Listen to the Episode
Listen in on Sarah’s guest appearance on the Neilson Norman Group podcast, hosted by Therese Fessenden. This episode promises to offer insights to anyone seeking to elevate their UX career through resilience, impactful decision-making, and timeless skills.
Discover the real-world insights and practical advice for navigating a career in UX design. Explore the journey into the fast-paced world of UX, and the freedom to craft a unique career path without getting bogged down by job titles. Dive into the essence of finding fulfillment and aligning your work with your personal values, and uncover the nuances of gaining practical experience and building a compelling portfolio to showcase your skills. Delve into the significance of leveraging existing talents and supplementing skills to transition into UX.
Learn about the messy and imperfect nature of UX work and the value of learning from mistakes, and join the conversation on prioritizing battles and implementing knowledge effectively in the rapidly evolving field of UX design.
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Discussion Questions About The Episode
- How are you feeling about where your skills and career are headed and how does that align with your long-term goals and what matters to you?
- What little steps can you take to test out elements of your dream job in your current role?
- How can you show off the unique things you've done at work and why you've done them?
- How can you fit the messy, real-world lessons you've learned into your career journey, keeping that rhythm of learning and doing alive and kicking?
- How can you shift your focus from obsessing over job titles and pay to the impact you're actually having on others, and making sure your career moves bring you true satisfaction?
Discussion Questions About The Episode
Sarah Doody [00:00:00]: Hey there. I’m Sarah Doody, host of the Career Strategy Podcast. Many professionals are seeking more impact, flexibility, growth, and let’s face it, getting paid what they’re worth. But how do you unlock this in your career? It starts with strategy. I’m taking you behind the scenes of what’s working for my career coaching clients. You’ll hear strategies news and actionable, yet sometimes against the grain, advice for how you can be the CEO of your career and stop in Mondays. Ready to level up your career? Let’s get after it.
Erin Lindstrom [00:00:38]: This episode of the Career Strategy Podcast originally aired on the NNG UX podcast. In this episode, you’ll hear Sarah share her thoughts on how UX professionals can design their ideal careers, whether they’re in the market for a new role or not. For free UX resources, references, and information on UX certification opportunities, you can go to n n group.com. Make sure to check out their podcast as well, and enjoy the episode.
Therese Fessenden [00:01:05]: Hey, Sarah. Welcome to our show. Thanks for joining us. How are you doing today?
Sarah Doody [00:01:10]: I’m doing well. I’m excited to be here with you and chat all things UX.
Therese Fessenden [00:01:15]: Yes. Me too. I’m super stoked. What inspired you to get into this field?
Sarah Doody [00:01:21]: Yeah. So the story kinda goes way back to Really high school when I was, you know, trying to answer that proverbial question, what do you wanna do? And I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I was really technical and really creative. So long story short, I was gonna study neuroscience. I deferred for a year, and, You know, as history goes, I just started doing some graphic design, web design, and Realize this world of, like, web and tech was a great combination of that technical and creative stuff. Right? And I didn’t know anything about user experience. But one day, one of my bosses gave me a copy of The book which is called information architecture for the worldwide web. It’s one of the O’Reilly books with the polar bear on it. And I read that and I thought to myself, like, this is me.
Sarah Doody [00:02:23]: I’m gonna make new business cards and call myself the information architect. So I did. And, I just really latched on to this field. This was, like, very early 2000, And I didn’t go to school for this. I just devoured, you know, all the content that was available back then, which was back of a lot less than it is now. And there was this pivot point really where, you know, I think a lot of people struggle with, should I do research? Should I do design? Like, what Should I get into? And I really made a pivot decision and thought, I wanna focus on that experience and research side of things, so not visual design, because I felt like if I tried to do it all, It’s kind of that like, if you try and be everything, you’re not really gonna be great at anything. So that’s the very short version.
Therese Fessenden [00:03:20]: It certainly seems like a lot of folks in the UX field come from so many different disciplines and happen to find their skill set is just really compatible with a lot of the different skill sets needed in this space. Here you’re mentioning about the, information architecture title and how that really called to you enough to to put it on business card. So Yeah. Was there ever a moment where you thought, let’s change that to UX on the business card?
Sarah Doody [00:03:46]: Yeah. I can’t remember the progression of, you know, self administered titles, But I know I had business cards that said information architect, user experience designer, experience designer, UX researcher and experienced designer. That was kind of the niche that I tried to create for myself, but I think it’s a really important, like, topic here because so many people struggle with what They should call themselves, you know, on their LinkedIn, on their resume, even, like, should I take this job whether it has title x or title y? And, Like, at the end of the day, kind of the blessing and the curse of our field is that you can call yourself anything. You know? And there’s no one that can tell you otherwise. So, I just kinda ran with that, and it’s worked so far.
Therese Fessenden [00:04:45]: That is one of the Double edged swords of our field is is the flexibility in titles and also in, responsibilities and, you know, the breadth of What our field touches is is quite wide. So
Sarah Doody [00:04:59]: Well I definitely agree, and I think, At least I remember, like, agonizing at one point for multiple weeks what I should make, you know, my new business cards say for whatever reason, I can’t remember. And in hindsight, like, it was such a waste of time because, yes, your title matters, but it’s more important, like, who cares what you’re called? Can you actually deliver on things x, y, and z? You know? And I think There’s a lot of people listening who probably stress out about job titles or titles they give themselves. It’s not worth your time. Like, Focus on learning the skills, practicing those, get into that habit of, like, learn, do, learn, do, and that’s much more valuable long term.
Therese Fessenden [00:05:47]: Yeah. On the topic of learn, do, there’s this popular idea in The field that you need to have, like, a degree in design. But that wasn’t your path necessarily. Right? Because, I’m curious, you know, what you think about that. Is there Is there another way to start building up some of these skills? I mean, I can certainly, you know, with my biased angle, give my 2¢ on on different ways you can learn. But but I’m curious, you know, what are some of the things that, you’ve seen, as far as other paths and how other people got there?
Sarah Doody [00:06:20]: Yeah. So like I said, I don’t have a degree in design at all. I have a business slash marketing degree. But I think, You know, if I was just, you know, graduating high school or something and I thought I wanna do user experience and I had the time and resources to maybe put into a formal education program. I think it depends on your learning style. I know for myself, I would really benefit from the structure of a program with accountability and a community, etcetera. So the beauty of that is depending on your time and budget, you know, there’s options to do a 4 year degree or a master’s program even, or there’s all these in intensive. So I think it really depends on What you need and what would fit into your lifestyle.
Sarah Doody [00:07:15]: You know what I mean?
Therese Fessenden [00:07:16]: Mhmm.
Sarah Doody [00:07:17]: But I think If you are let’s say you’re what I call a career switcher, so you’re currently working in some, You know, professional field teaching journalists, psychologists, whatever, and you’re compelled to pursue user experience, I think your time is probably limited, right, because you have your day job. Right. So I think for you, the real The real path to get into UX, first of all, is to ask yourself, what might I be doing already in my job Even though I don’t have the title UX in my job, am I doing research? You know? Am I designing things? Right? I had this, Teacher that was responsible for designing new curriculum, and, like, that wasn’t user experience, but There was a ton of research that went into that and they turned that into this, research project. So it’s all about, you know, connecting those dots, especially if you’re a career switcher and then identifying, like, areas where you need to supplement. And, you know, for a career switcher, maybe it more veers towards software and process, right, versus someone just starting out who Just graduated in high school and doesn’t have much professional experience. They pre probably need a deep dive in more topics and skills than a teacher, psychologist, other career switcher.
Therese Fessenden [00:08:50]: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. It seems like the the type of learning that you wanna supplement, like you’re saying, really should be something that you Our introspective about, like, where do I need to build a bit more expertise or where do I feel like I’m currently lacking and then using that as, like, your jump off point to figure out, k. Do I wanna go, like, full degree, or am I at a point now where a full degree won’t be that much more of a return on investment compared to something that is a bit shorter or more intensive.
Sarah Doody [00:09:21]: Right. Because I think if you’re Let’s keep running with that career switcher example. You know, if you’re working full time right now or you’ve decided to take a leap so you can get into user experience, Pursuing a master’s program, like, that’s a very high time and financial commitment. So
Therese Fessenden [00:09:39]: Yeah.
Sarah Doody [00:09:39]: I think for those People, and maybe you’ve seen this as well, but if you have, you know, 5, 10 years experience doing something that is tangentially related to Research people, you know, communication behavior. You can probably Supplement, or maybe a better way to phrase it is you can probably self educate on the things that you need to, like, get your foot in the door and play up pure existing experience. And I think one trend I see is a lot of people really sell themselves short in their presentation of themselves in that first impression that comes through, you know, in your resume, in your LinkedIn, in your portfolio, cover letters, all those things. And I’ve seen time and time again, when people can articulate Their prior experience, skills, etcetera, they’re able to be seen as a more kind of mature and experienced candidate even though they’ve never had UX in their job title.
Therese Fessenden [00:10:54]: Yeah. Oh, totally agree. And I I think that goes for people both switching into the field and also people who’ve been in the field for a while, maybe trying to Shift their current role within the space or within the industry and underselling some of the important Experiences that they did get. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but more, you know, maybe in a slightly different context, but utilize the same sets of either, ways of thinking or solving problems.
Sarah Doody [00:11:24]: Yeah. I think for those people that Have worked in user experience for a while. You know, they kind of have this unique challenge. It’s almost envious to people getting into the field because they have so much experience. So you have this challenge of you have so much experience you could talk about, but also you might be at this fork in the road in your career where you’ve been doing x for 10 years, however long, And you realized, you know, I’ve kind of been a generalist for 10 years. I really want to specialize this next chapter in my career because I’ve really fallen in love with research or Mhmm. Or I’ve really fallen in love with health care or something, you know. So This combination of getting to a fork in the road and thinking, is there a specific part of user experience I wanna focus on or an an industry.
Sarah Doody [00:12:18]: I think those are challenges that are unique to those switchers, but to your point, They very, very often downplay that experience. And just to get really specific, I see a lot of Kind of resumes, LinkedIns, etcetera, that feel very just checklist in nature, if that makes sense. So it’s like, Here is a site map. Here are some wireframes. And Mhmm. If you’ve been working in UX for 10 years, like, That doesn’t help me get a grasp of your deeper knowledge and application of those things in specific industries or business settings. Right? So Right. If you have been working in UX for a while and you’re struggling with your job Serge, I think the first thing to think about is what is that first impression, all these career materials you’re creating? And does it just seem like I’m, like, having bullet lists on my resume of, like, skills and software.
Sarah Doody [00:13:24]: Does my portfolio just look like, You know, a a PowerPoint of deliverables? Or have I taken the time to go deeper and explain not just what I did, But why I did it? How I did it? What happened? You know? That’s that’s the context that is missing so much, and I know that example was for career, climbers, but honestly, it’s applicable to everyone.
Therese Fessenden [00:13:51]: Yeah. Totally. Yeah. And and thinking about what you bring to the table and and why you personally are interested in these particular activities or in these particular, types of work. So Mhmm. Yeah. So I guess on the topic of folks who are in the market for new UX work. Like, it seems like that’s a natural place to kind of take a like, literally taking a break, Stopping and reassessing, like, what your goals might be, and what your expectations might be for a new role.
Therese Fessenden [00:14:23]: But sometimes, like, You’re not really thinking about those, priorities or expectations until you’re in the market for a new job. So
Sarah Doody [00:14:32]: Yep.
Therese Fessenden [00:14:33]: For people who Aren’t job hunting. Is there, you know, a way to really examine your current work situation and, you know, see how you can improve. And I guess what’s tricky is, like, improve And just the idea of, like, success in a role is is is kind of subjective in a way because it’s like Mhmm. It’s not always gonna necessarily be something like promotion. Right? Improvement can be many different types of career advancement. So how do you know what improving your role is? Like, how you do that type of introspection?
Sarah Doody [00:15:07]: Right. I mean, this kinda goes the idea of whether you’re doing UX research or not, It’s a very valuable skill to learn because to answer this question, you kind of have to be Doing user research on yourself. Right? And, like, being very mindful and aware of Your skills, the environment you’re in, the people you’re around, how that’s affecting your performance, your day to day. And, You know, I run this thing called Career Strategy Lab, which is all about helping people, like, package up their skills and experience in the form of a resume portfolio, etcetera. But when they come into this program, the first thing that they do is do a career audit, and I invented this. And it’s really the idea of, like, doing research on yourself, and there’s various activities such as, like, reflecting, you know, on the last 2, 5 years of your career and almost do, like, a horizontal timeline of, like, highs and lows. And just that activity alone will help you see, wow, I really felt like I was, like, Shining really bright in the role here. And at this other role, because the team was a mess or the boss was like total narcissist, like, I never wanna repeat that again.
Sarah Doody [00:16:31]: Right? So doing doing these, like, reflective exercises like that can be really helpful. And I think as you do that, it helps cultivate being more mindful in your everyday. I think other things you can do if you’re not looking for a job right now first of all, congratulations. You have some breathing room. Yeah. But but I think one mistake people make is, you know, they don’t really think about these things until Push comes to shove, and it’s time to get a new job for whatever reason. Mhmm. So it can be really valuable to also Think into the future, not just what do you wanna be doing in your next job, but what might 5 years from now look like? And, yes, That could change because, you know, for so many reasons.
Sarah Doody [00:17:25]: But the point I’m trying to make is it’s so important to think one job ahead. So don’t just think about the next job you want, think about the one after that. Because if you wanna be, Like, I don’t know, some type of UX lead or manager or VP of design or something. That’s great, but There are probably skill gaps that you need to fill between now and then. So maybe you can learn those in your current role, But maybe it’s going to illuminate the idea that even though you might be happy in your current job, it’s not setting you up for that job you want 5 years from now. So then that leaves you with the question of, can I somehow figure out how to get this experience in my current role? Or if not, is it maybe time to think about other opportunities?
Therese Fessenden [00:18:15]: Yeah. Yeah. The idea of, like, doing what you can with what you’ve got. And I think I remember the last time we chatted, we got on the topic of, like, experimentation in your current role, like, some of the things you can do in whether it’s your current area of responsibility or Maybe not. Maybe you have to create, like, a a new, a new way forward. Maybe it’s a new project that you take up, or someone that you help out in your organization. But I I think the the term that you told me, which has always Stuck in my head was like an MVP almost of, like, the dream job. So can you share a little bit more about how one can, like, craft a minimum viable product, but of your Job, like, of a career that you would dream of.
Sarah Doody [00:19:01]: Yeah. So I think this is such a great question because So many people probably feel trapped or stuck in a role that maybe they don’t think is giving them enough space to, like, spread their UX wings. And so let’s say you’re working at a company right now, and Maybe you wanna get into research, but you don’t do research right now. Great. Well, this would be a great great opportunity to think about, like, What could my research job look like whether or not it’s at that company or another company? But if you’re fortunate enough to be working in a company right now, I think you could probably spot a lot of areas that might need some research. And then I think there is no harm in proposing Some research around whatever areas these are. Right? And even if someone says no, that’s not to say you couldn’t Research that on your own. Right? Like Mhmm.
Sarah Doody [00:20:06]: Maybe get permission before you talk to customers or something, but There’s so many ways that you could be doing research kind of in a very rogue way, for lack of better word, to, to develop those skills and see if you actually like it. Like, maybe you do it for a while and you think, oh, I actually don’t like research. But I think, You know, there we get so caught up on, and it’s kind of this, like, rampant expert Culture, not just in UX, but Mhmm. In so many fields. Like, I think it puts pressure on a lot of people to try and learn everything very quickly and be perfect at everything. Right? Like, you have to know All of Figma and all of this research software. Right? Mhmm. And I think that’s very overwhelming because I receive a lot of messages from people who are clearly stressed out trying to learn all the things, and I can imagine that would be very exhausting.
Sarah Doody [00:21:13]: Right? And so instead of focusing on learning, You know, every single software and memorizing every single UX terminology and some book of UX Terms that someone made probably, you know, and and memorizing all of these things that will likely change in a while, I think It’s really important to focus on the more timeless skills. So for research, it wouldn’t be like how to know every feature of, I don’t know, dovetail or something. But, like, being a strong communicator, being confident in interviews, like, looking at data and, like, being able to quickly just analyze the things at a high level without spending, you know, 2 weeks making some elaborate Google Sheet. You know? So, that’s what I mean when I say think about your minimum viable product, and that also spills over to minimum viable like, in your job search, minimum viable portfolio, minimum viable resume, minimum viable LinkedIn because People spend months, like, honestly, sometimes years saying they’re gonna finish their portfolio. And and I know this because I’ve been doing this for 5 years, and I have hundreds of emails that say this, I’m sure. But it goes back to the, you know, product development. Like, if you keep waiting to get it perfect, you won’t know if Version 1.5 would’ve worked, but you just spent until version 5 and you wasted all that time and money. So that’s what I mean when I say MVP.
Therese Fessenden [00:22:51]: Yeah. Oh my gosh. And it makes me laugh because, I know earlier in my UX career, I I did the same thing where I just kind of Sat on my hands thinking, well, I don’t have the perfect UX project to put in here. But Missing, unfortunately, the opportunity to communicate the skills that I obtained through other maybe related or, like, adjacent types of projects, where maybe I used some of the skills, but maybe not all of them. And and, I mean, I guess that’s the point of the portfolio, right, is to, like, show different kinds of projects, different Times that you’d practice a certain skill even if it’s not all in 1 neat case study. Mhmm. So I I appreciate that. I because I probably would have Like that advice maybe, like, 7 years ago, but but it’s important to get that word out to those who, you know, who are in that position now.
Sarah Doody [00:23:41]: And to your point of, like, the perfect UX portfolio, which could be its own, like, documentary or something, but, you know, so many People have this belief that every project in your portfolio must go through the quote Perfect UX process. And I say this with confidence because I talk to people every week who say, Can I put this project in my portfolio if it didn’t launch, or if we didn’t do research, or if We didn’t do usability testing and or if we jumped right to high fidelity designs? And I always turn it into a conversation, and I say, well, Why did you skip research? And, you know, as we can probably imagine, it’s because, well, the stakeholders said this or this founder said they knew everything. And so I don’t know who is spreading this myth. I have hunches, but, you know, that every project must go through the perfect UX process, but That’s a great example of where sometimes a project in your portfolio might just be the research step. You know? Mhmm. It might just be some elaborate usability testing you did. And I think if I had to guess where this is coming from, it’s It’s the idea that people are going through all these boot camps and education programs and learning every step of the process and ticking all those boxes. And then As a part of their requirements for, quote, graduation, they have to show a project that goes through every step.
Sarah Doody [00:25:13]: And so then they think they have to put that in their portfolio. But In the real world, like, yeah, I’ve definitely worked on projects where we didn’t do research or we skipped to high fidelity because the product was already in market and, like, we had existing designs. So for cost and time effectiveness, Made sense, right, just to jump to those high fidelity designs, you know? So that’s something I wish people new to the field really could understand. Like, I feel like all the boot camps and education programs need someone, maybe me, to come in and teach like you learned UX. Now here’s UX in the real world. Do you know what I mean?
Therese Fessenden [00:25:52]: Mhmm. Yeah. Oh, totally. And and life is messy. Like, UX is messy. As much as I would love To say that every single project, you know, can and and and should go through every single step. Like, ideally, sure, if you’re able to and, right, if you’re in a position to do so, but sometimes you have to just do the best with what you’re handed. And, you know, that’s really what matters and maybe what you learn having made mistakes, like, that can also be just as useful in a portfolio.
Therese Fessenden [00:26:24]: So, totally.
Sarah Doody [00:26:26]: And another thing, if I were to not that I plan to redesign UX boot camps today, but now that I’m talking about it, I think in addition to UX in the real world, maybe I’ll write an article about that. We need, like, you know, baseline business knowledge for UX people. Because as a founder myself now, like, I consider Career Strategy Lab A product because it is. And, like, have I usability tested different pages within that? No. I mean, and why didn’t I do that? Well, because, you know, time, money. I was a 1 woman show for a very long time, And I went with my gut, and I monitor and analytics to tell me things, but I definitely didn’t usability test every single part of it. You know? So Mhmm. I think that’s an example of where, Like, there’s UX that you do in academic sense, and then there’s it’s like book smart versus street smart.
Sarah Doody [00:27:23]: Right? Mhmm. There’s a balance. Yeah.
Therese Fessenden [00:27:26]: Yeah. And and I do think that maybe that’s a signal too of, you know, the maturity of you know, when I say maturity, what I mean is, like, Your time and experience within the field, you start to to identify, okay, what are the battles I really need to fight, and where Should I prioritize my time so that I can get the maximum benefit, as opposed to maybe sweating over something that yes. Sure. If we had time and money, it would be great, but otherwise, You know, maybe there’s something else that really deserves our attention a lot more. And and I do think, you know, to your point, it’s it is a a street smart versus, You know, book smart, certainly, it’s good to have book smarts as well, but, ultimately, what comes down to it is, you know, can you implement it in a way that makes sense? So
Sarah Doody [00:28:11]: Yeah. I recently saw this graphic, and it’s all blurring together whether it was pinch not Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, wherever. But It had these 2 columns, and on the left was, like, method a of learning, and on the right was method b of learning. And on the left, it had, like, a bunch of rectangles stacked on each other, and it just said, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn. And on the right, Same rectangles, but it said learn, do, learn, do, learn, do, learn, do. And I think, like, it’s so valuable to Get into that rhythm of learning and implementing, learning and implementing because during that implementation Comes the understanding of some of those nuances that come up in terms of Time, budget, even, like, you know, I can’t think of a specific example, but the health care or pharma industry comes to mind where or legal or government. You know, there’s so much red tape in a lot of these industries, and you might wanna do something that you can’t because, like, you’re not allowed to show that data or you’re not you need to get, like, triple permission from the user to do something, and it might break like conventional UX rules, which I’m using quotations. Mhmm.
Therese Fessenden [00:29:32]: But in the context of that industry or project, it might be necessary. You know? And I guess this is starting to spark some questions I have too about, you know, folks who maybe Are encountering some challenges. Like, what would you say are, like, some of the big challenges that you’re encountering, you know, people who are Trying to shape their career in in certain ways. You know, what are some of the challenges that, you know, prevent people from really being happy with their role? Like, What would you say is, like, I guess, the difference between a deal breaker versus something to overcome, in a current role?
Sarah Doody [00:30:13]: I think one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is not consider the type of company, size of company, and, quote, culture that they’re going into. And here’s an example. So many UX people are really obsessed with getting hired at a FAANG company or household name type company. Right? Mhmm. And There’s this perceived allure and badge of honor, I guess, that some people believe exists, and
Erin Lindstrom [00:30:48]: I think that can go
Sarah Doody [00:30:50]: a couple of ways. Right? Because some companies you could go and there’s, like, Very unbalanced expectations of how much you’re gonna work, you know. Mhmm. It also could be a situation of Those companies, because they’re so large and they have such big budgets, they there is a possibility that they’re quite siloed. And by that, I mean, If you’re early in your career and wanting to dabble your feet in a lot of UX stuff, you might not touch research because that research team is, like, you know, a 100 people over in some other part of the company. Right? So Mhmm. I think it’s really important before you apply to a company even or definitely accept a job to think, like, what do I need from this in terms of A manager, a team, what is the maturity of this organization? On the flip side, you know, if you went to, like, a small company, a start up because there’s all the allure around those, like, What people don’t realize until they’re in is, oops, now I’m a UX team of 1, and I’m new to my field, and there is no Mentor there to guide me. You know? And so I think, like, the things that people obsess about, title and salary, Are the wrong things to focus on.
Sarah Doody [00:32:14]: Right? Yeah. And it’s more of those intangibles that not intangibles, but, more things that you’re gonna encounter and things that will impact your day to day experience. Right?
Therese Fessenden [00:32:31]: Mhmm. Yeah. And it’s it’s funny too just thinking about what we talked about at the very beginning, which is that titles often don’t matter. It’s like, you know, whose line is it anyway? All the titles are made up. The rules don’t matter. It’s true. I mean, I guess, yeah, rules matter a little well, guidelines matter a little bit. But mostly, it’s What do you wanna do with your time, and and who cares what the title is? You know, looking at the job description.
Therese Fessenden [00:32:56]: In And in the interview process, are you interviewing the company too and and asking questions about what the role entails? Like, making sure it’s It’s helping to fill, you know, some of the things other than title, other than salary that would make that job Fulfilling, in some way.
Sarah Doody [00:33:14]: Yeah. And I think, like, in our field, like, I remember starting my career and kinda going down this path of thinking, okay. I’m gonna be a graphic designer, and then I’ll be an art director, and then I’ll be a creative director, because that was like this vague progression in the graphic design world. And, like, yes, maybe you could Create parallels for the UX industry, but as we know, like, a a UX lead or UX Chief design officer at a start up might be, like, a mid level designer at Amazon or something. You know? So To me, it’s really meaningless, and I think maybe in the past, people thought, okay, recruiters and hiring managers are going to look at my LinkedIn or resume and scan my job titles, and if they don’t see a progression, it’s gonna make them think, you know, I’m not that great or something. But, Like, think of the real estate on your resume. Right? The title is, like, half a line long. What’s under there? A bunch of bullet points.
Sarah Doody [00:34:18]: And since so if you write strong bullet points that communicate what you literally did and the impact of that, That’s far going to outshine any, like, random job title that some person in HR made up when they had to write your job description.
Therese Fessenden [00:34:34]: Right. Yeah. And and that’s an important point too. Like, as much as we would love to have, you know, the Person who will be your supervisor to come up with the title. It isn’t always. So Yep. You know, making sure that you’re reflecting on what ultimately it entails and And and if you’re using that as a career stepping stone, you know, that you’re able to, ultimately write those bullet points down. And I guess That’s really the takeaway.
Therese Fessenden [00:34:58]: Right? Is is thinking about what are the those key experiences that you wanna have, in order to get where you need to go. Yeah.
Sarah Doody [00:35:05]: And I would say, like, there’s kinda 2 examples in my career where I was at, dysfunctional startups, where, I I guess my superpower is somewhat that I’m a generalist, and I’m a generalist in enough stuff that I can kinda be dangerous. In that, like, I can see the interplay between, like, product and marketing. Right? And so in a couple of these startups, they definitely couldn’t figure out what to do with me, And I was kind of just like one time I was put in a corner with the tech team and told, like, Just go work with them. And we worked on this, like, natural language processor thing. I don’t even know how I did it, but I was, like, helping design this thing. And then in this other startup, I, kinda, like, spearheaded a ton of marketing because the marketing people weren’t marketing. And, I say that because it was a little rogue, but I was so confident in my strengths and areas of expertise. And in hindsight, If I hadn’t have kinda, like, followed my true strengths and not stayed inside the box that people put me in, Those some of the both of those companies would not have gone on to do certain things because there was no, like, instigator, which was me.
Sarah Doody [00:36:46]: Does that make sense? So I think sometimes you have to play it is a balance. I’m not saying, like, just go rogue and step on everyone’s toes, but I think there is value in, like, the awareness that I had of my skills and experience and the holes in the company. And if you can be looking out for those holes and how you might fill them and then diplomatically present a solution to the right people that can work to your favor, and it can open up doors to do more of like, in my case, do more marketing because my ideas turned out to be pretty good. So, Hopefully, that’s helpful for some people. I I don’t know.
Therese Fessenden [00:37:33]: I do think that’s helpful and and goes back to the point too of, you know, really Not underselling yourself, not underselling your strengths, and and being able to, find those opportunities to really deliver, in ways that maybe other people wouldn’t have anticipated that you deliver. And Yep. I think as long as you’re looking for those, then, a, you’re making your organization a better place, which is important if you wanna stay in your current role. But even if you’re looking into a new role, and you’re able to show your value, in a way that’s that is more tangible.
Erin Lindstrom [00:38:08]: So
Sarah Doody [00:38:08]: Yep. Yeah. No. It’s like you’re The these rogue things that I was doing, they were creating content and experience that I could put in my resume, in my portfolio, etcetera. So, if you’re feeling like you have skill gaps back to what we were talking about before, Maybe there are ways that you can do things in your current role to help provide, you know, evidence of that. I always say, you know, your portfolio and your resume, you have to kind of think of the whole thing like a lawyer, and that you are there to present evidence to the jury, which is the people hiring you and interviewing you. And so if you need more evidence of certain skills, then Go make or find that evidence. Right?
Therese Fessenden [00:38:55]: Mhmm. Yeah. Like, go forth and and just do it in a way.
Sarah Doody [00:38:58]: Like, if Yes.
Therese Fessenden [00:38:59]: Even if it’s not your company that you’re I I love the term rogue, by the way, because even if it’s not within the, You know, the span of your responsibility at your company that you currently work in. Or maybe you don’t even work in an organization right now, and you’re You’re trying to get your foot into this industry and just finding opportunities to go and practice those skills. I think that’s what ultimately matters.
Sarah Doody [00:39:23]: And I would I wanna build on that because there’s this trend in the industry of, like, daily UI challenges in which, You know, calendar picker is better, a or b, in this silly LinkedIn poll. And not to make fun of those, but My problem with these kind of like solve this problem I brought you on a silver platter thing is that It’s not the real world. Right? So a better example would be you had to book an appointment for your dog at the veterinarian, and their website was so horrible and the booking thing didn’t work. Wow. Look at that. That’s a real problem with a real business and, like, real users. You could probably go fix that. You know? So I always tell people, like, do an experiment for a week and be a problem spotter.
Sarah Doody [00:40:14]: And that means Take photos, write things down, take screenshots of bad experiences you encounter, and then look. At the end of 7 days, probably 3 days, you will have so many things you could fix that are real and not like, here’s a new checkout page I designed that only focused on the interface and didn’t focus on everything else. So Maybe some people need to go off and be problem spotters too.
Therese Fessenden [00:40:43]: Absolutely. If you wanted to give some, like, parting wisdom, for some folks who are thinking of, you know, What they should seek out. Right? So I know we talked about what might make people a bit unhappy. Right? What are some things that, you know, ultimately make people really satisfied with the careers they get, you know, if if you do manage to stay in touch with some of those folks who you help along the way.
Sarah Doody [00:41:10]: Yeah. I think, you know, after helping so many people get hired, I think The ones that, like, have the testimonials that say, like, yes, I doubled my salary, but I’m so happy because now I’m doing work that really aligns with my interests, My values or that I know is setting me up for that, you know, kind of top of the mountain career goal I have to be a whatever. And so I think that, You know, that takes time. Right? You’re not going to get your 1st UX job. Well, most likely, you won’t know that You definitely wanna work on, you know, consumer health products or something. Mhmm. It takes time, but I think There’s this phase of kind of experimentation and sampling all the the various ways that you can work in UX, and then there’s this phase of Following the path to the things that are going to truly make you fulfilled. Right? Because Mhmm.
Sarah Doody [00:42:26]: You know, we think A better title or a better salary is gonna solve all our problems, and we’re gonna be so happy, but, probably won’t. But what will make you happy is when you, you know, get to work on that thing that had such an impact for those people that you care so much about, Right? Or that allowed you to, you know, experiment with, I don’t know, virtual reality because you’re so into that or something. So Those are just the things to keep in mind as you, you know, progress along your career journey.
Therese Fessenden [00:42:59]: Mhmm. Yeah. Yeah. Just just keeping in mind, you know, what are some of the bigger goals beyond salary, beyond title. But if it means helping other people, if it means, doing a a skill that intellectually is exciting Yeah. Maybe challenges you. Definitely seems like those are the things that might lead to, you lasting, career decisions as opposed to 1 you might regret or something like that.
Sarah Doody [00:43:25]: Yep. Because, you know, like, Yes. I I do this Career Strategy Lab thing now, and I really treat it like a business and a product because it is. And it’s so easy to get bogged down in, like, the numbers and conversion rates, and is this page performing well, and blah blah blah. And it’s very exciting to me when I see a conversion rate go up or something like that. But It’s I I underestimated the impact that, You know, this whole thing would have in helping people, someone nearly tripled their salary last week or 2 weeks ago. And to get testimonials like that, Like, every single week. That has been very fulfilling, and
Erin Lindstrom [00:44:17]: I think Back to what
Sarah Doody [00:44:19]: I said, you know, early in your career, you’re so focused on, like, the tangibles. Right? And early in my business, I was focused on the tangibles. And now that the tangibles, conversion rates, etcetera, are working, now I can actually, like, step back and really appreciate The impact. Does that make sense?
Therese Fessenden [00:44:37]: Yeah. Absolutely.
Sarah Doody [00:44:39]: Anyway, there’s a time for everything.
Therese Fessenden [00:44:42]: Yeah. Absolutely. Just getting like, sure, you will have some tangible things and, you know, it’s nice to have them, but, it’s really the intangible stuff that makes That lasting impact in your own life as well as in in the lives of others.
Sarah Doody [00:44:55]: Definitely.
Therese Fessenden [00:44:56]: Yeah. Well, Sarah, this has been great. Thank you for for being here. If Others want to learn more about your career la career is
Sarah Doody [00:45:05]: it Career Strategy Lab? Career Strategy Lab. Yes.
Therese Fessenden [00:45:08]: Yeah.
Sarah Doody [00:45:08]: If you wanna learn more, Yeah. You can go to careerstrategylab.com. Thanks for listening to the Career Strategy Podcast. Make sure to follow me, SARAD duty, on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or LinkedIn. If anything in today’s episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Tag me on social media or send me a DM. And lastly, if you found this episode helpful, I’d really appreciate it if you could share it with a friend or give as a quick rating on Spotify or review on Apple Podcasts.