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Finding the One Job

Posted 3 years ago by Shabana Ahmed

In November 2016 I found myself leaving a really truly great experience design team at a solid software company to go onto… nothing.

Happily for me, marriage took me to a different town which then made me look at the prospect of a new job, new team, new design challenges and purpose.

Leaving a decent job and great team made me think about taking the time to find myself a new role without fear, i.e I made it an opportunity to not just find a job but find the one.

So I made it my mission to only apply to companies that I ‘believed’ in. No matter how shaky I got at the thought of ‘shit, what if I never get hired again?’ I took the stand to only apply to roles and companies that I genuinely believed in starting a new, meaningful and successful relationship with. I did this for 3 months.

“I made it my mission to only apply to companies that I ‘believed’ in.”

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Searching for My Cultural Fit

Criteria was very easy to define, I knew culture and people would be my non-negotiable and my would love to haves included: true agile environment, design thinking, occasional remote working. Not a huge list, but these are some of the things that make up my design code and I simply did not want to compromise them, they are the methods of work that I live by. That was my simple criteria in how I would find the one.

The market out there for designers is a deep blue ocean now, there is a lot of work for UX, architects, UI developers, researchers and if you have any skill sets that speak those tags… you could almost customise a role you want, mandatory requirements: real passion and personality.

“Every time I spoke or met with someone I was trying to absorb an impression of their cultures”

I spent a few months talking and meeting with agencies, directors and brands in coffee shops, head offices, Skype and long phone conversations. My approach here was different to previous interviews I had done in the past, now every time I spoke or met with someone I was trying to absorb an impression of their cultures. I asked questions that tapped into the design thinking and about how people come together to solve projects. I was becoming driven to find the one and I knew that people really matter to me.

Interviews and Design Tasks

During my search for my perfect fit, I interviewed at a number of high-profile organisations, understanding their culture and if I’d want to be a part of it. From Louis Vuitton to Market Comparison companies, here is an account of my interview experiences for each:

Louis Vuitton

I was lucky to have one of these interviews at Louis Vuitton. The Skype interview with the NY director was more than enough to gauge a love of design movement and art at this place. But what confirmed the culture for me was being asked to bring ‘my dark side and my light side.

To the second interview. Indeed that was the most memorable interview I’ve had in my whole life, I met true visionaries and felt a real sense of design love that was present in that very room. I was so excited at the proposal of light and dark that I produced a concept board based on ‘The Neverending Story‘ to bring a maison window to life, and brought in my Mum’s vintage Omega to talk about tangible expressions— things that inspired me. I really felt alive in that interview. I will always make time for you LV if you need me again.

“It was the most memorable interview of my life, I met true visionaries and felt a real sense of design love.”

The Enterprise

I had a LinkedIn conversation with an enterprise software company and the hiring lead’s concern was my length of duration in my design roles (average 1.5–2 years). I suggested it was normal of millennials/creatives and it should be seen positively in todays market. But that didn’t go down too well. I was under whelmed that time spent at X jobs would be the only thing that really mattered to them.

A Market Comparison Company

I was asked to do a mini project for a high profile market comparison company and was given quite a substantial brief. I spent my time doing all of this:

Finally, I presented this all in an online presentation deck, to a rather large group. I was confident with what I brought to the table, but sadly didn’t feel a sense of team spirit nor collectiveness. The culture did not speak to me. But I did feel like we were already in sprint. #jira

Fashion Brands

I presented to a British fashion brand that I have always, and still admire. The sense of energy, agile thinking and design first mentality was obvious in meeting these guys. Tick in my books. I had to present twice, with the second situation— presenting my design work for a brief they had set me. Again asking for a fair chunk of work here, I even went as far as to suggest a figure that might represent a campaign for tailored wear, and I mocked up a dapper Olly Murs to bring a section to life to engage users through a conversion funnel. I’m not sure he was the best fit? It looked great though.

However the truth is, we went through too many loops and processes and I was mentally all out to meet their interview criteria. Life should never be that complicated.

3 Months of Searching Lead to the One

3 months of finding the #one taught me to hold onto my design code values, and along this journey, I found myself in a UX Architect interview with giffgaff. I didn’t have to prove my design experience or ‘approach to the task’ by completing homework, although ready to do so. We simply had a good chat. A really good chat about… you guessed it. Design. We discussed previous projects, weighed pros and cons of prototyping software to potentially migrate the team to, and shared effective methods of rapid iteration— to hi-fidelity artefact processes. In my 2nd interview, the CEO asked me about me. I had a moment to talk about what I loved and why I wanted to be there.

I went for 1 walk around the office with the Head of UX and smiled at a few faces, took a mental snapshot of daily life and absorbed every artefact plastered on the walls. I listened to the noise. I call it collaboration and music. Lastly, I saw no evident hierarchy in departments. Just people gathered around standing desks or sat down, talking, figuring stuff out together.

The Cheap Part of a Design Role Is Salary

It’s not easy finding a good job. We as people are hard to please and the perfect job does not exist. But it’s not impossible to find something that aligns to your personal code. My advice if you are looking? Take the time to meet with as many people as possible, look for the signs of real day to day in the ordinary moments, and honestly ask yourself how you felt at the end of it all. There will always be a place out there that reflects your design code, stay true to that.

“There will always be a place out there that reflects your design code, stay true to that.”

If you have the opportunity to see the comparisons— you should. The cheap part of a design role is salary, the expensive part the is culture. Your design code is part of who you are and your behaviour— make that happy first. The rest will fall into place.

This article originally appeared on Shabana’s Medium page.

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I design experiences and interfaces for a living. Say hi on Twitter. Find out more on my blog.

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