Career Transition to UX Design: Tips for Resumes
Career Transitions are full of challenges, are very time intensive, and sometimes very discouraging. If you are transitioning your career to UX/Product design and you find yourself thinking, “no one is hiring entry level designers” or “I just need someone to give me a chance”, just know I have been there, and this article is for you. I promise the challenges are worth it.
I have mentored many designers over the years, even when I was only 6 months into my own UX career transition and just starting my first freelance project. (I believe there is much we can learn from each other no matter what our career or life stage.) These tips are collected from frequently asked questions, and questions that new designers often don’t realize they can and should ask.
My goal for this article and the “Job Search” series is to help you consistently focus your energy on what is most effective to getting a full time job, and to identify what may be distractions to your job search.
This is part 1 in a 3 part series:
Part 1: Tips for Resumes
Please Keep In Mind
My goal is not to tell you what skills you need to get hired, because in reality, as long as you have the basic qualifications for practicing UX design, any combination of skills can be a great match for a full-time role at a company. It’s more a matter of presentation, timing and luck.
Hiring managers are pattern-matching your skills and interests with what their current design team needs or what their current product needs. If you can frame your design experience in a way that highlights relevant information, authentically showcases your skills and interests, and additionally take the initiative to round out your experiences where it is sparse, you are well on your way to getting that first interview.
Resume and LinkedIn
Your resume and LinkedIn profile are overviews of your work experiences. They are also what internal recruiters might see first, and what hiring managers, and designers will review before they contact you for an interview.
If you are transitioning your career, think about how to rewrite the descriptions of your previous roles in ways that show how the soft or hard skills you honed now contribute to your work as a product designer. Did you manage, architect, prioritize? Did you work with customers, users, or stakeholders? Did you iterate, deliver, prototype, test or research? Did you collaborate in a cross disciplinary team?
For your UX experiences, hiring managers are mainly looking for contextual information; the type of position (consulting, full-time), duration of the project, and your contributions (research, visual design, UI design, usability testing, design system etc.), what platforms you worked on, and potentially, what industry and stage the company was in.
For example: UX research and UI design for an early stage e-commerce startup. Platforms include a web app and an iOS app.
As long as you surface that information, and not tuck it in nooks and crannies like a scavenger hunt for the hiring manager, you should be good to go.
If you are a consultant working on multiple projects, create a job position as a consultant and list out your projects and clients with a short description of your contribution, the industry, and platforms. Hiring managers with a consulting background will recognize that the skills acquired through challenges that are inherent in consulting are extremely valuable in a team member. (I will write about that in another post.) Let’s just say, the consulting projects I took on were often more challenging by far than many projects I ever worked on as a full-time employee.
Include key words for UX design techniques and processes, like usability testing, user flows, information architecture, prototyping etc. and UX tools and like Figma, InVision and Sketch. If there is a new tool, try out the free version or sign up for a trial period and complete a short self driven project to add one more tool to your tool belt.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t: Say you are all of our past selves rolled into one, like a marketing/UX designer who does photography on the side. If hiring managers think you are not committed to the role because of a parallel career or side interests, they will also think you are less qualified.
Do: Include a reference to your past career in your About section or if you have non-UX skills which may be of interest, keep it in an Other Skills section.
Don’t: Say you can do everything well and are interested in everything. Most of us who are just starting out will be tempted to say we can do it all and have the potential to learn anything and everything, so we would be an attractive hire for any company. When you are early in your career, hiring managers are not convinced that you have had time to become proficient in every facet of UX. Saying you are a generalist with general interests will come across as being a beginner in everything, and not having enough experience to be discerning in your areas of interest, neither of which are convincing reasons to be hired.
Do: It is counter intuitive, but if you are starting out as a generalist who has an area of expertise, you are more likely to get an offer, contract or full-time. Position yourself as a Product Designer with strong UI/Visual design skills, or as a Product Designer with strong UX Research skills.
I find that most Product designers often fall into one area of expertise or the other anyways. For example, you can showcase all of your generalist UX design skills, and highlight your specialty in visual design by showcasing iconography or motion design. You will be seen as more experienced in that area, even with only a few projects under your belt.
Don’t: Stop at just your LinkedIn and a link to your portfolio.
Do: Diversify your footprint and contribute to other online communities. Depending on your areas of interest, try posting your case studies on other sites like Dribbble, writing articles on Medium, posting tutorials or your motion design explorations on Instagram, or contributing design kits to the Figma Community. Before landing my first job, I wrote 3 articles for my blog which the hiring manager actually mentioned they really enjoyed reading before responding to my application.
These other posts will help you stand out and provide a more comprehensive picture of your interests, expertise, and communication style. Also if/when you get feedback that you are not “experienced enough” in an area of UX, you can reference the reality of your 100 downloads, 500 likes or 1000 reads as proof that the feedback is one person’s opinion and you are “experienced enough” according to your followers.
Surface the contextual pieces, including the type of position, duration of the project, your contributions, what platforms you worked on, as well as the industry and stage of the company or client. Those pieces help hiring managers pattern-match you to their vision for how their product, team, and company will grow.
Be transparent and authentic in how you present your experiences and skills. Be clear about what you are looking for in your role as product designer. If you diversify your online presence with posts on other media sites, and emphasize an area of expertise, you will stand out as a candidate with specialties that balance the skills of the hiring team.
Your skills are a perfect match for a role out there, and yes it exists.
Let me know if I have missed anything or if you would like further explanation. These are my opinions and experiences as a woman of color designer in tech. Although I like to think most of these tips can apply universally, your experiences may differ.