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“But will I get a job at the end of it?” — that’s often the priority question from prospective students when they’re weighing up whether to enroll on a design program like Designlab’s UX Academy.

Over the past few months, we've been piloting Career Services in UX Academy — a new feature we’re incredibly excited about. Students are assigned to a Career Coach at the end of the course, and they then work together for up to 3 months to improve their portfolio, job applications, and interview techniques. In this article, we explain the thinking behind Career Services, outline how it works, and explore some of the ways that it’s already benefiting students.

1. The need for employability

People often consider enrolling on a design bootcamp because they are unhappy with their current work, and are researching how to retrain for a new career doing something they are passionate about.

Students joining our UX Academy program tend to have quite different needs from those considering college education. Significantly, most UX Academy applicants are already in stable employment, sometimes with excellent pay. Our students also tend to be a little older than college entrants (usually in their mid-20s to mid-30s), and may have children, mortgages, and other commitments.

Understandably, coming from this position can lead to a focus on the risks of retraining. So it’s our job as educators at Designlab to provide courses that not only equip students with the right skills for today’s industry, but also create confidence in the rewards of completing the program.

Up to now, we’ve been meeting these needs in 3 main ways:

  • Teaching a rigorous curriculum in design theory, process, and technique (Phase 1)
  • Facilitating 3 realistic design briefs (“Capstones”) and portfolio preparation (Phase 2)
  • Offering a 6-month job guarantee, which promises a refund of the course fee to those not securing an entry-level position in the industry within 6 months of completing the program.

As part of UX Academy, students already benefit from at least 24 1-on-1 sessions with expert design mentors currently working in the industry. While this gives students excellent insight into the realities of a career in design in today’s world, that mentoring alone doesn’t offer career support once students have completed the coursework and received their certificate of completion.

To better meet this need, we are proud to announce the introduction of Career Services.

2. Introducing Career Services

Think of Career Services as “Phase 3” of UX Academy. Its purpose is to offer the support and guidance you need to land your first design job after completing the course. Job hunting can seem like a complicated process, and our goal is for Career Services provide you with structure and practical advice.

After you finish Phase 2 of UXA and complete your exit interview, we’ll put you in touch with a 1-on-1 Career Coach. Acting as a mentor for your job search, they will help with things like:

  • Improving your portfolio, resume, and cover letters
  • Focusing the job search by identifying types of role that suit your skillset
  • Developing interview technique by preparing strong stories about yourself, your background, and the work you’ve done
  • Handling job offers and managing negotiations about salary and conditions

When you first meet your Career Coach, you’ll touch base about your skills, talk about your near-term and long-term goals, and work together to devise a plan of attack for the weeks ahead. Whether you’re already being invited to interviews, or are just getting started with the job search, you’ll agree on a strategy, and set a timeline for further checkins.

During our piloting of Career Services, committed students have typically been hired within 3 months of starting work with their Career Coach. We’re excited to announce that all UX Academy students will now receive 3 months of Career Coaching, with up to 2 sessions per month.

Here’s an outline of how sessions typically work during Career Services:

  • Phase 1: Career goals
    Students must be clear on their short term goals. Coaches will help clarify those goals and set a realistic short term objective.
  • Phase 2: Job search prep
    Produce a resume, portfolio and social profiles that position the student for their target role. The coach and student will work together to form a strategy to best frame their experience and skills.
  • Phase 3: Job search plan
    The coach and student will put together a strategy for finding their ideal job. Typically, this involves moving forward on multiple fronts: applying directly, utilizing the staffing industry and working their network.
  • Phase 4: Interview prep
    While actively applying for jobs, students will prep for the hiring process with their coach. Together they will practice interview questions, present their portfolio and complete design challenges.
  • Phase 5: Career success
    When starting a new role, there is a mixture of excitement and nerves. The Career Coach will help students plan for success in their new job, continuous development of their skills, and ensure they’re preparing for their next step in the future.

3. How Career Services is already helping students

Here’s what students have to say about the Career Coaching process:

“When I first started the job search it started getting a bit daunting just because I wasn’t getting any callbacks. However, once January came along all the work I put into iterating my resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio with my coach really paid off. I’m still getting callbacks now! When it comes to the job search it really depends on the person, in my opinion. Working really closely with my coach in the beginning and scheduling 2-3 sessions a week really helped me to expedite the process. Having the Career Coach available is what really helped!” — Puja Patel, Eames Cohort (hired at Life Fitness in Chicago)

“I just wanted to thank you very much for setting me up with the career coach. My work with him has dramatically changed up resume, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile. In a short amount of time, my applications have been much more efficient, and I am receiving more inquiries than I did on my own.” — Chris Pastars, Eames Cohort

The great news for those applying to UX Academy is that 95% of our students currently land a job in UX design within six months of completing the program. You can read about some of these success stories over on our blog.

Many students, far from having to take a pay cut to move into a new profession, have been able to negotiate significantly increased pay packages in their new job. This reflects the latest statistics on the salaries of UX designers, which now average $89,000, according to the 2017 O’Reilly Design Salary Survey.

We’re delighted to be able to complete the rollout of Career Services today. You can find out more about UX Academy here. If you’ve any questions, check out our FAQ, leave a comment below, or just drop us a line at hello@trydesignlab.com.

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Designlab teaches you UI/UX design skills through online courses with 1-on-1 mentorship from expert designers.

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