If you’re reading this, you’re probably about to graduate, or you have recently graduated from a UX bootcamp.
For many graduates, finding a UX job after completing a bootcamp can feel like an uphill battle. But hey, you’re already one huge step closer to your new career. Here are some tips to keep moving forward.
1. Celebrate and take a break
You just finished months of learning. A lot of it was probably through an awkward remote setting – completing assignments individually, connecting with a mentor via video calls, messages over a group chat, etc. All of this on top of your normal life stuff. Seriously, pat yourself on the back. You did it. You finished this one important thing and you will go on to finish way more other things.
Taking the time for yourself to reset and breathe helps you keep morale high during the next phase of your journey. I’d recommend spending time doing some of the things you didn’t quite have time for while juggling your bootcamp: take a mini-vacation, pamper yourself, spend time with loved ones, living your passions. Having fun with the process keeps you grounded and makes the process a little less dreadful.
2. Make a job search plan stat
Yes, we realize the irony of #2 here: after you celebrate and rest, you want to maintain momentum. Many grads, lacking the structure of their bootcamp curriculum, can start to languish and fall behind if they don’t plan their job search. Engaging with your bootcamp’s career coaching and mentoring services will really help you create momentum for the UX job hunt. After all, those perks are part of what you paid for. Here are some examples:
- DesignLab offers 6-months access to career coaching resources and feedback to boost your job search.
- Flatiron offers 1:1 career coaching, which includes interview prep and resume workshops
If you aren’t quite sure what services are offered by your bootcamp, reach out to your program coordinators to ask questions and take full advantage of your program’s resources.
And if you don’t have access to those post-grad services, there are still tools that help. Like Huntr, an app to keep track of your job search.
Wondering when you should start your UX job search? Have an end date in mind – when do you want your start date to be? For example, if I want to have a job by October 1, I have about roughly 3 months to make a game plan and execute!
3. If you don’t haven’t finished your UX portfolio yet, focus all your energy on completing it
For many bootcamps, a portfolio is a criterion for graduation. Instructors often emphasize the importance of having your portfolio ready for when you start looking for jobs because it’s typically a requirement along with your application, cover letter, and resume.
When a potential employer looks at your portfolio, it is a window into the way you think and problem-solve through effective design. Your portfolio should showcase your best work and who you are as a designer. Portfolio creation doesn’t have to be an endless process either—here’s how to create a minimum viable UX portfolio.
When you’ve completed your portfolio – picking out your best projects, presenting them nicely, introducing yourself, and adding flair – take a weekend to make your portfolio a pleasant user experience. Think about is it responsive, easy to navigate, digestible, etc. Make sure your first impression, well, impresses.
Then, focus all your energy on seeking out real-world projects. There are 5 hidden sources of UX portfolio projects that can help you level-up your projects – the easiest being a redesign of something you love. Showing that you’re a passionate user who utilizes design thinking to reimagine a product could lead to some freelance inquiries, which means more real-world projects to showcase.
Oh, and while you’re at it… Don’t forget about updating your UX resume!
4. Establish online presence
A big part of becoming a UX designer is establishing your brand and identity so establishing your online presence would help to promote who you are and what you’re capable of. These are some only platforms to consider exploring:
Using this LinkedIn guide, I transformed my unkept LinkedIn profile into something presentable. LinkedIn is a fantastic platform for networking, researching companies, applying to jobs, and learning new things. By putting together a professional profile, you make yourself searchable and give potential recruiters a snapshot of who you are, reeling them in for why you’d make a great potential candidate for a current opening.
Why is this important? Well, there are two types of recruiters (that I’ve encountered): in-house and recruiting agencies. In-house recruiters work for the company you’d be chatting to and they have greater insights on the application process, about the company, and who they’re looking for. Recruiting agencies are paid by the company you’d be chatting with so if you’re a potential good fit, they will fight for your application to progress (that’s how they get paid) and if one company doesn’t work out, they might have other clients they could recommend you for.
Dribbble is a great medium to get inspiration and practice visual design. I don’t use it a ton, but they do have a job board for many designer roles ranging from full-time roles to freelance opportunities. It’s another website to have in your back pocket when looking for jobs so it doesn’t hurt to get a profile up and add a few snapshots of some projects.
For Dribbble, this community is more about showcasing visual design (as opposed to process) so it’s OK to grab nice final mockups to add here. I’d recommend putting up some neat designs you might have done that didn’t make it into your portfolio.
Behance is another medium for inspiration. I actually like it a little more than Dribbble because there are filters for tools used, colors used, and creative fields. For example, my DesignLab mentor pointed me to search by color when deciding a color palette for my portfolio because he recommended finding a color that was trending or popular on the web. Using colors that are trending or popular helps my brand to conform to the current norms.
Compared to Dribbble, Behance makes it easier to present the design process, so some designers will actually utilize it as their portfolio. This is a great medium to have your other case studies written up in a public space for viewing and feedback.
Instagram is another great platform for finding inspiration, sharing bite-sized knowledge bits in the form of carousels, and posting an insight on your design process via IG stories. Between Dribbble, Behance, and Instagram, Instagram can be the easiest to start with if you already use it. You don’t necessarily need to make a new account – having it on your main account can show that you have dimension beyond just design (i.e. you have other fun hobbies and interests).
If you’re not ready to post, start with some top UX influencers to follow on Instagram – this will give you some ideas around what things are being posted and some people to learn from!
5. Stay connected to your community and increase your network
Some bootcamps have persisting online communities even after you graduate. Many have Slack groups for students by cohort, location, and other interest groups. It’s a great space to connect with others and ask for advice.
During my bootcamp experience, it was helpful to ask questions on Slack but as peers graduated and I fell behind in my trajectory, I dropped out of the conversations. Looking back at the conversations now, many of my peers posted job openings and shared upcoming events and other useful tools. It’s a great place to check in from time to time if you’re job seeking.
If you’re already staying connected with your bootcamp community or it isn’t quite for you, UXB has a list of UX communities and groups that you can look into joining on Facebook, Slack, LinkedIn, and other outlets.
Aside from connecting online, networking in person is a great way to grow and leverage your connections. To get started look for your local UXPA group on Meetups.com or Eventbrite for events to attend. You can also look up other typically annual events World Interaction Day or Global Accessibility Awareness Day to expand your knowledge and get a chance to chat with others in the UX and UX-related fields.
6. Keep going (learning, designing, moving)
Once you’ve felt like you’ve done everything you could, keep going. Keep learning the new up-and-coming design trends to stay relevant in the field. Keep designing to practice old and new skills to become a better designer. Keep attending events and networking.
The next steps are challenging, but you got this.
The most taxing part about changing careers into UX is the job application process. The market is competitive with new grads vying for the same jobs, many of which sometimes ask for an unattainable 3-5 years of experience for junior designer roles. (That’s surmountable— check out our guide to UX career levels.)
Keep your head high and take the small wins one step at a time – getting an interview request, an opportunity to do a design assignment, chatting with a recruiter. Any progress with a company is a forward step and you only need one company to say ‘yes’ to start your career as a designer.
When you’re feeling down, unmotivated, and defeated, ask yourself “do you want it bad enough?”
Revisit the reason why you’re pursuing the UX field, reflect on your accomplishments thus far, and push forward.
Remember: If you made it through a bootcamp, you can make it through anything else that follows.
[UX COURSE RECOMMENDATION]
We’ve been following Flatiron School for a while; one of the first and best Product Design (UX/UI) bootcamps that enable students to participate both online and in one of their several physical campuses. For now, Flatiron School has moved their live, accelerated learning format online.
A professional-grade curriculum taught by experienced instructors , designed to get graduates the skills to be job-ready in 15 weeks.
Robust career services with 1-on-1 career coaching, such as personalized resume review and interview practice
Active employer network: Flatiron School has a dedicated Employer Partnerships team that’s built relationships with hiring managers at top global companies.
In our analysis of Flatiron School, they sit as a premium offering that provides a deeper learning experience than other immersive bootcamps we’ve evaluated.