"User Experience" as a label is a broad umbrella, and it often doesn't accurately describe the work we do or serve a purpose in recruiting for jobs. Cory Lebson, author of The UX Careers Handbook, spoke with our members last week about how to carve out your own piece of the UX Cheesecake.
Cory wrote a blog post all about the cheesecake metaphor and just why he chose to use it as a cover image for his book. Each type of cheesecake has its own flavor, but there's still commonalities linking them together. And while each type of User Experience work requires unique skills, there's still a common basis that we all share.
UX involves three broad categories of work:
- Designing stuff (like Interaction Design, Information Architecture, and Visual Design)
- Evaluating stuff (like User Research, Accessibility, and Human Factors)
- Strategizing about stuff (like UX Strategy, Content Strategy, and Customer Experience)
Those tasks and skills are applied in lots of different ways. You might be primarily a user researcher or information architect, focused in on your own preferred slice of the cheesecake. And each role within UX work has unique degrees of designing, evaluating, and strategizing.
"Career advancement comes not from throwing it all out there, but saying I'm an expert at this." - Cory Lebson
Nobody can be experts in all of these areas. Cory put this in very concrete terms: If you start out by billing yourself as a UX Unicorn, master of all slices of the cheesecake, then nobody knows just which slice you're truly an expert at and you might get passed you over for a specialist job. It's very possible to become that unicorn someday, but it's important to start a career by focusing in one area. Build that expertise and then someday later think about branching out.
Telling Your Story
It's important to have your resume and portfolio tell your story and show your strengths. Which of the slices are your specialty? Make sure your story matches the job description you're applying for.
But your story goes beyond just the job application itself. Cory said that employers will obviously Google applicants, and it's important to control your brand in what pops up. He suggested Googling yourself to check if the results tell a story of the work you do. If you say you're a User Researcher or other specialist, your web presence better back it up.
Cory emphasized controlling:
But your brand alone won't get you that dream job.
Steps to help manage your search process:
During discussion at the end, an attendee asked about the usefulness and quality of an education via a UX bootcamp. Cory replied that "Doing a bootcamp is a good thing," but emphasized that it's also important to supplement a bootcamp with outside work. You should also do your research on the bootcamp in question, and see what slices of the cheesecake they're strongest in. Do they align with your interests and career goals?
- Tell your network you're looking
- Post your job search on social media
- Go to UX events and network
- Check out online job boards
- Create a custom job board feed to stay current on listings
How do you think Cory's insights will impact your next job search? Does his advice and experience fit with your own?
Thanks to Cory for spending some time with us, and to everyone who attended. We hope to see you next time!
(Event photo by Andrew Wirtanen)