UX Nights May 11, 2021

Bootcamp, now what?

Making the most of your bootcamp experience and beyond

Video Transcript

Steven Wakabayashi: Welcome everyone. I’m really excited to have you all with us today. Let me share my screen.

We’re really excited to have you with another series of UX nights. We also have a Spotify playlist where everyone just adds random songs here and there. We love to just pull songs for our events from here. If you want to throw some jams in, go right on ahead.

And so for today’s schedule, we have a little bit of information. Some hacks pro tips especially for folks who just graduated school or graduated bootcamp on how you can be successful in the job market and UX. And then afterwards, we have a little bit of a Q&A group discussion, a hangout time regarding the topic.

And so for anyone who is new to our events, welcome. Our organization is called QTBIPOC Design, which stands for queer trans black indigenous people of color design. We provide design education free and accessible for our BIPOC LGBTQ+ community. And we have so many awesome events. And we’ll share with you at the very end, all the different things that we’re running this month, that’s upcoming.

But we do monthly courses like this. We do game nights. We do events where we bring in amazing guest speakers. And we also just recently launched our first cohort for a UX boot camp course. And so, so many things happening. We’re really excited to have you along with us on our journey as we do more and more with the community.

Where are you in your journey?

Steven Wakabayashi: And so today we’re going to talk a little bit about some tips and advice for folks who maybe they’re in the middle of being in the bootcamp or in school still. Or maybe you’re just finishing up school or finishing a bootcamp and then maybe you’re just applying to jobs. And so we’ll go through each section and kind of talk a little bit about some of our learnings, lessons, and advice from each section.


Steven Wakabayashi: Here we go. Okay. So, especially for folks who are in school right now, or you’re doing a bootcamp course, you have an amazing opportunity to work on a bunch of projects, right? Where you get to put it into your portfolio, work on, you know, things with other people or you’re working on things by yourself that you’re really passionate about.

And the biggest advice that we have for this part is just as you’re working through things, keep throwing it into your portfolio. Too often, a lot of students work on stuff and it’s like, amazing, beautiful. You have like, you know, a click through prototype, like 200 screens, but what’s in the portfolio is like four screens and like, a two sentence description.

And so the biggest advice here is just keep throwing it into a portfolio as soon as you can. And however you get it to your portfolio, then start calling it down. Right. Once it’s in there.

Case Studies

Steven Wakabayashi: And so as you work through case studies and projects, and we’ll talk a little bit about this in the future of today’s presentation is just think about the case studies that would be relevant to your next role.

So as we think about what do we want to do, right? Think about what positions you want to get, where you want to work. Also think about what type of projects you’re going to be working on there. And a lot of students forget about kind of just drawing correlations or connecting the dots. But if you were to, okay, let’s all put on the hat of the employer, where we’re thinking about who do I want to hire in these positions? Junior designer, associate designer, right? You probably have a project that you’re staffing for that you’re going, okay. I need a designer on this project. And then you go into the market to figure out who is going to fit that project.

If you see somebody who’s worked on a very similar project, right? Who did similar things, that’s going to be, of course, who you resonate with and you’re going to be like, "okay, I want to interview you first. I’m going to check you out and do that." And sometimes if you see projects that don’t have a correlation to it, you might try to figure out if it will fit or if it doesn’t fit.

And so kind of the tip with this is we often have really the amazing ideas, right? Of our capstone projects or individual projects that might be self-initiated projects, which is just our own concept. And it’s brought to life. And my advice is if you want to do it, you have to invest a lot, a lot of time to make sure it’s solid, right.

And the end-to-end experience is really great. And oftentimes. For the people who are recruiting, it’s really hard to use that, to see, okay, how am I going to apply that lesson and learning onto this project? Because you’re rarely going to be brought on right. To concept a product from scratch, from start to finish.

And so think about maybe even the parts of your project, if it’s your own individual project of how would you fit it within a bigger, larger business context. Right. And also if you have case studies that are more relevant to just getting an existing product and iterating on it, although it might not be as cool, it actually is more relevant for the job industry and search.

Oh, also one more tip is if you don’t want to be a developer in the future, don’t worry about developing your own website from scratch, because let’s say you have a recruiter looking for a UX designer, right. And your website. Oh my God. The development like is like insane. It’s beautiful. They’re going to go.

Yeah, go get a development job. It seems that you’re much better at it. So you want to make sure you’re just really crisp and clear with what your offering is to the market.

Make friends, not connections

Steven Wakabayashi: So as we get into some more tips of folks who are in school, one of the biggest advice I always give to people is focus on just making friends.

You know, don’t focus on just like making connections for the sake of connections. Ultimately, you want to think about your network of all these folks who are around you, that you want to work with, that you want to collaborate with, that you have a really high regard for their thoughts and feedback.

And a lot of the times when we just throw this big, massive net, right. And we’re just pulling everyone in, we oftentimes pull all these other folks in just for the sake of pulling folks in. And as we grow into the designer that we’re going to be in the future. We just want to make sure we go into the spaces that we really want to go into and groom ourselves and develop and spread our wings.

But also for the folks who get really stressed out, because they’re like, ah, like I don’t want to go into like another networking event because everyone’s kinda like ugh, you know, it’s like go into it and whatever, if they’re not like your friends, like, okay, you’re like, you’re not too cool for me. Or it’s like but if you don’t resonate with them, it’s totally okay.

You know? But if it helps, so just put on that lens of, I just want to make some friends, see who I get along with. It helps to really reduce a lot of that anxiety. At least for me, it does. Another advice is at the end of the day, also, especially for folks who are in school, just have fun, you know, just have fun with your projects.

Enjoy your time being a student and join your time learning. The tip I give is the real world is not going anywhere. And I, I see a lot of students sometimes try to apply so many real world constraints on their project and it’s like, yeah, you’ll get there, give it a few years, give it one year.

You’ll get there in a minute. And with that, think about the projects you take, the things that you want to do. And as we talked about, you know, maybe it’s this pie in the sky project that you want to take on. Instead of maybe taking on the whole concept,maybe take on a little piece of it. And then maybe that’s the project that you work on, that you put into your portfolio, right?

And especially for folks who are just like exploring art or music or anything, that’s more exploratory. I did an undergrad major in dance and I was like, Oh, this has to be like industry ready. It like, has to be perfect. And then afterwards I was like, look, I should have just gone like crazy. Like made it so weird.

Like just like have fun with it, you know, because and you get what you get praise, you get graded for it. Like, yeah. You know I would do my undergrad so differently, but if anyone is in school still or taking classes the freedom you have and the flexibility you’re not going to get really later on in your life either.

So have fun relish enjoy. Yeah.

After graduation

Steven Wakabayashi: So folks who just graduated, right. Let’s get into the post bootcamp or post undergraduate part. So a bunch of advice for you. So the first one is as a part of any cohort graduating, a major institutional program, there typically is an alumni network that exists that you can leverage to gain insights into the industry, have doors open for you, or at least at the bare minimum, be connected with folks who you share with them, education or other facets of the education that you have.

And so. Really with this take advantage of it, you know, see who would like to give you a mentoring session? See if anyone wants to chat with you about just career in general. And again, remember apply the lens of just coming in, looking for friends, and don’t worry too much about, you know, Oh yeah.

It has to be like X, Y, and Z. Sometimes the folks you find right, who might be really, really beneficial for you might be the person that you least expect. And too often we try to credentialize everyone too, where it’s like, if you worked at, you know, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google, Microsoft, like I put you at the top of the food chain.

Right. And we often have this bias. That by working in a company all the sudden your ideas matter way more than everyone else. And as we talk about right, dismantling, inherit, inherited biases, and ways of systemic oppression that exists in our industry, it is to also remove the concept of putting so much weight and emphasis onto credentials.

And this act of credential advising is sometimes an unfortunate way that we set up walls and gates around certain spaces that folks enter too. Because as we think about it, right, there’s so many biases that have gone into creating many, many large systems of oppression and just inequality in general.

And so a lot of the times the folks who are extremely successful now, if you look at the tenure and all the things that they have been successful with, unfortunately biases, they may have benefited from it as well. And so we just have to be really conscious of it.

And I will give you this nugget too. If you message someone who you would least expect, other folks would probably not be contacting them as much too. And so you might get more time of their day to get advice and such as well. The next one is career coaching. So along the lines of setting up time with alumni program of your school, ask if there is any post-grad programming. And this is a huge advice I always give to folks looking for bootcamp or any post-secondary education is also ask what services of these do they offer.

This is a huge, huge, huge part, especially of these bootcamp courses where you spending like tens of thousands of dollars for and ask them, right. What services do they offer? What platforms they offer? What career coaching did they offer to allow people to bridge their experience from school into professional world?

Can they connect you directly with the professional themselves? Right.

And if all else fails. And you’re like, eh, this is not the, like the cup of tea for me. My advice also is, you know, you’ve worked with people you’ve designed with people you’ve created with people make your own post-secondary education program, alumni group. What does that look like? Right. There’s so many other opportunities and organizations that exist.

We’ll share a couple here, but if you’ve heard of like design buddies ADP lists like so many different organizations that exist that just bring people together and you can usually use those as vehicles to help create the group that you seek to continue learning and co-creating with.

Essentials to securing your job

Steven Wakabayashi: And so if we’re to break down, right, like, okay, here, you gave me some tests. You’re like, ah, but like, I just need like the more tactical advice of just like, how do I become successful, right. To get my next job. And as we think about what are the individual pieces that you need, that you just need to like.

You know, bring together and wrap a bow and be like ta-da. It’s a combination of hard skills, soft skills, and just materials that you just have. Right. Deliverables artifacts. And so as we work from like left to right hard skills, what are they? These are just the experiences, expertise, execute on deliverables.

Right. And so design tools. So what tools do you use, do you use Adobe suite? Do you use Figma? Do you use Sketch? Right? What is it and put that, of course, in your resume and your portfolio and all these places. You want to make sure people understand this. Right. So how about this, all of these things, you want to make sure whatever you’re presenting in your resume portfolio or whatever gets to the interviewer right.

Or the recruiter. They have to be able to see all these things. If they don’t. You’re missing a couple of things, throw it in there. You’re good. The next thing is just capacity to design, right. Or capacity to create wireframes. Capacity to iterate. And what does that look like? And then the other hard skill is different methodologies that you have to help inform your ability to create wireframes and to create designs.

This could be research, it could be creating personas, creating journeys, strategies, different ways of executing it, but really it’s: what are your tools that you’re using? What is your output and how are you getting to the output? Right. If we’re to distill into really simple infrastructure.

As we talk about soft skills, this is about how you present yourself especially with folks that you are going to be interviewing with. And then the first one is just interviewing presentation skills, right? So thinking about ways that, you know, even before you get to the interview, how you lay out your portfolio, that is a presentation skill itself.

And we’ll give you some tips and feedback in this presentation, but it’s really around just how are you packaging up this story, this narrative, in a really simple way to understand, right? 10, 15 minutes of "this is what the problem was. This is what I did. This is my result." And then when it comes to interview, building up the skill to be able to talk through what you’ve done and answer questions when somebody asks you a little bit more about your projects and processes.

The next one is collaboration skills. So. Rarely are people hired into jobs where they only work by themselves. Right. And so a big, big proponent is how do I show how I collaborate with other folks on the project? Right. Too often we create case studies as well, where it’s like me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, you know… Haha, Mariah Carey, um, How do we work and collaborate with other folks?

Oh, you don’t want to hear me sing, everyone’s going to leave the zoom. It was so funny. But how do I show that I worked with other people, right? And so in the beginning, maybe sometimes it helps set up the case study. People say, Hey, I worked with X, Y, and Z person. This was my role. Right. But another opportunity is as you creating the wireframes or designs, just showing in the writing, even just, how are you collaborating with other people in your domain, right.

Design plus also other people from other domains, development, strategy, analytics, you name it, right. And the more you can show this, it makes other folks who are hiring you feel much better that you can fit into their team dynamic. Right?

And then another soft skill that’s really important is industry awareness. So this is just generally, how aware are you with what’s happening in the space of things that you’re creating? Right. And so, especially when we have these projects, right? We’re like, okay, I want to create this like brand new project that touches on, like, for example what’s a good industry, like the finance space, right.

I want to innovate a new way that we could do taxes. Right. I hate taxes can always become better. And the question that’s going to come up, right. Especially as we gauge seniority of talent is okay, so what’s happening in the industry. Right. And too often we go, Oh, I just looked at TurboTax.

Right. I just want to make it better. But another part of it is understanding. Okay. Who’s. You know, a mover and shaker in industry what’s already being done. Right. And the big proponent of equitable design where we continuously build upon what exists currently is to use and infuse the learnings of all these other different domains, projects, platforms, people, so that we create solutions that build on top versus dismantling and starting off from scratch.

And too often, we imagine this concept of design innovation as this practice of having to tear something apart, just so we can build it up. In that sense, it’s really an ego different processes rather than a human centric processes. And so really this one is how are you aware of what is happening around you? What research do you do? Where are you plugged in to receive inputs of what’s happening around you?

Yeah. And then the last part, obviously, materials. There’s a part where we hate: your resume and your portfolio. We’ll talk a little bit more about this later on, but you got to have it, a part of that too, is cover letter.

My tip with cover letter is break it apart into different pieces. And as you apply to other companies have the different pieces in like a Google sheets where you have like the introduction body ending and you literally pick and pull from the Google sheets, and then you create this like cover letter out of scratch. Not really out of scratch, but you’re building from the pieces.

And so the part of it is just make it easier on yourself. But don’t allow just like a cover letter be in the way of you applying to a job. Shouldn’t be that hard, make it easy. Yep.

Different roles + labels

Steven Wakabayashi: And as you finish school, too, and as you go into the world of design and UX, there’s just so many terms right. Of ways that they describe titles, roles, responsibilities.

And so just going from top down, we might have heard of UX, right? This user experience. This is really new in the industry within the past, really about like 10 years, 10, 12 years before that, like. You know, you had designers, developers doing this job. UI came out of the movement of UX to specialize more in the interface portion of it developing icons, developing logos.

Designers. These are really much broader term describing folks who design, but because UX started design and designers became more specialized into digital design. So they’ll do more of the aesthetics, right? The visual design of the product.

A product designer. Right? So this one came recently in the past few years really budding out of this movement of product management, right, which is the concepts of understanding the end-to-end development process of a product, a digital product, which includes ideation, iteration, and business logistics. And so often product designers will not just have to be able to do UX and some design, but also understand the business component of it. And so they really didn’t have a title to figure out, you know, like, do you just put UX plus like strategists, but really this product design is this rule that encapsulates all of it.

UX developer. Sometimes you see this in some instances where they have a developer who is more focused on design or user experience. So they’ll work on prototypes, they’ll work on really quickly iterating concepts, right? So by the time it gets to development, it wasn’t you know, just as beautifully designed thing that just falls apart when you try to build it. And so all these roles they’re really coming out of different needs within the whole end-to-end product life cycle, right.

And different roles help to compliment different people’s skill sets. So I would say, you know, hold these loosely, they also change depending on each company. And whoever’s in these different roles also have different expertise. And so why the rule is also different per company is because whoever’s in the roles — adjacent or complimentary to the role that you’re going into — have different skill sets. And when people have different skill sets, they’re able to take different, you know, a workload off of certain roles or they cannot. And so you get these like hodgepodge roles. You’re like, ah, like what do they really mean?

And then the last one UX researcher. So these are roles that are moreso for research generation, creating insights, helping to create artifacts, right? Personas, journeys, all these different things that help to ground research with different strategic methods.

My advice. The titles mean one thing, what would be really helpful when you apply for a job is actually asking what are my typical deliverables?

Yeah. What are the projects that I’m typically working on? And what am I expected to do as a part of this project in this role? And that should give you a better sense of what you’re actually going to do in the day to day, rather than relying on some of these titles. Yeah.

Subdivisions within UX

Steven Wakabayashi: And then, so just a quick, you know, additional plus one from the last side is just talking a little bit about the subdivisions within the UX user experience realm, and along the lines of user experience that we had talked about, which is often the concept of wireframing and iterating on the blueprints.

We also have information architecture which is more of the technical kind of, how do I describe it? It’s more of just a setting up the technical infrastructure of the website. So if you think about a site map, for example, organizing of data, here we go. It’s the organizing of complex data of a website or of a product.

User interface. Again, we just talked about this UI design, which is more iconography. You can also see this deviate into people who maintain a design system, right? So there’s like a big brand. There’s a bunch of rules. Sometimes their role is also to maintain this brand Bible that they call and to make sure all the things that touch it are consistent.

You also have UX strategy. And so design thinking is one thing that came out of this you often see user experience designers who do workshops and who work in more of a consulting lens take on this role, where they enter and help to use their creative capacity to help people ideate. And then we also talked about UX research generating insights also helping create testing methodologies.

They could create the AB tests. They can create all the different means of making sure that the end design is a validated, right. They can even conduct the interviews with different users, consumers, and such.

And then UX engineering. We just talked about this. Development very similar, creating prototypes, iterating on that very quickly as well.

Job Hunting

Steven Wakabayashi: So as we get to hunting for jobs let’s see, we a few things right. We’re in the market. Now we finished school. We’re like, Oh my God, WTF do I do? I am so stressed. It’s like, so it’s like, I, yeah, I’ve been there. I will give you the advice. Your first job is the hardest to land, but once you get it, it’s so much easier afterwards.

It’s like just making sure to get that one job just for your foot in the door will help you gain some more experience that you’ve put on your portfolio. Right? Because in the past you were doing like all these things, like creating all this stuff, putting a portfolio that was coming out of your own resource, out of your own pocket, right?

Like you’re paying for school, doing all this stuff. But once you get your first job, You’re paid to create more case studies to put in your portfolio. It becomes so much smoother. I promise. And so really a lot of this advice now is how do I just get that first job? Right? And so the first advice is see if there’s opportunities right, more than the alumni or this stuff, but just, if you can just grab coffee with people in the industry.

There are many amazing platforms that have come up since COVID had started, especially with people spending too much time on the internet. Opportunities to just connect with one another in a very casual setting. And so a great resource is checking out ADP List where you’re able to connect with other folks across different industries to be able to get advice.

Then you can actually connect with people all around the world. My advice here is don’t focus on the title. Don’t focus on where they’re from, you know, Because more often than not, you’re going to try to reach out to someone who comes from like a big tech company and they’re line is like extremely long, or they have no time.

And they’ll only give you like 15 minutes of the day, you know? And so think about right type of friends you want to make, if you also want to reach out to them and you can as well. But my advice usually helps to point people to folks who might be able to put more energy to help you succeed.

Yeah. There are also a lot of organizations that’s come up, especially during COVID to help students graduates just folks in the industry. There’s so many ways of connecting with folks who are like you. So here at QTBIPOC Design, we are a collective of BIPOC LGBTQ+ folks, which is awesome.

So you’re able to connect with folks who are in our family, you know, and there are also a lot of adjacent organizations that we highly recommended, we partner with us well. Out in tech, another amazing organization to check out. Design buddies, students of UX, Queer Design Clubs, Blacks Who Design. So many, they have also Slack groups that you can join, be a part of. Some are a little overwhelming, not going to lie with like a thousand plus people and like chats everyday. Like it can get a lot.

So, I would say try it out, you know, try out different spaces and see which one resonates. And if it doesn’t, iterate that right. See what else you can join. And what else?

Ah, and there’s a bunch of newsletters too, that go out. I forgot to mention one of them, but there’s one called Case Study Club, which is really awesome to check out. That one sends you email case studies every single week. That is really cool. A way to think about ways you can integrate different ideas and thoughts into your portfolio.

Another one is called Diversify Tech, which actually sends you a bunch of job listings in technology, especially for a marginalized communities, which is really great.

Case study club. That’s the one that sends you an email each week with portfolio tips and advice.

Yeah, of course.

More advice for you. And also, right. There’s so many more job directories and just LinkedIn. There are job directories at Dribbble, Behance, Twitter. AngelList, product hunt, WorkingNotWorking. Twitter is not like a typical job listing board people actually just search like, Hey, looking for X, you know, I’m looking for a designer looking for UX designer, just search terms in Twitter and you’ll be really surprised at what you find. I’ve had a couple leads come through Twitter and it’s just been really surprising. It’s been really, really beneficial. Just to cut through the noise, especially with these listing services. Also they’re really expensive, right? For ’em. For smaller companies where you can join.

And I would say another opportunity is Craigslist when I was first starting and I was freelancing. I use Craigslist to find a lot of opportunities, a lot of freelance opportunities with different companies. But all these different services have places where you can go and see all the full lists of different jobs and applications.

And as you’re applying to jobs, I also highly recommend keeping a track, whether it’s through Google sheets or just some format where you can consolidate data, because what’s going to happen is as you start using these different resources, you might accidentally double dip in a couple of instances. And you just want to make sure right.

If the leads come through and it’s okay to double dip to particularly because sometimes the channel might get overloaded with one request. And then if you, like, let’s say, I’m applying to Hm. Pfizer, right. I was like, what word do I have in my mind, Pfizer, the company. And I’m like, I want to be a designer. Right.

And I apply on LinkedIn. They might have a lot of leads on LinkedIn, but if you apply to them and if they have a listing on product hunt, for example, might have less, you might have more visibility. So that doesn’t hurt to double dip, but if you’re communicating with somebody in different channels, just make sure you take some notes so you don’t get in the kind of situation where they ask you. Oh yeah. Do you remember talking blah, blah, blah. And you’re like, who? That doesn’t look good.

And if you haven’t made an account yet on WorkingNotWorking, I actually highly, I recommend it for every single designer for our bootcamp. We’re actually making it a part of our core curriculum.

But WorkingNotWorking as a really great place to start your portfolio. Just throwing images up there. You don’t have to worry about the layout. Too often as a designer, we’re like, ah, it’s not the perfect layout and the recruiters just like doesn’t care. And so WorkingNotWorking , it’s just really amazing space. Beautifully designed and their job listings are actually really, really great. And a lot of the folks really communicate to the people who reach out so highly encouraged everyone to check that out.

Since COVID, this hasn’t really been the thing, but they’ve been moving it digitally. But this concept of job fairs where a lot of designers come together and companies come attend to look at our prospective talent. My advice is reach out to recruiters, reach out to organizations, schools, see what exists and see if you could just take a part of it, you know, Sometimes they allow other folks to come in and it’s just a general recruiting fair as well.

And lastly, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So take it easy. Don’t apply to like too many jobs all at once. What was it going to burn out? That’s not what we want. Right. Find a balance that works for you.

Working with recruiters

Steven Wakabayashi: Let’s see what else? Oh my God. So many more slides. Okay. I’m going to go through these tips really quickly. So working with recruiters because advice, especially on LinkedIn, start looking for recruiters, you just search for, you know, whatever role you want to work on + recruiter and just start messaging them. They get paid when you find a job. They want to work with you. So just look for them, make them your friends. They just want to get you a job, you know. And a couple notes as you work with recruiters too. They might not always be the best fit because there’s so many of them out there, again, it’s like a personality fit, right?

If you just really jive and you get them, that’s going to be a really great relationship. Right. Cause they’re going to keep finding projects that suit you, and they’re going to keep throwing at you. Right. Sometimes unfortunately recruiters might actually have multiple candidates that they put in front of an agency or agent or a company.

And in that instance, right, it’s just the recruiter trying to make sure somebody gets hired. And so you’re not always aware of it, but if a recruiter keeps doing that to you. You’re just like, I’m going to keep that in the back of my mind. Right. And as they are negotiating pay for you, sometimes they don’t always negotiate higher than you would want, particularly because they just want to get you hired.

Right. And so in that instance, just be cognizant if you’re on the higher end of the pay spectrum, they’re not going to advocate as harder for you, but on the plus side, if you’re on the lower end of the spectrum, they’re going to advocate for you because pushing into normal will be easier for them. Plus they usually get paid more. Recruiters work in many different ways.

If you work in an hourly contract role, they usually take a cut of it, where it’s about 10 is 20% on top of your hourly rate that they make. If you. Are you working with a recruiter on a salary position? They usually get a flat rate, just a check cut out to them, which is sometimes anywhere from five to 20% of your salary, depending on how much you make.

And they also have a clause with the company who hired you. If you don’t stay for a year, right. They actually owe lesson fees. So if you quit after a month, they’ll maybe play, pay a prorated rate. Okay.

And so, as you worked with recruiters, the way to get the best result is really establish a great connection with them. Be friends with them, stay on top of mind, connect with them on a regular basis, you know, and just ping them and catch up. That’s worked really well with me. I actually, when I was in San Diego, I used to own a cupcake shop in San Diego, like out of my house.

And then I learned, I was like, Oh my God, I need to get like an industrial grade kitchen. And then I closed it. But I would bake cupcakes for recruiters. I was like, test out these cupcakes! Love me! And it worked really well, but just in regards of, you know, I was just making friends with them and I would just come by on the holidays and I would just talk to them and say, Hey, what’s up, you know?

And just by making genuine connections. And I’m still friends with some of them to this day of a lot of the recruiters from San Diego. There’s just really great people. And if you find the ones that work well with you, don’t forget to touch base with them, you know, and just catch up. They’re human too.

Resume Tips

Steven Wakabayashi: Some tips on resume. Let me just like bump these out first. So three advice on as you’re writing resumes, right? First and foremost keywords, this is the most important thing. Remember earlier, we were talking about this chart of all these things that you just had to have. Those have to be related to keywords, and you want to make sure that they’re in everywhere. In your portfolio and in your resume.

Now, depending also like if you’re going up in seniority, the keywords are going to definitely shift over time, right? Like if you know, you have a VP, whoever, applying to a job and wrote like. Microsoft word, like the resume, like Hmm. Interesting. Right. And so as you’re working through it, it’s putting the deliverables of what you’re going to be executing on, right.

As a part of your task, your methodologies that you’re going to use. Right. And any other keywords related to your actual role, and that’s going to help at least through like the different parts and systems that exist, or as recruiters just want to see if you’re going to be a good fit. There are also editing apps out there that will help you do this.

Grammarly is a great tool for just grammar checking different spelling, grammar of all the things they’re doing. But another great AI tool is called resume worded. And so you can actually upload job description and your resume, and I’ll give you a comparison of the match. If it’s a good or bad, they give you a scoring. They have a free plan that you can use.

And it’s really fascinating. Don’t take everything. I mean, take things with a grain of salt, but some of the advice is really helpful, at least that you can see really quickly. And then last but not least see if you can get editors, you know. Just like how we’re writing a paper, right? Resumes, no different.

The more people you can get advice from the more, a collective effort, it will be involved to create it. But tip with this is if somebody gives you a feedback, again, take it with a grain of salt. Everyone has different contexts. And so the idea is maybe ask a couple people, see what is a common feedback from person to person, and then apply that to your resume versus applying every single thing.

Because if you keep doing that, it might just end up looping in a circle.

Portfolio Tips

Steven Wakabayashi: Okay, we’re getting towards the end of this. And some advice for as you’re creating portfolio, right? So you’re creating these case studies that are going into your websites, your WorkingNotWorking page. Sometimes designers are really stressed out by what it has to entail. And my mantra in life is just simplify, make it easy on yourself, right?

It’s your life. You’re going to live it, make it easy for yourself. Right. Have fun. And the analogy I like to give people is think of your case study as that movie plot, right. Or movie script. As you’re talking about a movie with someone, right? Like, Hey, I’m going to tell you that, you know, what happened in Frozen 2, you know, interesting movie.

This is what happened at the beginning. This is what happened in the end. I mean, this will happen in the middle and this will happen in the end. Right? Our case study is the same exact thing. We have the beginning, right? Where we talk about what problems are we trying to address? Right? Who is the client? What are we going to do? What is our take who’s on the team, right?

And then we get into the middle, the actual work, how are we iterating? What are we doing? What are we delivering? What’s our outcome of these iterations. Right? And then at the end, where did we land? What did we solve? What did I learn? Right. And we could even put lessons and learnings in the middle, not just the end where we talk about what worked, what didn’t work and what we did to change it.

And the more we can make our case studies like a story, a narrative from start to finish. That’s when it’s going to resonate with people. Right. Cause they’re going to go, I get it now. And as we create these case studies, Start with, you know, the beginning, middle and end. And just add a couple of things at the beginning, add a couple things to the middle out, a couple of things, the end, right.

Too often, I see a lot of portfolios do a lot in the beginning, and then you can see the designer kind of got tired. They’re like, Oh my God, this was a lot of work. So I’m going to put like a couple of wire frames and just like put like the final screens. Right.

It really undersells your work, you know, or the designer who only puts the end result. Right. This is what I did. And you’re like, okay. You know, Or sometimes designers just like too much in the middle. Right. It’s all wire frames, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, boom. Actually that’s sometimes helps people more because I usually typically see less iterations of wire frames done.

A lot of like a lot of people put a lot of effort into like upfront strategy and like personas, journeys, all this, but rarely like, do they really talk through the iteration of the wireframe processes really well. And if I usually see a case study where they do even just like round one of wires, like this is what I did round two, like, you know, this is how I, you know, iterated on it, to me, that makes a lot of sense.

But also you want to avoid where you like. Have a dumping ground right. Of this is my wireframe batch one, look at everything. Here’s batch two, dump. To me, that’s also not a great story. Right? You’re going to want to create through lines for each character, which could be a feature, right?

So if I’m doing a overhaul of airbnb.com, right. Instead of putting down like 700 screens and each iteration, I’ll go, okay, I’m going to take the experience of booking a airbnb experience, right? Where you connect with these hosts for this bespoke experience I’m going to show you how I iterated this from start to finish. And maybe the case study is a combination of just a couple of that, right?

You don’t have to show all the screens. And to me that does a lot more than you showing me 700 screens. I didn’t know, like what was, what, you know. Sometimes also what you want to avoid is like a click through prototype that you just throw it in the portfolio. You’re like, okay, done. And it’s like, usually interviewers sometimes click the wrong thing and is like, Hmm, this is kind of crummy experience. Bye. You know?

And so what I always recommend is a storyboard format where you have screens, maybe a description below his screen, and maybe you like have like a series of screens and how it’s evolved. That shows a lot of the thinking that you’ve done to iterate on it. And again, like thinking about keywords, don’t forget to put your role, what you’ve worked on, the software you use and additional context, just to understand what it was like to work on the project. What were you given? Right.

And one more hint is don’t get lost in the next shiny thing as you’re creating a portfolio. Because oftentimes we. What we do as designers is, we’ll go, okay, let me look at the best portfolio. Right? I’m going to grab that best amazing portfolio. I’m going to put it right next to mine. I’m going to feel really bad about myself. And that’s somehow going to make me make it look like that. Right? It’s like abusive. It’s not healthy. It’s not good. It’s about just, what is that one little step you can take to improve your portfolio, right? You don’t know the story. You don’t know how much effort and labor was involved to create these other portfolios.

And honestly, the real deal is the portfolios you see on like all of these, like award-winning websites, you have developers partnering with designers, and then they do work for each other. And so. It’s not always just one person doing that. Right. You don’t know the whole story. And so it’s very hard to compare apples and oranges, especially if you’re just creating your portfolio by yourself.

Right. So my advice is make it easy for yourself. Add restrictions. Actually, if you find yourself where you’re like, Oh my God, right? Like, This is so much, I’m getting caught up in like the details, right? If that’s you, you have to add guard rails to yourself and a good guard rail could be, I have to start off on WorkingNotWorking to create my portfolio.

Right. You can’t think about the layout. You can’t think about like all these things. Like you have to put like, like slides and that’s it. Right. And then maybe that’s the V1, right? And then you take that and then you put it into a portfolio afterwards where you have all this stuff and that’s going to be a lot better for you too, because you’re going to start understanding right. All these screens and all these things that you want to lay out. And so, again, I’m going to repeat, if you see yourself getting caught up in the details, you have to add restrictions to yourself so that you don’t lose yourself in all of the nuances that maybe an interviewer doesn’t care about.

Right. One little thing each day, right? Big advice. Oh my God. That was the end. Any questions? Was that helpful?

Reaching out to recruiters – script

Attendee: That was, that was super helpful. I really enjoyed it. Very, very helpful.

Steven Wakabayashi: Awesome. Thanks. Any questions? Any questions from anyone?

Attendee: I have a question actually, and I I’m like a little embarrassed to ask this, but like, I’ve heard a lot about people saying like, Oh, you know, you should reach out to a recruiter and you know, that like, increases your chances. But my problem, I don’t know what to say. Like I don’t. No, how to not sound like I’m just trying to get a job.

I don’t know how to be quote unquote personable. And I wish I could just be like, can someone just give me a script? JUst like little like SparkNotes from like, so I can not sound like a freaking robot.

Steven Wakabayashi: Well, yeah, this is a judgment free space, by the way. There’s no such thing as a dumb question or like, you know, whatever question we try to add these labels too, but I think that was a really good question.

My advice is. Think of them as like a friend. Right. And just, how would you just talk to them as a friend and to get rid of all these, like, you know, this formality sometime also, like, don’t be like too informal where like. What’s up? But maybe the first message could just be, and if you want to script, it could just be, "Hey looking for creative recruiters because I just recently finished school" or give some context into why you were looking for that."

Right. Just one single sentence. It doesn’t have to be too much in detail and say, "we’d love to find some time to connect and see how we can work together." Right. And just saying that just allows them to now take your lead and open the door. And I generally like to just keep it really broad as like, I would love to see how we can work together and use that in the context of a recruiter. Use that in the context of the company, right. The actual business itself. Use that in the context of working on other projects and it doesn’t provide too much context where you might be. I’m like very guilty of sometimes like word vomiting. I’m like, Oh, but yeah, keep it short, simple.

And yeah. And when you say like, Oh, I was looking for this person, you popped up, like, people also feel really good about it. They’re like, "Oh! Me?"

Yeah. Does that help?

Attendee: Yes. Thank you. I would like to say that I’m also bad with talking to friends. I tend to second guess every single thing I’m saying, but yes, that is very helpful.

Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. Yeah, of course. And you know, at the end of the day, right, it is what it is. When we say something like it’s up to the person, the receiving end to, you know, it’s… In a relationship, we take responsibility of 50%, but we can’t take responsibility of a hundred percent. Right. They take responsibility of 50% of the relationship. So, you know, shoot the shot, see what happens. They don’t say anything. Oh, well, right. It’s, you know, water off a duck’s back. Something that’s far also really busy too.


Let’s see… what are friends? I know people we cohabitate with?

How do you check in with recruiters without sounding like you’re bugging them. What’s good advice? How do I usually do it? I just say, Hey, you know, we haven’t touched base for an while and right now you know, you could give them context.

You’re like just saying, Hey, I’m thinking about going back into the market or just saying, you know, just on the market now, would love to catch up some time to touch base. That’s it? Yeah. If someone’s posting great content on LinkedIn or any other platform. I’ll go ahead and tell them I appreciate their work.

Engaging with folks on LinkedIn

Steven Wakabayashi: Ah, yeah. Good, good Clarissa, great advice. Yeah. A lot of people posting a lot of like LinkedIn posts nowadays because it’s also like a social media platform. I actually got a lead for a project to like, it was really random, but yeah, it’s, it’s just commenting on each other, engaging with one another, you know?


Fighting portfolio fatigue

Steven Wakabayashi: Good tip. Any other questions? What questions would I have if I was applying for jobs? I mean, there’s a couple things, right. That comes up as themes again and again as we’ve done these talks. One of it is this concept of portfolio fatigue, where it’s, I’m just keeping on doing this and it’s just like, kind of exhausting, you know, how do I just not get exhausted by my portfolio?

Observe like what you’re spending your time on. Right. And what is the actual output? And so if you’ve seen, like you spend like 10 hours and all you got done was this like one little thing, ask yourself, right? Like, is that a really great use of your time? Is it because you’re getting lost in the complexity of creating the portfolio and everything around it. And again, do you create guardrails around yourself? So you focus on the main ideas first and only when you have time, then you work on the details because sometimes fatigue shows up when we don’t see result, when we don’t see impact. And when we don’t see things happening, there is no feedback loop happening.

Right. We’re putting out, we’re not getting back in. And so in that instance, we get fatigued. Cause we’re like, Oh, like I’m doing all this and I’m not seeing anything. And so it’s a matter of just being more smart, articulate with your time maybe to find a balance with what works for you.

Applying for jobs you feel you’re not qualified for

Steven Wakabayashi: Should you apply for a job that you feel like you’re not qualified for?

Oh my God. Yeah. Shoot your shot go for the moon. Like just, just, just apply, you know, what’s the worst that could happen. Right? You get a no. The best thing that can happen is it opens the door. Right? Yeah. You know, it might be like, if it’s exhausting for you to do it, don’t do it. But by all means, like, if you think you kind of have the qualifications for it, just try it. Like the worst that could happen is they say, no, that’s it. Right. It’s not that bad. Or if you just apply it’s automatic, no. Right. Nothing to lose. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. It’s what else?

Application fatigue

Steven Wakabayashi: And like, what’s another thing that shows up. Application fatigue too, where a lot of people apply for all these jobs.

Right. And they’re like, I don’t see any results. And maybe it’s just being more smart with how you’re applying, right. The more personal channels you can go through, it’s actually more beneficial. So another tip that I forgot to put in here was as you go through jobs, right? As your network begins to grow, and let’s say I’m applying to company X.

A good way to kind of see how you’re personally connected to that company. X is go to that company access LinkedIn page. Right. And see who shows up as a first connection who shows up as a second connection. Right? And if it’s a second connection, who’s connected to that person. And are they friends with you?

Are they close with you? And that’s an interesting way to facilitate communication, to get yourself into the company, to be able to find folks who you can chat with. And when you communicate with people, it doesn’t have to be like specific. I want this job. So I’m contacting. You. Don’t have to like, be like super articulate with that.

Just say, Hey, I’m really curious about this job. I don’t know anything about this company would just love to learn more, you know, and make it really easy for people. And sometimes during the conversation, people will commit to helping you more than if you come in asking for more to begin with, keep it loose, keep it open-ended. And people are more inclined to take those meetings when they’re set up as such. Yeah.

Becoming a more competitive candidate

Steven Wakabayashi: I keep seeing jobs that are entry level, but ask three years experience in coding. How do I become better candidate when I don’t have these things?

Like the answer, I will tell you that you wouldn’t like to hear it. Sometimes they will put qualifications that are actually higher than what they need, because they get a lot of applicants who are sometimes not reaching that level. So some recruiters, what they’ll do is they’ll push the qualifications actually a little bit higher, just so that the people that they get in have more of those bullet points.

And so. My advice is to work on projects, right? There’s many ways to do this. I should put this as a slide, but take on projects that you can work on with other people. Right. But don’t like it, my biggest advice is really try to avoid these like blue sky projects, particularly because like truly executing on them from start to finish…

You have startups that struggle with like a team and millions of dollars to do it. And so, especially as a designer, my biggest advice of like how you can, like, you know, like, Get the biggest bang of your buck is taken experience that exists and just make it a little bit better, make it more inclusive, make it more equitable.

Like it already exists, like iterate on it. Right? Take an Airbnb experience, make it better, right through your lens. You’re going to have Airbnb on it. People are familiar with it, right? That’s another big part is familiarity. Especially as a recruiter, they’re like this product I’ve never seen before. What does it do?

And there’s so many questions, right. But when you take these other projects and just say, Hey, I’m gonna plus up it. They’re gonna go, okay, I get this experience. Does this plus up makes sense. Like, Hmm, actually it makes sense. Check, you know, And if you want to do case studies like that with your friends, where you take on these projects and you do these one-ups, that’s a really great way to get portfolio pieces.

There’s also non-profits Out in Tech, what they do is they each year they have a bunch of LGBTQ+ organizations register for the organization. And what they’ll do is they’ll allocate designers and design resources to help create websites for them. And so. Potentially you can volunteer in that capacity to work with team members and such.

It gets really hairy, I would say with the volunteer experiences, because sometimes you work with just like a lot of people who are also just like kind of spinning all the time. And so you don’t have somebody in the lead capacity just help guide the conversation. So sometimes people have had a really hit or miss experience.

But in that instance, my advice is just interview and ask more questions, ask them what have they done before, right. What’s the team dynamic like? Who’s leading the project? Stuff like that. So you better understand that team dynamic before you step. And yeah, it’s when you work on these individual things that is experience.

Yeah. And also the focus in the very beginning is foot in the door. How do you keep focusing on just getting that one foot in the door? Right. Even if the company in the very beginning, you’re like, eh, like this is kind of like not my passionate project. There’s no rule that’s in the sand that’s like, you must stay at this company forever.

Right. You could always write, like this was a freelance position. Right. You could always say that this company just doesn’t have any more budget. Right. There’s so many ways you can articulate why, like, it was such a short amount of time. You can also even say, you know, just the team dynamic was not working yet, you know?

Yeah. I would say there’s so many smaller opportunities focus sometimes. Like it’s helpful to focus less on like a salary position and just going alternative routes. Right. Maybe pick up small projects through Craigslist, through different websites. Taking a freelance positions, right. Working with recruiter in a freelance capacity where they give you single one-off projects.

That’s how I started my career was freelancing.

My friend sometimes tell me "Would a white man apply? Why shouldn’t you?" Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good way to think about things. Yeah. It’s we also have these lenses of lived experiences and truths that have been handed down to us that we inherently bring with us into different spaces.

And the way we see opportunity is actually the combination of our lived experiences and experiences that were handed down to us. So how we see an opportunity isn’t necessarily entirely just us as well.

You recommend redesigns of original ideas, never thought of what you said. Idea of updating a familiar website. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. It’s so much easier updating a familiar website. And people get it, you get it much easier. Yeah. We just, sometimes our ego takes the better of us and it’s like, we have to do this gargantuan thing, but it’s like, if you want to do it and you know, more power to you. Go for it.

But I see like 99% of the students just, they don’t have the effort or time to be able to dedicate to it. That’s okay if you don’t, you know, and it’s more of a coming to terms with your capacity as well.

Redesigns over original ideas. I would say. Just pick a feature, right. Make it, like, bring it back down to like the smallest piece and pick a feature and just really, really focus on that. Yeah. Same thing with like redesigning other people’s projects is pick a feature and just focus on that. Right.

Don’t do like the whole TikTok experience, right? Like you’re going to like lose your, like my, like maybe it’s like the recommendation engine, right. Or maybe it’s just making the commenting feature more fun, inclusive, right. Like start from there and see what comes out of it. And the focus is right less about how much you can touch, but what is the quality of work you’re delivering on these smaller things that’s going to make it seem so that you’re really mindful of these things. Right? The last thing somebody wants, especially hiring a new designer is really spreading themselves thin across like a big project and right. Like not really thinking things through, as we think about how our products would touch so many lives, right.

At the very micro level, we have to be considerate and conscientious of all these little features. Yeah.

How do you find projects on Craigslist? Never see anything on there. Are there certain words to look for on the site? I just search UX designers, UX designers all those different terms that we had talked about. Yeah. Where is it?

Yeah. Where did it go? Oh, here it is. Here you go. All these different terms. Yep. Sound good. Awesome. So we have a little bit of time and we have a little group activity that we’d like to do. Kenny, we can stop sharing too. Thank you for coming! Enjoy our recording! See you later, bye!


Transcription by Descript

Now that you’ve finished your bootcamp course – what do we do? In this session, you will learn:

  • How to make the most of your bootcamp experience (and what to watch out for)
  • Tips on how to find roles and set up interviews
  • Portfolio insights to help prospecting jobs to see the best in you
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