Top 3 Challenges
#1: No real-world experience
I mean, yes, but also, really, no…
Not surprisingly, this was the biggest hindrance. Despite working on small projects here and there, there was never anything I could really say I worked on autonomously. I worked with designers and PMs and engineers, but I was not doing the work I’d learned from UXA.
My response: I worked pretty much non-stop (I am the person who did my full-time job, design part-time, group facilitation part-time, and a part-time remote internship all at once). I made it a point to connect with as many designers as possible to learn what I can do in the maddening interim. I looked for any and all opportunities, pushing for them even if I didn’t make the cut. Feeling dejected from rejection was something I did not have time for.
#2: External constraints
And so I did give 110%. Or maybe more.
Half the battle was convincing the head of design to consider me for a rotation or a junior position. This was entirely something I could do on my own and this wasn’t so bad, because people were very supportive. The other half was the company. Simply put, there were no senior designers to take me under their wing, and on top of that, there wasn’t enough budget to take on a new recruit. Turns out you can’t just snag someone from one team to another when the company is in the midst of growing, because yes, all teams have a set budget and headcount, often per quarter or even half a year.
My response: Always, always, always talk with the people who can help determine your future. Keep in touch with your manager, who will advocate for you. Keep in touch with the hiring manager, who will probably feel a little disconcerted at first but will later on commend you on your perseverance (true story). When you have no idea who to talk to, talk to people in HR so you can understand how the process works. It really gives peace of mind.
#3: Staying positive
We can’t all go at the speed of Dash, unfortunately.
Hands down, this was the most difficult thing for me to do. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be able to help students each week in Group Crits, oftentimes outside of the hour I’m actually paid for, and then seeing them get a job long before I could even get a call. It’s bizarre getting messages on LinkedIn from strangers asking about my experience because they’ve read my articles or something when I’ve always been so close to moving teams, but never quite being there yet. It has been so close but so far for pretty much all of my journey.
My response: Have a strong support network. My friends, family, and loved ones were always my #1 fans and encouraged me to keep going. The mentors I’d met were another kind of support; theirs wasn’t unconditional, so I appreciated that they were always realistic with me and didn’t give me false hope. I needed both the cheerleaders and the “let’s be real now” to keep going.
It helped to have some legit Jedi masters of design.