This post is inspired by a true story.
A UX designer friend of mine, let’s call him Alex, found himself jobless this month and reached out to me for help.
I immediately got on a call with him, suggested he send me his resume and portfolio, and concurrently started reaching out to my network to check for any available opportunities. I even dialed up my previous workplace, a renowned UX agency, to see if they had any openings — luckily, they did.
Taking a look at Alex’s resume and portfolio, a wave of disappointment washed over me. It began with the stereotypical, “Hello, I’m [Name]. I’m a UX designer based in…”. Following this was a mishmash of design terminologies thrown together in an attempt to cover all bases of product design.
Is this method going to land you a job? Will it catch someone’s attention? Will it showcase that you are superior to the rest? Or, at the very least, will it articulate your suitability for an interview?
I am afraid not. This approach might be the most effortless, but it is also the most unimaginative. Especially in these challenging times, playing safe and echoing what everyone else is doing isn’t going to cut it.
I started my career in advertising. Having worked with some of the top agencies in the world, one crucial lesson I learned was — you don’t always have to be better, but you absolutely have to be different. Today, nothing irks me more than the monotonous parade of identical portfolios and resumes. It’s like wading through a field of clones.
“It’s worth remembering that for everyone who likes to call themselves creative. Don’t just try to be better than other people, be different.”— Dave Trott
The safe, ordinary advertising, which makes up about 90% of all ads, is often quickly forgotten. The same applies to portfolios in the UX world.
Therefore, rather than getting caught up in aesthetics of your portfolio, it’s crucial to focus on your narrative — a narrative that sets you apart from the rest. When working on your narrative/career story remember my rule of thumb: “I was born to do this job, it is not something I choose to do”.
Alex’s narrative could benefit from his education and work experience in sustainable architecture. But he didn’t highlight it on his profile. His story could communicate the tale of how buildings transform into digital products. How he has been putting users first all these years in architecture and now UX design.
This intersection where architecture meets UX design is where Alex’s unique value proposition lies. It could make his profile stand out amidst a sea of competitors. His portfolio now goes beyond a list of credentials, it tells a story — a narrative that aligns with his unique journey and expertise.
Even though these are my suggestions to Alex, the choice to use them rests with him. However, it is apparent to me, and I hope to him too, that he was born to design, to build — it’s not just a career path, but his calling.
This was Alex’s story, with a background in Architecture. But even if you’re a junior designer with not much work experience, you can still be creative. Every person has a story or perspective that’s unique to them.
If you’re feeling stuck, I can share a very simple framework from advertising. You don’t need to hire a ‘coach’ or a ‘resume reviewer’ if you apply this framework. Much of the best advertising and human interaction hinges on it.
The framework is Impact, Communicate, and Persuade. YouTube link here to learn more.
This step is all about ‘getting noticed’. What’s your story? What differentiates you? How can you make others notice you? Here, you need to be ‘noticeable’. And to achieve that, you have to be remarkable. Merely doing what everyone else does won’t cut it. It requires both creativity and ‘boldness’. If you play it safe, you’ll only be average. And if you’re really in need of a job, you might be inclined to avoid risks. But isn’t that what everyone else is doing?
After grabbing their attention, tell them what you want, directly. I’ve seen cover letters that capture my interest with a clever introduction but then lose focus. They elaborate on their expertise, but that’s not what this is about. Save the detailed qualifications for your resume and interview. To me, cover letters are like advertisements. They need a compelling headline, a succinct sub-heading, and minimal body text. The objective? Progress to the next stage.
This is where you answer the question, “Why should they care?” It might seem tempting to showcase all your professional experiences here, but that’s not the essence. It’s more about your personal ‘Why’, your narrative, than about your tasks or roles.
This ‘Impact, Communicate, Persuade’ methodology isn’t exclusive to UX designers. Anyone, in any profession or business, can use it to their advantage. As Seth Godin once said, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”
To conclude, standing out isn’t just about outdoing others; it’s about being authentically, distinctively you.
I’m a branding enthusiast who’s transitioned into being a Product Manager. I was lucky enough to start my career in advertising as a brand associate at Leo Burnett, then I worked at other top ad-agencies. I even had a stint as a brand manager at an ed-tech startup. Now, I’m a product manager at an […]
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