After months and months of searching high and low, travelling up and down the country (across the world?) perfecting your CV, cover letter and portfolio, showing off your best self, you've finally DONE IT! The contract has landed in your lap, you sign it, you eagerly await your first project, but now what?! You've spent all your energy on getting the job and now you've got it, it feels like you're back at square one again. Fear not my junior UXers, all will be revealed below:
The IMPOSTER SYNDROME stage
The more people I speak to the more I realise this is a THING, and not just my anxious mind. It’s such a grim feeling. You go from having shed loads of confidence bc you managed to finish school/uni to having little to none because applying for jobs and interviewing makes you question EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER LEARNT and WHAT WAS THE POINT IN LEARNING PYTHAGORAS?! It’s one of those things that does get better with time, in a healthy working environment at least. My top tips for dealing with this are:
Talk about how you’re feeling with as many people as possible, like I said I’m pretty sure everyone feels this way at some point (even those super confident, life is a walk in the park people), and speaking to people who have gone through the same thing should validate that you DO belong.
Your manager may be SWAMPED so request regular one on one catch ups, especially in the beginning. The thing I struggled with the most was NOT KNOWING how I was doing. I also found it hard, at first, to find the confidence to request those meetings. I’d recommend coming to those meetings prepared, you don’t necessarily need an agenda, but as it’s highly likely your manager will be super busy, at least spend a lil time planning what you’re going to ask/ what you’d like to discuss, to ensure you’re not wasting their time. P.S. there is NO shame in asking “how do you think I’m doing?” And remember even if you get bad feedback, you’ve at least got things you can consciously work on. To me, this is better than being left in the dark.
Shadow EVERYONE. Just because you’ve secured the job doesn’t mean the shadowing has to stop. Every researcher has their own style and the best way to practice and hone yours? Watch and learn. There are several ways you can approach this but I’ve not come across a researcher yet who couldn’t use an extra pair of hands. Be humble and offer your services, even as a note taker you’ll be learning more than you would be sitting at your desk reading blog posts (obviously this one doesn’t count).
If you read my "My guide to getting a job in tech (...or what worked for me)" post you'll know I can't get enough of the events and meetups, but honestly it's so important to keep attending this stuff, even when you're no longer a job seeker. Go to events (junior UX crunch would be my no.1), join the candles slack channel (there’s literally thousands of juniors & seniors on there all willing to have a chat), keep up all the Linkedin and Twitter stuff, go for coffees, go for bevs. Never stop growing that network.
The more of the above you do the more you’ll realise even the most experienced researchers/ designers are just lowly ole humans like yourself, dealing with whatever’s thrown their way.
The IM SO TIRED, WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE stage
As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”. As someone who craves spontaneity and freedom, I have to admit I found it hard adjusting to the monotony of working life, and I love my job! Although I’ve worked and volunteered alongside my studies for the past five years I don’t think anything could have prepared me for getting up at the same time and going to the same office (for the most part) every day. You’ll hear things all the time like “if you’re unhappy you’re in the wrong place” and “you have to find value in what you do” and whilst I do agree with those kinds of statements, I don’t think there is any shame in freaking out about the realities of adult life. It’s not something I would recommend dwelling on for too long or it really will get you down (unless of course, your job really is rubbish) but it certainly is something you have to adapt to. For me, I’ve realised:
a) yes, it is incredibly important to enjoy my job BUT
b) to enjoy work a healthy work-life balance is IMPERATIVE.
You neeeeeeeeeed to make time to do stress free, fun and relaxing things. Regardless of whether you love or hate your job, having no ‘me-time’ will only result in you becoming an over-tired inefficient human.
You will adapt to being tired all the time, as a friend once said to me “you never stop feeling tired, you just learn to live with it” ha. Once you settle into the routine you’ll be all good (?!).
MOREOVER, just because you’ve landed your dream job, you don’t have to stop analysing your self development, whether you’re being challenged enough and if this is what you really want to do. It’s okay to be unsure hunnies. That being said, over-thinking can often be counterproductive, sometimes you just have do your best, trust the journey and let the process unfold.
"Too much analysis causes mental paralysis"
The BREAKTHROUGH stage
You may or may not be here yet, but it does come, promise! If you’re a grad (regardless of whether that’s of a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate) or just new to the industry/ job, there will always be a period of time where you’re expected to prove yourself and where people are learning to trust you. It’s nothing personal, it’s literally just basic human psychology. You might just find doing things like offering to note take for someone (aka shadowing) might streamline that trust building. Keep up those regular one on one’s with your manager so you understand what level the business thinks you are at and use those outputs to shape your development goals.
Side note, while it’s good to reach for the stars in terms of goal setting, I’ve found a better approach, is to break it down into long term, shooting for the stars GOALZ & short term more attainable goals. It’s easier to stay motivated when your goals are achievable in the short term, because you’re proving to yourself you’re able to do ALL THE THINGS. And who doesn’t love a lil confidence booster? I think keeping your confidence levels elevated and proving to yourself you’re capable is more conducive to achieving those BIG long term goals.
Last but CERTAINLY not least:
Now that your manager trusts you with projects and work is coming your way, KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING. You can create a delicious portfolio website, fill out an agenda every couple of weeks, or simply just jot things down. Whatever your preferred method, please just do it and do it regularly. I’ve spoken to so many mid-senior UXers who say they wish they had done this more. Not only will reflecting on things be beneficial for you now, but your future ‘applying for a promotion, can’t remember what I’ve be doing for the past five years’ self will be SO thankful. This is what I do for every project (I also have a slide containing training and meetups/events I attend):
It’s nothing too dramatic, time expensive or fancy, but what I’m doing (I hope) is telling the story of the way I work by including pictures and timelines which shows not only my successes but the nitty and gritty stuff too.
What do you guys think? Did you or would you do things differently? Lets go for coffee!