Dozens of tabs filled my browser window. I was applying to as many UX jobs as I could, and it was hard to not get overwhelmed. It felt like I was sending my resume into a digital black hole, with little chance of getting callbacks from recruiters.
Granted, after dozens of job applications over several months, I finally landed my first UX job. It felt like pure luck, because I was about to burn out.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this method to finding a job was a literal job hunt. It was all I knew how to look for jobs.
Fast forward 2 years later, I got a great job through my network. It was (nearly) painless and came to me unexpectedly. Getting my second job didn’t feel like job hunting…it was a result of what I call farming.
Farming is how humans have been able to advance as the dominant species on our planet. Before, we were hunter-gatherers constantly in search of food, and didn’t know where our next meal would come from.
With the advent of farming, a systematic way of producing food became the norm. For the first time in history, humans didn’t have to be at the mercy of starving until their next successful hunt.
In this post, I use farming vs hunting as an analogy for finding UX jobs. Both can be effective, but many UX beginners fail to recognize the value of farming as a strategy. Let’s dig into why that is.
WHY JOB HUNTING IS LIMITING
Think of the typical job hunt. Most people go on Indeed and other career sites, forage through job postings, then apply to jobs that seem like a good fit.
This can be a grueling process that takes months, or even longer. It feels like you’re just another face in an ocean of applicants.
Then you hear about the friend who got hooked up with her job through a friend, or skipped several stages of the interview process. Or the colleague whose side project got picked up and is landing him great freelance gigs.
To those who only job hunt, hearing results like this can be infuriating. What are they doing differently?
While career sites and job boards still collect the highest quantity of applications, employee referrals garner, by far, the highest number of qualified hires. – Jobvite .com
HOW TO START FARMING
Imagine someone who’s yet to land her first UX job. She starts going to meetups, volunteers at events, and meets UX designers and mentors.
All other things being the same, she’s more likely to get a good UX job than someone else who just applies online.
She’s building a name for herself…she’s not just any random person who wants a UX job.
Farming requires a few key mindset shifts:
Mindset Shift 1: Network Organically
Those who take a farming approach slowly get to know the community around them. Their approach to networking is “let me get to know my peers in the industry,” instead of coming from the hunter’s perspective “let’s see if this person can hook me up with a job.”
No one likes talking to a newbie who immediately wants something from them, especially if the newbie is unfamiliar and unproven.
People who take the farming approach build a base of familiarity. They show up. They’re involved. They have a familiar face.
When applied to networking, farming helps people think of you when an opportunity comes along.
This builds a solid base of referrals in the future.
While only 7 percent of applicants come from referrals, this small number accounts for nearly half of hires (40 percent).– Jobvite.com
Mindset Shift 2: Build Career Capital
Another farming strategy is to build career capital. This means building something that simultaneously creates value and attracts positive attention to you. This could involve:
- Side projects
- Organizing events / creating a meetup
- Any other project, including your own startup!
By getting noticed online for design and UX, people will make the connection between you and what you want to be known for (which, if you’re reading this blog, is probably UX design).
Example: my friend Norman Tran is making a name for himself in the design community by writing design articles on Medium. He’s building a platform around his interests in Design Thinking, Mindfulness, Civic Engagement, and Play.
Do something you’re proud of and share it. It might not yield immediate results, but over the long term you’ll reap what you sow.
Mindset Shift 3: Contribute Consistently
The most egregious mistake beginners in any field is failing to stick around long enough to reap the benefits.
Naturally, when you enter a new field, you’re exploring. You want a list of the best UX tools. A list of all the best UX books. All the people you should follow on Twitter.
Regardless of how many things you look up or know about, the biggest difference comes from doing something consistently and to completion. The best course is the one you actually finish. The best book is the one you actually read.
Want to stand out in a community? Here’s a helpful non-hack: consistently contribute to a community.
If you find yourself in several forums, Slack groups, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn groups, the simplest hack is to choose a community and put all your effort there.
Become a top poster. Check in often. Answer people’s questions. In general, be a helpful person. If you’re not already part of any UX community, here’s a quick list to get you started:
- Designer Hangouts (Slack Group)
- Designer News
- UX Beginner: Design Community (Facebook Group)
I guarantee that getting known in one of these communities will take you farther than spreading your efforts thin across all these groups. Why do you think monogamy is still the norm? :p
COMPARING JOB HUNTING VS FARMING
Here’s a quick comparison table to summarize the differences between job hunting and farming:
|Short Term||Long Term|
|Little Investment on Relationships||Developing Relationships|
|Finding Opportunities||Creating Opportunities|
I’m not saying that hunting is bad, or that farming is the only way. Finding a great job usually requires a mix of the two.
The point is that creating actual value makes the biggest impact on your job search.
Most job seekers you meet will not have a farming mindset. They won’t be thinking of how to help others or creating something of value, when in reality this is one of the best approaches to not only finding a UX job, for guaranteeing yourself job security for life.
If you’ve been hunting too long, adopt the farming mindset and set yourself apart.