How I got my first UX job

There are numerous articles listing advice on how to get your first job in UX. Well, I read a couple of them before I started to look for my first UX job extensively. Now I can share my own experiences and tell you about a couple of things that have proven to be working when looking for a job in UX.

The start

At the time when UX hit me as the thing I wanted to do (thanks to Smashing UX Design!!!), I was working as an email designer/coder in a publishing company. Yep, I was a guy that compiled loads of spam that made doctors, construction companies, teachers and others convert like hell. Too much of the same stuff going over and over again – I decided to make a move. First steps of it being a new CV design and doing a course on human-computer interaction which I have reviewed in another article. Poznan, a 500K+ city in Western Poland, unfortunately wasn’t a dream place to start a career in UX in – not much place for interns and without any experience I couldn’t dream about a junior role.

The passion I managed to convey in my cover letter allowed me to land a product manager job in an ecommerce-related startup founded by a top-shelf interactive agency Merixstudio. My responsibilities were a broad range of activities in areas such as digital marketing, business growth, SEO and, in the smallest part, refining the website’s UX. Although I pushed hard to do anything UX-related, it was hard for me to squeeze any proper UX work into already tight daily schedule. I managed to redesign a couple of the website’s components and work on strategy and interface for a new blog we were creating. These were the only pieces in my UX portfolio when I decided to look for a UX job in London…

In the meantime I read somewhere that one of the best ways to study a topic is to start writing about it. That’s why TasteUX was born – as it turned out it was a big advantage of my CV and allowed to fill out the gap of experience – both content-wise and visually.

The decision

The decision to move to London wasn’t made just until 6 months before the move. Both me and my girlfriend wanted to see what it’s like to live outside of Poland and to work hard on our careers. These months allowed me to work on a couple of key activities which, I believe, substantially increased my chances to find a job:

1. Going to as many UX events and workshops I could afford
Being active means being passionate. I wanted to breathe UX, to meet people who do it and hear how the best in the industry achieved their success. And that drive for knowledge is really appreciated by employers, believe me!

2. Launching TasteUX
I started TasteUX to both score points in my applications and to learn UX. The need to write required me to read a lot and look for interesting topic to write on. It was also the place to show that I attend various UX-related events and a part of my personal branding.

3. Building my LinkedIn network
Being the most important professional networking tool in the world, LinkedIn can help you in various ways.

  • It’s an extremely efficient way to show your complete CV
  • Your network can help you find new contacts and is a proof of the environment you work and develop in
  • And the cherry on top – endorsements. Social proof works not only in ecommerce or recommendation websites. The more you get, the better first impression you make!

Michal Mazur CV

4. Trying to find any freelance work
I considered any piece of experience relevant, even if NDA’s were on my way to display the work. I thought that anything I could tell a story about will be valuable when talking to a potential employer.

5. Tweeting!
I believe that Twitter is a valuable addition to a personal branding package. People you follow, tweets you post, followers you have – that can all add some weight to perceiving you as a UX professional or enthusiast and tip the scales.

6. Well thought-out CV and portfolio
I’m not a skilled visual designer, so I had to worked hard and ask many people for opinions before I started sending out my CV. Of course I did proper research for good practice in creating a CV for that particular industry in the UK. I decided to explore the visual style of TasteUX when creating these documents – a personal brand should be consistent too.

The Kick-off

When I started to look for a job I wanted to remain in control and full transparency. I created a google spreadsheet that allowed me to track every application I sent out along with a link and description. It has proven to be extremely useful in storing the status of all of the application and any other information and dates. I stored my applications in 3 different sheets – startups/web products, agencies, job offers and a separate sheet to list applications that I’ve progressed with to any form of conversation.

All of the companies I applied to were located in London – this was my only target and, of course, a goldmine of digital companies. After countless emails and a couple of Skype calls I managed to advance with a couple of companies. Mostly internships, but this was not a surprise, given my limited experience. Eventually I landed a junior UX role in Pomegranate, a digital UX agency. An informal environment and a close-knit team was exactly the thing I was looking for. I was so happy and relieved, expecially having my departure date in just a couple of weeks! I believe that the fact that I integrated all my activities and let my passion speak through everything I did enabled me to succeed. It’s an amazing feeling to achieve the goal I had been working hard towards for months. And it’s even more exciting to think of further goals to achieve!

I hope this article will inspire someone to get the dream job – it shows that it’s not a single task, it’s a whole process. I know for a fact that any piece of advice might be valuable and I wanted to give something back to such an extremely cooperative industry as UX.