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2020 has been interesting, and we’re only a quarter of the way in. 

Currently, most of us are staying safely indoors. Maybe today, you’re streaming video content, playing video games, reading books, reconnecting with loved ones, being creative, or simply, being still. 

Some of us have more time on our hands, even if we are still working, because we aren’t commuting. This is not only valuable time we are saving, but also mental energy, by not being stuck in traffic on the freeway or running late for the train.

I remember when I transitioned to working from home, I saved 2 hours of travel per day, and had no idea what to do with the extra time. At first, I slept in. Can you blame me? 

What are you doing with this extra time?

The challenge seems to be staying positive, motivated, healthy (both physically and mentally) and productive. Before this, many people probably dreamed about working from home, or, at least achieving some type of work-life balance. Now, more people understand what it’s like.

One of the UX design classes I typically teach in a classroom setting has now switched to online learning due to the pandemic. The transition has actually been quite beneficial for students. Moving to online learning has produced new learning opportunities like how to collaborate, network, and create remotely.

This transition has also led to new (or at least different) conversations with my students. We’re currently discussing how students could begin to differentiate themselves in the job market, considering this unique situation we’re all in.

You have a unique opportunity to differentiate yourself now more than ever. And if you’re reading this, it means you’re using this time to better yourself—which already makes you ahead of the curve.

Take advantage of the lockdown time

If you’re a designer that has found themselves remote, you can gain a competitive advantage by focusing on these things.

Remote Learning

If you’re currently studying remotely or have recently completed an online program, document and show off these new skills by asking yourself these questions:

  • How did remote learning prepare you for remote work?
  • What remote communication challenges did you overcome with your mentor or teacher?
  • What remote education tools did you use that you’re now familiar with? 

Challenge: Craft and publish a story around your remote learning experience. 

Remote Collaboration

Show off your remote collaboration skills as well as how you communicated and managed stakeholders remotely by asking yourself these questions:

  • How did you conduct remote research and testing with people?
  • How did you collaborate with others to ideate and problem solve?
  • What remote collaboration tools did you use that you’re now familiar with?

Challenge: Build a case study communicating your process and experience from a remote-friendly point-of-view. 

Experience using remote collaboration tools like Slack, Miro, Trello, Maze, and Zoom is a huge competitive advantage in today’s workforce. If you’re a UX designer, these tools are just as important to know how to use as Figma, Sketch, and Photoshop.

When speaking about your experience, communicate how you accessed, conducted, recorded, and synthesized UX design research and testing efforts. Where possible, show sketches, notes, images, or screenshots of how you conducted research and/or of users participating in testing and share your thoughts and feelings. 

Develop a remote-friendly personal brand 

Add these new remote learning and collaboration skills to your resume and LinkedIn profile. You can also publish content about your work and study experience, either on a blog or Medium. This will show that you were active during this lockdown time, and are still growing your skill set.

Whether you were learning or working on a project during the lockdown, showcasing your activity will reinforce your dedication and time investment. It can also communicate to hiring managers that you are flexible and can adapt to new conditions. 

You can also use this downtime to start building your portfolio, or give it a revamp with any new projects you’ve worked on.

Use LinkedIn to network

You can build an engaged network on LinkedIn by publishing your own content and commenting on other people’s posts. LinkedIn can be a great tool to help establish yourself as an authority and expert. Remember though, consistency is key. 

Here are some steps you can take to become more engaging on LinkedIn:

  • Create a shortlist of people and organizations that you’re interested in;
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn (don’t forget to attach a warm intro to your connection request);
  • Consistently publish content and engage with other people’s content. 
  • Use Gary Vee’s $1.80 strategy to build your audience.

Don't sit & wait for this to pass

No one knows when things will return to ‘normal.’ 

Practice positive thinking on a daily basis to keep your mindset strong, ensuring that when we return to ‘normal’ in a week’s time, a month’s time, or even a year’s time, that you can hit the ground running. 

Continue connecting with people who are still working. A student of mine recently told me they were arranging virtual coffee catch ups with people—I love this idea.

While many companies across many industries are scaling back their workforce, there are still companies who are hiring—and it’s these companies who are already familiar with remote work, too.

Document your work, publish content, keep networking, and you’ll stay ahead of the curve. We still need you; we have new problems to solve. 

Connect with John Isaac on LinkedIn.

Looking to learn UX design skills from home? Check out our UX Academy program, which combines virtual 1-on-1 mentoring with a rigorous online curriculum.​

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John Isaac

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