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Sarah Doody about Navigating a UX Career

Sarah Doody about Navigating a UX Career
Daria Krasovskaya
•  04.06.2024
"As a candidate, you must think of yourself as a product and your customer is the company who hires you." - Sarah Doody

Meet Sarah Doody a UX researcher and designer, career coach for UX and a new guest of our Women in UX series! 😍

As a UX career coach, Sarah knows exactly how to look for the UX career opportunities, fine-tune your resume and portfolio and secure those interviews with hiring managers.

We asked her to share a couple of tips on how to approach the job search process and communicate your value as a UX professional.

Below you’ll find:

🔍 the factors Sarah recommends to consider when weighing a job change

💻 tips for effectively communicating your value and impact through a UX portfolio

✍️ advice on whether or not you should take the UX career tips you see online

💼 resume and interview tips from hiring managers

… and a bunch of useful links to advance your UX career!

Let’s jump right in!

Hi Sarah, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi, I’m Sarah Doody a UX Researcher and Designer. I help companies and teams understand the people and purpose behind the products they are creating. Since 2004 I’ve been leveraging the power of storytelling and research to help teams reduce the risk of re-work and instead, build the right products and features the first time around. 

I’m also the founder & CEO of Career Strategy Lab™ a UX career incubator that helps UX professionals grow their skills, confidence, connections, and sometimes even get hired. 

I frequently give talks and teach workshops around the world and online,  including UX London, StartCon in Australia, UXLX in Portugal, Productized in Portugal, AIGA National Conference in Minneapolis, The Family in Berlin, INDUSTRY in Cleveland, and many more.

My past clients include Blue Apron, TicTail, Domino Magazine, Happify, Citi Bike, Dow Jones, Tribune, Fatherly, and more.

sarah doody, navigating a ux career

What are some key factors someone should consider when weighing the cost of a job change?

Early in my career I read an essay by Mark Suster about considering your career in terms of phases of earning or learning. This helped me understand that your career is not a constant upward trajectory of a continuous increase in salary and job titles. When weighing the cost of a job change, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re getting from the job, beyond a salary.

Will you learn new skills, gain experience in a new industry, have the opportunity to work in a startup? When you evaluate a new job opportunity against your short and long-term goals you’re more likely to make the right decision, versus regret taking a job 6 month after saying yes. 

Can you share some tips for effectively communicating your value and impact to potential employers through a UX portfolio?

As a candidate, you must think of yourself as a product and your customer is the company who hires you.

Sarah Doody, a UX Researcher and Designer, Career Coach for UX
Sarah Doody, a UX Researcher and Designer, Career Coach for UX

Succesful companies know that when it comes to communicating their value, it’s important to focus on benefits, not just features. For example, features are how a product works and in your career, these are your skills and experience. Benefits on the other hand are the outcomes, results, and impact of using a product – or your contributions in past roles. 

One myth many candidates believe is that communicating your benefits or impact must correlate to fantastical outcomes such as “this redesign helped the company increase their revenue by $1 million.” If you have outcomes such as that, then you should definitely include them.

However, outcomes and benefits can also include things such as:

  • Impact to the team: Did you streamline a process, boost efficiency, productivity, or capacity?
  • Impact to the business: Did you align stakeholders, create clarity where there was previously chaos, or increase revenue?
  • Impact to the customer: Did you improve a broken experience, reduce friction in a userflow, or glean great insights from research?
  • Impact to yourself: Did you develop new skills, learn new software or methods, or take new responsibilities

All of these are excellent benefits to mention in your portfolio – and benefits are far more powerful than just listing all your features (skills). When you can tell people not just what you did, but the result or impact, that is far more impactful than just listing a bunch of responsibilities or deliverables. 

For help with your UX portfolio, check out Sarah’s free UX case study template or join the waitlist for her next UX Portfolio Sprint

For insights from a hiring manager listen to episode 64 of the Career Strategy Podcast where Cheryl Platz shares 5 criteria she uses to evaluate portfolios, and more insights about UX hiring.

What is your message to other people in the UX industry?

sarah doody, navigating a ux career, women in ux

There’s a lot of noise in terms of advice and opinions and it’s important to be mindful about who you pay attention to. Many people who post online are trying to get attention so they can build an audience and following. As a result, these people often try to be the loudest online so they can stand out – with hot takes that might get clicks but may not be rooted in substance.

For example, if you see a post online with resume or job search tips, just because it has 300 likes and comments doesn’t mean that advice or tip is true! Furthermore, consider the person who posted the content – do they actually have experience with hiring in this case? Or, did they just re-mix other people’s viral content and put their spin on it.

When you take time to filter the advice and opinions you implement and the people you follow, you’ll be less overwhelmed and likely, less confused because you’ll be able to more quick decipher what to believe and what to set aside. 

Take time to filter the advice and opinions you implement and the people you follow.

Sarah Doody, a UX Researcher and Designer, Career Coach for UX
Sarah Doody, a UX Researcher and Designer, Career Coach for UX

Curious to hear more tips from Sarah on how to advance your UX career? Check out her YouTube channel, where she shares interviews with hiring managers and insights from her own research practice!

Discover UX job search tips from hiring managers of leading tech companies in this video:

A few of the tips for candidates that that they cover in the video include:

  • Cover letters DO make a difference
  • It’s crucial that you customize your resume (and portfolio) for each role
  • The UX of your resume, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile matter
  • You need to understand that job descriptions are NOT a set of requirements, they’re really a wishlist

If you’re interested to read more of inspiring interviews with women from the UX industry, check out our other Women in UX talks!

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