Finding a UX design job after bootcamp can sometimes be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, having many DevMountain alumni completing and finding jobs after they finished their course, we have great insight into what it takes to land a job after bootcamp.
We interviewed 20 DevMountain UX design alumni who found jobs after bootcamp, asking them what tips they have for students looking for work.
Here are 20 tips from 20 UX design alumni on how to land a UX design job:
#1 Build a Strong Portfolio
Instructors emphasize the importance of having your portfolio ready for when you start looking for jobs. The reason why is because that’s what employers look at first. Your portfolio has to include a detailed description of your design process, backed up with visuals that will help employers understand the way you solve problems through effective design.
Not only should you be building your portfolio through your bootcamp experience, but also throughout your UX design career. Take a weekend to make your portfolio a pleasant guest experience. Be honest and open about the UX design program: what went badly, what you learned from that, and what went well overall. Continue to add to your portfolio and adjust it as you learn and create new things.
#2 Update Your LinkedIn Profile
On a related note, make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated. And keep it updated. Dedicating time to this is very important. Employers often look at LinkedIn to learn about their candidates. Fill in the gaps, making sure it is a solid reference.
#3 Get Real-World Experience
Engage in freelance, volunteer work, teaching work, or any work that you can place on your resume and LinkedIn profile. You will get passed up for considerations in a heartbeat if you don’t have real-world experience. Getting an internship at 12 bucks and hour might be humbling, but it’s worth it in the long run. If you can’t get your foot in the door, start writing blogs or do something to get your feet wet. I wouldn’t have nabbed the job I have now without my humble 12 dollar an hour, 20 hours a week, internship. Don’t miss opportunities just because they don’t pay well in the beginning.
Connect with DevMountain alumni, or alumni from your chosen bootcamp. All alumni will be a great resource for new opportunities. Find the alumni who are engaged in the UX design field. Take the initiative and help others who are struggling. If you know WordPress, help somebody with their portfolio website. Scratch someone’s back first. In my situation, I scratched a fellow alumni’s back by offering her some help on upcoming interviews—interviews I already went through. In the long run, this alumni returned the favor and got me an interview at my current place of employment.
#5 Familiarize Yourself with Web Development
Learn html5, CSS3, and get familiar with web development. The idea of coding can really burn people out, but if you can familiarize yourself with at least the basics, you can understand how developers think. Developer relationships in the workplace can be a tough cookie. I really feel my knowledge of the web industry set me apart from the rest.
#6 Give Up Thinking You’re an Imposter
“I’m not a writer! I’ve been fooling myself and other people.” – John Steinbeck
Every creative type struggles with this feeling so just embrace it and lean into it. Compare what you knew before bootcamp to what you know now. Be confident in the amount you were capable of learning in those short months and expect to continue learning. Yes, your LinkedIn profile says “UX Designer” and it is totally normal to feel like a fraud. Celebrate your small victories and learn from your mistakes. Don’t pretend that you know everything and actively seek feedback/critiques from your colleagues and other UX designers. If you have a learning mentality, you will develop as a designer very quickly.
#7 Don’t Give Up on the Hunt
“If it were easy, everyone would do it.” – Brandon Beecroft
Finding a good gig won’t happen overnight. Before I landed my first job after coding school, I applied to 32 companies and had 17 interviews. The process is exhausting mentally and emotionally. I definitely bombed some interviews and others were better. The more interviews I did, the more confident I felt talking about UX and my process. Then, I landed a great job. So, accept you will need to improve your interviewing skills and use all interviews as a learning experience. Stick with it, and you will find a great job.
#8 Ask for Feedback
Always ask for feedback from your interviewer after the process is over. Don’t expect to find a job right away and keep in the back of your mind what your ideal workplace looks like. Remember that you are the talent, and take feedback positively. It’s never easy to receive criticism, but in the end it will greatly improve your ability to land a job.
#9 Don’t Get Greedy
UX can be a lucrative career, but for those first few positions don’t feel like you need to make a fortune. Sometimes that low paying internship is the right avenue to get your foot in the door. Once you’re in, show your value and people will make sure you are earning what you’re worth.
#10 Attend Hiring Events
Do what it takes to attend hiring events that your coding bootcamp puts together. Even if the market for junior designers seems slow, companies that go to these events understand the value of junior-level designers and are ready to mentor and support.
#11 Mentor Another Student
If you have the opportunity, mentor another student. Not only does this help solidify what you’ve learned, but it also helps you articulate concepts that are hard to understand. As you help someone else often, you grow. This also goes a long way in interviews for jobs.
#12 Keep a Positive Mentality
Never think you are inadequate, but never think you are good enough. A positive mentality and the drive to become better are key to the right attitude. If you think you are not ready, you will keep yourself from opportunities that may be there. At the same time, always try to improve your craft. People will recognize and appreciate that trait.
#13 Increase Your Network
Don’t just sent invitations to connect with people on LinkedIn. Make sure that they know you can develop a good relationship instead of just increasing your number of connections. You’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry in the last few weeks. They are willing and happy to connect with you. When they do, don’t directly ask if they know of a job opportunity. They don’t know you well enough yet. Ask them for their advice on specific things such as:
- What are the requirements for a UX position in their company or other places they know.
- How did they get started in their career.
- When did they realize that UX was their passion.
All those new friends and connections will be happy to give you feedback. Send them drafts of your case studies before you publish them on your website to see what they think. They can give you their opinion and help you correct some errors. Send them your designs and learn from their design process.
#14 Job Shadow
Once you’ve built relationships with people in the UX world, ask them if you can shadow them for a few hours. That will give you the opportunity to experience the real world of a UX designer. Plan ahead on what those hours should look like. Bring your expectations and coordinate with the designer you are shadowing to take advantage of your time with them. Never do job shadowing without a plan. During those visits, meet more people. Ask them about their career and also for advice. Ask them about why they love being a designer, and challenges they face every day. If you have the opportunity, meet some developers as well. Ask them about their relationship with designers and their expectations for them as they work together. Leave a great first impression. That could open new doors in the future.
#15 Don’t be Afraid
You’ve learned a lot at bootcamp, and it might seem crazy that you are one step closer to start your dream job. But, if you don’t overcome the fear of talking to new people, you will find yourself in a tough spot. Seven days after I finished the program, I found a job posted on Glassdoor. It was a Mexican company in the financial industry where I previously worked. Even though I am very much an introvert, I contacted the recruiter on LinkedIn and told her why I was applying for the job and the value I could bring to the company. Thirty minutes after I contacted her, I received a call. Seven days later I landed my first job as a UX designer! Now, I work with very talented people. Sometimes I don’t feel like I fit in the conversations, but I’m not afraid of asking, giving my opinion, and learning. Don’t be afraid of anything. You have what it takes to find your dream job.
#16 Don’t Sink Your Teeth in the First Piece of Meat
I think the best advice I would have for students about to graduate is to be patient and don’t sink your teeth into the first piece of meat that comes onto your plate. Don’t feel pressured to work for a company that you may not feel comfortable or excited about. Make sure to pursue as many options as possible to get a feel for different companies and their understanding of what UX designers are worth.
#17 Be Honest
Coming out of bootcamp, employers are most likely going to know what experience level you are at. If you have no design background, use that to your advantage. Let employers know that you don’t have much experience, but that the last few months you have done nothing but eat, drink, and sleep UX design.
#18 Know Your Strengths
A lot of the time it’s tempting to just want to dive right in and take the first job you can land. One thing I chose to do upfront was break down the UX process and focus on what I enjoyed the most. Interviewers will always ask what your favorite step of the UX process is. They probably hear, “All of it!” from eager new UX designers. In theory, this answer is great. It shows you’re game for anything. But in reality, it doesn’t help the employer narrow down your strengths or help them get to know you and your process better. If you really identify and focus on what your strengths are and what you’re most passionate about, it will come through to the interviewers in a much more effective way. This will also highlight whether or not you will be a good fit for their role because each company seems to have a piece of the puzzle that they hope to fill with their prospective new designer. Keep in mind, too, that this goes both ways. The goal is not to just land a great job, but to also find a team and culture where you will thrive and be most happy.
#19 Do as Much UX Related Stuff as You Can
Meet and bug people in the community. Get yourself recognized. Do extra self-assigned projects to boost your portfolio. Case studies are great, and you should have the opportunity to create many during bootcamp. Also, really work on UI skills and tools, such as Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, etc. This is the hardest part because you’ll likely hate everything you produce. Put it on your portfolio anyway. Later, you can go back and refine/update it as you sharpen your skills. But get it in front of people making the hiring decisions. Basically, in a nutshell, constantly continue to make yourself more valuable as a UX/UI designer and show that you’re doing just that.
#20 Wear Your Drive on Your Sleeves
Don’t forget what got you interested in UX design in the first place. It’s okay to seem a little overly excited in an interview, rather than being too cool, calm and collected. I spoke to my boss shortly after starting my job as a UX designer and asked him what made me stand out from the other candidates. He said that he could tell that I was genuinely passionate about UX design. He even shared that he interviewed a few designers who had a couple years of experience over me, and despite this, offered the position to me due to their lack of excitement and passion.
Landing a UX design job after bootcamp could be frustrating, but, take to these tips from our 20 alumni and you might find you’ll enjoy the experience.