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How to find your dream UX Job

Source: IC Software, 17 June 2009

By Sean Pook

Times are hard, the economy is in recession and the Usability /UX market has been hit hard. From a personal perspective the number of roles I was advertising dropped by half over Christmas and has not risen since. January's usual flurry of activity did not happen and candidates are finding themselves in an extremely competitive market where, for the first time, experienced UX candidates outnumber vacancies by quite a margin.

London traditionally is the bastion of the UX job market, and it's here you'll find most roles. This hasn't changed. However, this comes with the obvious disadvantage of competing with the local population. Despite the relatively few vacancies outside of London, flexibility to relocate (perhaps with a view of returning to London in a few years) certainly increases your employability.

Candidates who can consider temp /freelance roles abroad will also fare better than their full-time London-based counterparts. Roles can be found in a surprisingly varied array of locations and markets, from the fjords of Norway to the sun-drenched coast of the Costa del Sol. Freelancing need not be intimidating for the uninitiated. Going through a reputable UK based UX recruitment agency will ensure you are officially employed in the UK and paid in sterling. All you need to worry about then is sorting accommodation and flights, and even these are sometimes taken care of for you.

Portfolios are often an interesting talking point with candidates. Much of the work a candidate has recently completed will often be covered by a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and at the best of times it's often unclear what candidates can and can't show to potential employers. The general consensus is that, unless specifically informed to the contrary, work that is in the public domain is valid for presentation. I always advise candidates to check this first.

A sparkling portfolio, along with a well-thought out CV really will set you apart from the competition. It's no longer impressive to throw a few well-known brand names onto one's CV and expect the interviews to roll in. Surprisingly few UX candidates (particularly visual designers) put enough effort into their portfolios. It's not just an extension of your CV either. Several of my clients (household names) now make it mandatory for a candidate to have a portfolio on application - so make it a good one, even if it does involve sacrificing a few weekends or nights down the pub.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the role of a good recruiter-candidate relationship. UX has been around long enough now for several specialist recruitment agencies to operate in this area. Over time you'll work out the good agencies from the bad ones, but really put an effort into establishing a good long-term relationship with an agent /agency. I speak from experience when I say a candidate is one of hundreds to be considered when a new role is released. Make sure you're not just a name on a database but someone the agent will think to call instantly. Remember, a good recruiter is not just a tool to be used, but a potential long-term business partner. Likewise steer clear of agencies that treat their candidates like objects - you'll know what I mean.

One final point - many of my colleagues have placed permanent candidates three or four times over a length of fifteen years. I can't think of a better win-win result, can you?

Good luck all and keep your chin-up if your dream role has not yet materialised - it will.

IC Software