The Lean UX Job Hunt Strategy

I love The Lean Startup not only because it introduced a new methodology to build products, but also because “lean” thinking can be applied to many other facets of life.

You guessed it – Lean Startup can help with the arduous UX job search.

To get some context, let’s start with a common conversation I have with mentees in my UX Career Coaching Program…

How’s the job hunt going?

> Um, I haven’t started yet

What’s holding you back?

> My portfolio and resume aren’t completely done…I’m not ready yet.

The problem is not that UXers lack talent or skill.

The problem is perfection.

Before applying to any job, new UXers often feel like they have to get everything down perfect.

the perfection trap


Reason 1: designers tend to be perfectionists. We can’t help but tweak our portfolios endlessly and sweat over the details.

Reason 2: confusion in the marketplace. Job listings are asking for 3+ years of experience even for entry-level UX roles. (Psst… you should apply anyway)

So how do lean startup methodologies helps you kill “perfection”?

Let’s start by revisiting the book’s core idea:

A core component of Lean Startup methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop. The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) – The Lean Startup

If we think of a career as our own “product”, then we can employ the build-measure-learn feedback loop to make quick progress.

How to apply “lean” thinking to a UX job application process

a more iterative approach to your job hunt

1. BUILD: finish your first case study

Starting from the beginning with your portfolio? Don’t slow yourself down by thinking you need 3-4 “gorgeous” pieces to even apply. I’ve been to interviews where the manager only wanted to see ONE case study.  

If you’re struggling to create a case study quickly and effectively, I made The Ultimate UX Portfolio Course to help you with that exact hurdle

2. TEST & MEASURE: get someone to review your case study

There’s great value in getting your work looked at by an external (and hopefully objective) party. This helps you evaluate your work with fresh eyes. 

Start with someone without a design background to gauge how easy-to-understand your presentation is. Then get an actual UX Designer to critique your work. Even better if a more senior UX designer can review your work. 

This is like doing your own user testing. Gather feedback – verbal and nonverbal – when presenting your portfolio. Often times it’s not what your audience says (“Oh, good job!”) and rather how they behave (that look of confusion on their face) that gives you the best insights.

3. LEARN: Apply to jobs & iterate

If you have a dream job but don’t feel ready, don’t apply to it yet. Instead, apply to your 2nd choice companies for practice. This not only helps rejections burn less. It also helps you build momentum and confidence…

If you apply and don’t get a response, at least it forces you to polish up some job application materials.

If you get an interview but don’t get the job offer, at least you get valuable interview practice.

And if you get an offer…well that’s great, take it or leave it :)

I challenge you to start small

Working lean is not only reserved for scrappy startups. You can borrow the basic philosophy…

  • Don’t burn lots of resources up front. Instead of spending hours (months?!) preparing to apply to your first job, apply with the minimum requirements to get in the mindset & momentum of applying
  • Start with small, cheap experiments to figure out what customers want. This can be as simple as pulling together UX job descriptions and identifying keywords & patterns.
  • Iterate on your job application materials over time. With each phone call or interview, you’ll learn pick up something new you can optimize. Maybe it’s realizing you need more UX interview practice, or to present your portfolio in a different way.

In essence, don’t try to get it “perfect” the first time. Instead, start with small steps. Learn over time and build towards success.

Curious about the Lean startup method?