3 Key Reasons Some People Have Difficulty Landing Their First UX Gig

by Darren Hood

I spend time talking to and/or hearing concerns from up-and-coming UX professionals all over the world. The most common story involves the challenges and frustrations associated with finding their first UX job.

First things first…. I get it. Many of the aforementioned folks don’t think that senior UXers understand, but we used to be them/you. In addition to having been there once before, having come through the ranks and (for some of us) being current or former hiring managers, we have insights that can prove useful in the current push. And the reasons aren’t what many might think.

Short and sweet today, I’m going to present three of what I’ve found to be 3 key reasons new UXers face such great challenge in their journey:

  1. Failing to Understand the Nature of the Position
    Think back to your days as a teenager—that first job. In many cases, you could apply, be interviewed, and receive the job offer in the same day. For some reason, many of us go through the earlier parts of our adult life thinking that all job search processes have the same timeline, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not when you’re adulting. That job at Dairy Queen or McDonald’s only called for minimal training and getting to work in a few days. UX, however, requires a specific set of skills. Some people may try to treat a UX role as if it’s aligned with unskilled or minimum wage labor, but if you put that person next to someone who’s truly educated to do the work, the differences would be blatantly obvious. The moral of this segment? UX is a skilled position. Hiring isn’t done the same way as it would be during our younger days. Hence, it takes more prep (for the hiring manage and team), more time, more scrutiny, more consideration, and entails more accountability. One can hire faster for a job at the local fast food establishment, but UX is a completely different animal. There are light years between the salaries as well. It helps to keep these things in mind while going through the job search process. If you don’t, you’ll unnecessarily expose yourself to a great deal of frustration and sorrow. Also, failing to recognize this can and will show through if and when you do get an interview (and this attitude doesn’t look good on anyone). You should also remember to be patient, as landing your first job is usually a marathon instead of a sprint.
  2. Being Disingenuous
    One of the biggest surprises I experienced as a UX hiring manager involved the extremely large percentage of people who were willing to misrepresent themselves in order to get a job. I’ve seen more than my share of fudged resumes and Academy Award performances during interviews. I even recall a story where one person filled out the application, but the person’s friend showed up for the interview. Many people also have a tendency to pursue positions they have zero affinity and passion for. What these people all fail to realize is that the hiring managers have seen these people far more than they care to recall. It’s an automatic turnoff to see falsified information on a resume, engage in an interview with a person who obviously has zero work ethic, and/or listen to a person attempt to fake their way through a discussion about the UX discipline or design processes. Being disingenuous, from any angle, is grounds for termination of candidacy. Someone can overcome this factor by being genuine (of course) ethical, AND passionate.
  3. A Lack of Diligence
    The failure to properly prepare for a job interview is extremely common, especially among those who have minimal to no experience engaging with the corporate world. Many candidates don’t research the company they’re interviewing with, don’t double check alignment between their skills and the job posting, aren’t prepared to ask genuine questions about the company or team (i.e., failed to realize the bi-directional nature of interviews), and/or don’t put forth their best effort to represent themselves professionally (e.g., attire, speech, punctuality, thank you and follow-up letters/emails, etc.). If you want to succeed in your job search, it is imperative that you apply the proper levels of diligence required to excel.

Conclusion

That’s it! In addition to things that need not be mentioned (e.g., being qualified and disregarding empty promises from certain unnamed “training” sources), sharpening one’s perspective in these three areas will put a person in a better position to succeed during the job search.

You can hear more from the author by checking out The World of UX with Darren Hood wherever podcasts are available.

Darren Hood: UX pro (20+ yrs), adjunct professor, international conf. speaker, founder of Kaizen UX Consulting & Education, & host of The World of UX podcast