Opportunities Hidden in Plain Sight
Job search fatigue as a design problem
Like any good designer, I hold the user-centered design process in high regard. I figured maybe this week the process could be applied to my job search.
Defining the Problem
Having scoured online job boards, I felt like I was going in circles and seeing the same jobs again and again. I didn’t know where else to look.
Creativity Techniques for Divergent Thinking
Job boards weren’t cutting it. Where else could I look for opportunities? I recalled some creativity exercises that we used during my design classes, where we picked a technique and used it to generate as many ideas as possible.
A few techniques I tried:
- Thinking the Opposite: taking the current status of something, and thinking of what the opposite of that would be.
- Challenging assumptions: as the name suggests, questioning the validity of a basic assumption of the problem
A Summary of My Ideation Exercises
- Current status: I want to work on products that are successful and solve users’ problems.
Opposite: I want to work on products that are not successful or user-friendly yet (or don’t exist).
- Current status: I want to work at a well-funded, established company.
Opposite: I want to work at a very early-stage startup.
- Assumption: Companies that are hiring will post jobs online.
Challenge: Companies may not post jobs online, and not even know that they need UX design.
From there, I distilled these ideas into 3 different search and outreach strategies (complete with terribly punny names).
Strategies to Test
- Uncut Gems: I want to work on products that are not successful or user-friendly yet.
- Money (Doesn’t) Talk: I want to work at a very early-stage startup.
- Off the Record: Companies may not post jobs online, and not even know that they need UX design.
1: Uncut Gems
I’ve come across a wide variety of UX in digital products — some good, some not. The bad tends to stick out, and need the most help. What if I reached out to companies that have apps/websites that I’ve used that could use some UX help?
An example: Flexit, a gym app that grants users access to various gyms and allows them to pay-per-minute, which removes the hassle of annual memberships.
They reached out to their users about participating in a focus group — jackpot! I figured that individual might be working on customer experience and responded, inquiring if they needed any designers.
For the past few weeks, I’ve paid particular attention to digital experiences which could use improvements and kept note of them. Not every product started out as shiny, seamless experiences: most were uncut gems at some point.
2: Money (Doesn’t) Talk
Early stage startups may be more of a risk, but they may be most in need. In order to start building a great product, design needs to be a part of the process from early on. For this concept, I tried to find startups that had recently acquired funding on websites such as Techcrunch, Crunchbase, and Built In.
I’ve periodically checked these sites and contacted the founders, engineers, and others I can sleuth out from LinkedIn.
3: Off the Record
Unfortunately, I am not a clairvoyant (although that would be useful for user research), so I cannot read minds; I don’t know that a company might need a UX designer if they don’t announce it. They might not even know it themselves! So, I reached out to startups with missions and values that resonated with me, AND did not have any designers on staff (thank you LinkedIn for allowing me to become a master sleuth).
I paid extra attention to posts that my LinkedIn connections had liked, commented on, and shared.
Thanks to LinkedIn’s algorithms, I saw both of the posts above because my connections had liked or commented on them. I looked out for posts such as these — with no clear call for designers, but products that resonated with me that I would be excited to work on. When I found interesting targets such as these, I sent connection requests to the posters.
Results and Takeaways
While the tangible results are gratifying themselves, just knowing that I wasn’t limited to LinkedIn and Indeed posts was refreshing. That was a success in and of itself.
In terms of actual outcomes — I made a handful of new connections, completed several phone calls, secured 1 freelance gig as well as…. *drumroll please*… an internship offer! Both the freelance opportunity and internship were “off the record” — I noticed an interesting LinkedIn post (no clear call for designers), reached out to the founders, and started a dialogue.
So what did I takeaway from this? Be critical, watch out for uncut gems, and reach out if you’re curious about something.