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3 Things You Can Do During COVID-19 to Land Your First UI or UX Design Job

Having trouble hearing back from companies during COVID? Level up your design game so that you can be prepared to get your first design job after quarantine ends.

In 2020, with the onset of the coronavirus, the job market has become extremely competitive. All industries – not only limited to design or technology – have been hit hard by layoffs and loss of business. As a result, a lot of people are now back on the job market, even those with decades of experience.

US Unemployment Claims during COVID-19 (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

However, during this time, it seems like a lot of people are stuck at home trying to preoccupy themselves with something to do or something to learn so that they don’t go crazy. Whether it be for a hobby, for leisure, or for professional advancement, it’s a tough time for everyone, because this is an unprecedented situation that many people have not experienced before.

Whether you’re part of the unlucky group of people who got laid off due to something out of your control or if maybe you’re a recent or upcoming bootcamp or college graduate that’s searching for their first job, there is no better time to pick up new skills and improve your chances of getting hired after this is all over.

Instead of viewing lockdown as a prison, you should view this downtime as an opportunity to reinvent yourself from a blank slate, and finally make the jump to shift careers into design and land your first job in the industry.

The following are three things you can do now to increase your chances of landing your first job in the industry after lockdown ends.

1. Build Out Your Portfolio

As a digital technologist, whether you’re interested in graphic, UI, or UX design, one of the most important things employers and companies look for is a strong portfolio. Regardless of your work experience and your skillset, most companies that have hired designers before will ont bother to even offer you an interview if you don’t have a portfolio.

If you’re new to the industry or you haven’t updated your portfolio in a while, this is something you should do now so that you can be prepared and ahead of others when companies start hiring again.

If you just got laid off from a previous role, you can write up case studies about work you did at your previous company, granted that any information you share about the work you did doesn’t violate any type of contract you’ve signed with them about confidentiality or disclosing company secrets. Companies and employers like seeing work you’ve done in a professional setting, under real-world constraints and with other designers, developers, product managers, and other stakeholders on a team.

Within your portfolio, make sure you display the top case studies and projects you’ve worked on. The rule of thumb is to have solid case studies that showcase your skills as a designer. Depending on whether you’re more interested in applying to more specialist-oriented positions or roles that require more generalized knowledge in a variety of topics, you might want to highlight different case studies.

Make sure that you pay attention to some of the semantics and nuances of how you share your portfolio, because for a designer, presentation does matter (even if you’re a UX designer or a researcher).

If you don’t have any case studies or all of them are from a non-professional setting such as your bootcamp or a school project, look into starting a long-term project that you can showcase on your portfolio.

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2. Learn New Skills

For digital designers, especially those in UI and UX, the field is so broad that a lot of companies expect to see a variety of skills and a diverse skillset. The field of design overlaps with many other disciplines. Whether you are completely new to the field of design, or if you came from a complementary field such as business, psychology, graphic design, or development, this is a great chance to round yourself out as a stronger candidate for different jobs in the industry.

Skillset of an example UX Designer (Source: Courtesy of Jared Spool)

The Handoff is working on creating a design skill self-assessment that you can take to find out what type of skillset you currently have as a designer and learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can figure out what others in the industry with similar skills are doing, and how what skills you have to build in order to get a different position or role. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for our email list below, as we always publish new resources on landing your first job in design.

3. Network, Network, Network!

“Networking with people” might sound a little slimy, but networking is really no more than reaching out to others in the industry to see how they can help you and how you can help them.

Whether it’s through social networks such as LinkedIn and Medium, or over more traditional mediums such as email or phone, it’s important to have both depth and breadth in your outreach to connections in your network

There are several groups of people you can reach out to. The most obvious people you should reach out to are recruiters and hiring managers, as they’re the ones that generally have the most “direct influence” in getting you a job. In other words, they tend to directly have a say in whether or not you get hired for a position at a particular company. Know that during this time, companies are getting more applicants than ever before, so be patient, but also persistent if you don’t hear back.

However, you should still make an effort to reach out to others that might have “indirect influence” – previous coworkers, mentors in the industry, bootcamp program coordinators, and existing employees at companies you want to work for. You can find a lot of these potential connections in design groups and communities, which are spread out across different platforms and channels.

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It’s important that you put yourself out there and make others aware of your job search, because that’s how a lot of job seekers find people that are willing to help out in the job search process. There are two concepts known as altruistic motivation and social exchange theory in psychology, which state that others are intrinsically motivated to help you because they might feel good from doing so; additionally, it allows them to feel a sense of pride that they are well-connected and willing to help others in need. Regardless of the underlying reason, know that this is the best time to cultivate and grow your network that you’re prepared for when more job opportunities open up.

Take Advantage of this Rare Chance in time to Mentally Reset and Pivot

This is truly a strange time to be living in. For some of you, this might be the first time you experienced a layoff; for many, this might be the most difficult time in recent history to be looking for a new job.

Although no one is really sure how much longer this uncertainty and chaos will last, it’s important that everyone keeps their head up and looks toward a brighter future. Health and mental well-being is first and foremost, so don’t feel discouraged if you feel more lethargic and unmotivated than usual.

Look at this time as a chance to reset – a chance to start anew and reinvent yourself.


About the Handoff

Each year, a record number of bootcamp graduates enter the job market, but have trouble finding their first design job. With so many UI and UX jobs available, how come employers aren’t hiring bootcamp grads?

The Handoff helps grads bridge that gap between graduating from a bootcamp and landing their first offer, and also gives them the tools necessary to succeed in their first job as well.

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