My UX Journey

Custom Career Advice is Awesome is a free platform that allows you to have a one-on-one or group mentor sessions with world-class mentors. The process is as follows: you search a mentor you’d like to speak, you pick an available time slot, you write a motivation letter to explain why you’d like to have a mentor session with them and you wait for a response. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Giving it a shot

Fulfilling my needs

It was my first time so it was quite exciting. You don’t get to talk to someone you look up to everyday. The mentor I chose was Scott Jenson. I was following him for quite a bit now and I really enjoy his articles on his personal blog, besides that he has an amazing list of work history and experience. So I gave it a shot. I explained what I’m currently doing and which struggles and questions are tormenting me at the moment in my motivation letter to Scott.

You can only Google that much right? Every person’s story is different. And having a unique personal story is great, as Jeff Gothelf explains in his book ‘Forever Employable‘. We all have unique personal backgrounds, therefore it is impossible to get answers to your pressing career questions just by Googling around. So there’s where my personal user need comes in which ADPList got an answer for and where Scott is one of the willing volunteers to help fellow UX designers in their career.

Being prepared

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Scott provided time slots of 45 minutes. So I prepared some questions as suggested by an email I got from ADPlist. During the mentoring session, I was really grateful that I had taken the time to write down these questions, because when you are using all your cognitive energy, you are in a flow state and it is difficult to pick up your pressing questions at the right time.

Now, what was the advice?

One major concern

All my questions came down to the same thing: how can I be sure that I have a future-proof career? To give you a bit of context, I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, so my biggest concern is that I’m up against some kind of career barrier because I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, regardless of the years of experience in the future. So for example, if I want a job at Google, I’m afraid I won’t have a chance because of that.

Getting a degree or not

I was hoping to get vague guidelines for my career, but Scott exceeded all expectations. I was planning to start a new bachelor’s degree at the Open University. There are two options that align with UX, one is Psychology with a focus on clinical psychology and the other is Information Science which has a lot to do with UX but is very technology focused.

Thanks to Scott, I was able to better assess whether it would be worth it. The concluding advice was no, not for me. Doing an undergraduate degree in addition to my current job may be interesting and fun to do, but it won’t contribute significantly to my career. There are better ways to spend my time in my career than going back to college. After all, it’s a tough challenge: studying two hours a day for six years with a full-time UX job and a family.

Making yourself as valuable as possible

Besides, as Scott told me, I’ve already done the hardest part of a career as a UX professional: landing my first UX job. Moreover, I just found my second UX job. So I can safely say that I have placed myself in the UX job market with the experience I have now.

For me personally, it is better to focus on learning along the way and T-shape in as many categories as possible, whether they are small or large. Companies want a UX designer who can do that extra 10%: “You work on a team that doesn’t like UI? Sure why not, I can help!” or “Your front-end developer is sick and you need to do a small job in front-end coding for a prototype? I can help!”. Another example: “You’ve been hired by a company starting their own UX team? Of course I can help build one for you!”. These are assets that make a UX designer worth their money. This is why companies look for UX designers with work experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe a college degree is totally worth it, if I could do my life over, I would definitely get my degree. But in my current situation, it’s not the best path.

A small thank-you note to Scott and ADPList

There were more things Scott mentioned during the mentoring session that are more personal. It’s amazing how much in-depth advice you can get in those 45 minutes. To me, the ADPList platform is a great solution that is desperately needed in the world. It takes the search for online career advice to the next level. Maybe there are other platforms, I don’t know. But ADPList works and that’s what matters.

Finally, I want to thank Scott Jenson for giving me thoughtful and crystal clear answers to all my pressing questions that I have been asking myself for a long time. I know exactly what to do and what is important to take myself to the next level and beyond. Thank you Scott, your advice is a life changer.