Find Your Pivot Point

One thing that we can all count on with certainty in our careers is job change. Did you know the average worker will change careers four to seven times over the span of their working life? Four to seven times! Ninety-one percent of millennials expect to change jobs every three years. Clearly, job and career switching is on the rise.

And as you may have guessed based on the title of this post, I am one of these people. A few years ago, I decided to pivot from a traditional design role to one in the shiny new world of UX/UI design. I had been working in branding and in-house for a few years and was growing tired. I missed the feeling of taking on something new and I wasn’t feeling challenged every day. These feelings and motivations pushed me toward the biggest decision I’ve made. Three years ago I decided to pivot.

Everyone who has pivoted has their own unique story. I am going to share some thoughts and experiences that helped me along my journey.

First things first. Take the leap.
Once you tell yourself you’re going to make your move, hold yourself accountable and do it. No one is going to do this for you. Now, I don’t believe in vision boards, but I do believe in goal setting and airtight planning. This is a huge decision, but it doesn’t mean that it has to upend your life. Creating a roadmap can be crucial to your long-term plan and will allow you to set realistic goals for yourself while still progressing and growing.

When I decided to pursue a new career in UX/UI design, I started by researching online bootcamps and programs that I could complete while working full-time. There are tons of options at your disposal, so do your homework. It can be a pretty big investment too, so choose wisely.

This work/work balance can become exhausting, and the last thing you need is to burnout and falter on both fronts. Make a healthy schedule and stick to it. Be a lion when it comes to your time management. This valuable skill will help you maintain your sanity and (bonus) pay dividends later in your career.

Stay motivated and check your six.
Your new frontier will be filled with trial and error experiences. You will learn as you go. You will fail. You will miss the mark. Like any new career, there will be growing pains. Embrace these misses and build on them for the next assignment. Always keep your end-goal in mind.

Fight for the work but also fight for a fair price. Just say no to spec work or people who want to “pay you in experience.” You have invested countless hours (and probably dollars) in your craft, why let someone prey on a resource that they see as dispensable?

Watch out for imposter syndrome. Though it isn’t specific to the digital design field, just about every successful person you meet will have experienced this ugly beast. It affects everyone from interns to Principal Creative Director Design Czars. Imposter Syndrome is detrimental to everyone, but it can be the kiss of death for a new designer. More experienced vets will have tools and tricks in place to defend against doubt, but someone who is fresh into the field may not.

Live and breathe it.
At this point, you may have graduated from your bootcamp or program and are looking to make your move. If so, congratulations! You did it. Now make it your obsession.
Breaking through and getting that first gig or project will be a huge confidence boost. You need to channel that and never stop looking for opportunities. If you are still working your original 9-5, find a side hustle. Slowly build up your expertise. This won’t happen overnight and you will have to be patient. Remember everything you have learned and channel it into creating new work and finding new leads.

In a few short months you should have a solid body of work that you can start shopping around to recruiters and network connections. When thinking about a portfolio, your first instinct may be to create the shiniest website possible. Do the opposite. If you are trying to be a great UX or UI designer, you should value function and usability over everything else. Don’t spend your time on a clunky site that you spent weeks piecing together, create a concise and visually appealing PDF deck that showcases your relevant work and process. That last word is crucial. Focus on your process, and everything else will fall into place.

Keep learning.
As with any field you care deeply about, you cannot simply rest once you reach your figurative summit. There are a million other people out there who have the same goals and ambitions that you do. So how do you stay competitive? Keep learning.

Learn something new every day. Pursue avenues and articles you wouldn’t normally click on. In the UX/UI field there are countless ways to bolster your industry knowledge, as well as earn some accreditations along the way. Groups like IDF and NN/g offer industry-recognized certifications that will help you and impress prospective employers. I would also recommend joining at least one local professional group. I will shamelessly plug AIGA here because I joined when I was a fledgling UX/UI designer and the help and mentorship I have received has been immeasurable. Another shout-out to IxDA for their support and great programming.

If you join (or even attend local industry events) you will see immediate benefits. You will generate a network of badass local talent that can help you in your new career. You will build intrapersonal skills by attending events and workshops. But best of all it is a chance to meet new friends! The new world seems a lot less daunting over beers and conversation.

In closing…
Before you begin your new challenge, you have to take a step back and truly ask yourself Why do I want to do this? You will have monetary sacrifices, time sacrifices, and everything in between. You will have major letdowns and glorious triumphs. Is it worth it? You’re the only one who can decide. But if you do it, do it well.

If you would like to hear more career transition stories, Cincinnati’s AIGA chapter is hosting the Pivot Panel on July 24, 2019. This event will be a Q&A-based discussion with industry professionals who made the switch. Plus, there will be continued workshop programming after the panel! Reserve your seat.

Published July 19, 2019
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