazy. What I teach in like 10 seconds is you need to go in with a question or some connection, like pitch yourself. You’re a travel company, you’re hiring a UX person. I’m the flight attendant, they use work and travel, and I have 10 years of experience, and that’s why you should hire me.
So yeah, it’s a larger conversation. But I totally agree. And even that research person from chase that I mentioned, we talked about this, and he said, Yeah, I get a lot of messages that are exactly that. Can you tell me more? I’m interested, the ones that stand out? are the ones that connect those dots or shine the spotlight on why that candidate is good? Or then have a simple ask, like a very clear question, and not just hey, I’m interested, can we have a coffee chat so I can pick your brain about this role? It’s like, it’s the worst type of message.
I totally agree. And I’m happy that we also touched on this point because I think it’s a very nice note on which to beautifully end our conversation because we were in thing with the human aspect of the entire diet, and how important that is just not treating it as a numbers over, over quality and I think would be the main takeaway for people to like not optimise for applying to hundreds of jobs just like the title of our episode informs. but be mindful about everything you’re doing be intentional. And I just feel like we have so many nuggets of wisdom in this episode, Sarah, I’m so excited.
And typically what myself and Anfisa do is like we do a top three, finding or insight from this episode. But we’re not going to do it now. Because everything is an insight. I mean, every line you shared with us is an insight. And I just want to invite everyone who listened to this episode to just listen to it again, I do believe that it’s an episode worth revisiting from time to time and definitely worth a second listen, because it’s packed with value. This is this is my feeling. And I also learned a lot myself. So thank you.
Sarah Doody 45:57
And I have a few articles and Twitter threads that I think would be really interesting to link to because a couple of the Twitter threads are questions I asked to hiring managers, and there’s like a tonne of comments below them. So I think it would just be a great resource to point people to after so I’ll make sure to get those to you.
Thank you, we will actually add those under the show notes. So if you’re interested to check them out, just scroll down and you’ll find there.
Yeah, so with this, I just want to thank you so much, Sarah, for coming in and sharing your wisdom with our audience with ourselves. Like I said, I also learned a lot and and helped me put some things into perspective. And I feel like I can articulate what’s been on my mind for so long. And I wasn’t able to like pinpoint and stated clearly. And it was a very nice conversation. And it felt very honest. And and you’re truly an expert on how to how to become better at landing jobs and showing up confidently in this process.
Sarah Doody 46:54
Thanks for having me. I love talking about this. And I think our conversation was really interesting because we all bring such a different perspective, not just from the people that we’re working with in terms of students clients, just the geographic difference as well. You know, like you said, there’s differences in hiring and expectations, depending on where you are. So I think it’s really great to talk about the similarities and differences.
Definitely super interesting. Thanks again,
Thank you, everybody, for tuning in for this episode. I agree with you on I was amazing. I definitely made notes. And so thank you so much again for joining us today, Sarah. Make sure to follow Sarah and check out your programme. She mentioned a couple of times you can also find the link down in the show notes. I’m sure it will be valuable for many of you, especially who is applying to new jobs. And for the rest. Feel free to support us on any podcast platform of your choice. We are on Spotify on Apple podcast as well as pretty much every other platform. So just find anywhere or just DM us if you have any other questions or topics you want us to cover.
So another awesome episode one of the best I will keep sharing and re sharing it because it’s totally worth listening and re listening. And thanks to everyone who listened bye bye bye.