Hired, Fired, Rehired:
What I learned from my first two design jobs

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Nathan Llewellyn was a graduate of the Kobi Cohort. He currently works as a UX Designer for Axis41, and he tweets at @natedoesUX.


Nine months ago I graduated from DESIGNATION. Shortly after graduating, I got my first design job. Shortly after that, I got fired. And shortly after that, I got my second design job. This article is all about what happened, and more importantly, what I learned from the experience.

A Little Context

A little over a year ago I sat in my classroom at the end of another day of teaching middle school students and decided I needed a new career.

While teaching a variety of subjects to adolescents was at times fun, the job wasn’t providing me with the opportunity to exercise my creative muscles like I had hoped. I began researching various careers and eventually decided that user experience design was maybe what I was looking for. During this search I also found DESIGNATION, and soon after had registered for a cohort that would begin shortly after my school year was finished.

The (Job) Hunt is On

DESIGNATION was a rewarding whirlwind of learning. Upon graduating I decided to move back home to Utah where the UX job scene is rapidly growing. I knew that finding my first job as a designer was going to require an impressive portfolio.

“I knew that finding my first job as a designer was going to require an impressive portfolio.”

As my portfolio started to come together I started to more actively apply for jobs. Progress was slow but I managed to schedule enough interviews that I felt pretty positive about my job prospects. After several promising interviews not working out I was starting to wonder how long it would take.

Then, one day I had an interview with a large company (who shall remain nameless, for reasons which will soon become clear), and the prospect of working for them was exciting. But, to my dismay the job I was being interviewed for was not really a UX job but more of a graphic design job. Upon realizing this I told the interviewers that I was looking for a UX job. I left the interview once again disappointed.

Later that day I was surprised by a message from someone on the UX team at the company I had just interviewed at. There wasn’t much to the message other than it stating that they might have an opportunity for me and that they would be in touch. Before I knew it I was talking to someone from recruiting and they were offering me a job!

My New Career. At Last.

My first day of my first UX job finally arrived and soon I was given a project or two to work on. Pretty soon I was working on my own project and the time started rushing by. Unfortunately, I knew pretty quickly I didn’t want to stay there for very long. While I was doing a job I enjoyed I didn’t really enjoy the people I worked with nor did I find the products I was working on to be very interesting. Even though I knew this, I told myself I would stay for at least a year. But then one day out of the blue, I was called in to the human resource office and was told I was being let go, that I wasn’t a good fit.

Just like that, three months after officially beginning my UX design career, I found myself without a job again. Normally I would have panicked, but I was prepared for this. Although I didn’t exactly know I was going to be fired, I had a sense that things weren’t working out, and had been looking for a new job for a few weeks.

“Just like that, three months after officially beginning my UX design career, I found myself without a job again.”

Time to Pivot

I consciously approached this second round of job hunting differently. First of all, as the saying goes, the best time to look for a job is when you have one. As making sure I could pay rent and feed myself was no longer a major concern I was more conscientious about what I actually wanted in a job.

So for this second time around, job interviews were no longer just about the company getting to know me, interviews were also about me getting to know the company and more specifically the people I would be working with. They weren’t just interviewing me; I was interviewing them.

After interviewing with several companies I was soon offered positions with two of them. I considered the pros and cons of each and soon decided to accept a job with Axis41 a technology-driven digital marketing agency in Salt Lake City.

What I Learned From This Whole Thing

Looking back on this experience, I realized a few important things about looking for a job:

1. Figure out what you want in your first job.
If circumstances allow, don’t settle for just any job simply because you need money. A week or two more of not earning money is worth it if you pass up a mediocre job for something better.

2. You are interviewing each other
A job interview is just as much about you interviewing the company as it is about them interviewing you. Go into interviews with questions that specifically target what you are looking for in an ideal work experience.

3. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I thought I was really lucky to have skipped the interviewing process with the UX team at my first job. Turns out that was more detrimental to my job search than helpful.

I hope this was helpful. Learn from my experience, and hopefully you’ll have a better outcome in your first job.

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