Stickynotes episode 3, June 25 2020
Details from this session
We’re in a recession, there’s a pandemic, and high unemployment. But companies are still hiring for UX roles. What’s the full time and freelance market looking like?
As freelancers, all three of us experienced a drop-off in work as the COVID situation got worse. But new gigs have cropped up to replace those that were canceled.
- Industries that were most likely to cancel appear to be the ones most affected by lockdown (hospitality, travel).
- Industries with less impact include Cory’s mainstay of state and federal government agencies.
- There’s an opportunity to help companies accelerate their move to a full online presence.
Looking at the UX job market right now, there are still job openings. There are probably more people going for each position, given the current unemployment rate, but things aren’t completely dire. In fact, because more companies are now offering remote positions this might increase the number of jobs that you could apply for.
Flexibility seems to be the key. Flexibility in what jobs you’d consider applying for or re-skilling for. Flexibility as a freelancer or consultant in thinking about the different services you could offer that have more relevance for companies today.
There are some things you can do to maximize your chances of getting a job. Recently, we’ve found that the online content we’ve written and the LinkedIn Learning videos we’ve made have led people to us.
- Creating quality content is a good way to build your reputation.
- Even if you’re just starting out, it’s possible to write blog posts or articles with your take on a topic, or (for instance) suggest how the advice in an existing article might change in the current climate.
- However, don’t over-exaggerate your experience level. It’s OK to say you’re new to something. It’s not OK to claim you’re an expert when you can’t cite practical experience.
Obviously companies want candidates to have practical experience. How can you get that?
We talked briefly about whether it’s ever acceptable to work for free. The conclusion was, if you choose to do pro bono work in order to donate your time, that’s a good thing. Especially if you would normally donate, but you currently have more time than money. The experience this adds to your resume is valuable. What isn’t OK is doing free work for companies who could (either now or in the future) afford to employ you. Chris wrote an article about why you should never work for free. Cory talks on his blog about doing UX for Good.
If you’re in the job market right now, or recently landed a UX job, tell us how it’s going for you in the comments below!
The Amazing Design People List has a list of mentors that can help designers and design researchers with portfolio reviews and also a list of open positions.
University of Washington’s UX Masters program hosted Ask Me Anything chats with Tamara Adlin on salary negotiation and Rebecca Destello on how to network and build your reputation. Both are current (post-pandemic), super-honest, and very practical both for recent graduates (the intended audience) and for other jobseekers.
Certification may be useful, and here are some places that offer it, but like Chris says in these articles, if money’s tight right now, don’t spend money just with the goal of getting a certificate, because there are other, more experience-oriented ways to show your skills.
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This transcript has received minimal editing.
CL: OK we’re live! Here we are again after after our our only one week away this time
Sticky notes live our sticky notes chat live our live stream you know weekly but today I think we’re going to be we’re going to be talking about we’re going to be talking about what life is like now as a UX job seeker as a UX practitioner in the economy in the world that we live in today.
And I want to start kind of by talking about just talking about you know the big picture the state of the economy and it’s not good as a matter of fact I’d say you know 2020 is probably one of the worst and most disruptive years that all of us have probably experienced but what does that mean for UX? What does that mean for the profession? What does that mean for the people doing the work, the people seeking jobs? What does it mean for all of us?
So you know so let’s I guess let’s start and talk a little bit about you know what you guys see the world being like well you Amanda
AS: yeah sure so and I think not not terribly surprising right when all of the COVID stuff started to hit in the United States I was fully booked through the end of the summer it was March at that point and within a matter of weeks I had like I think it was five total projects either canceled, indefinitely postponed, or conversations I was having that went cold about potential stuff
So I definitely saw the immediate kind of dip and I however also almost immediately saw some other people that hadn’t been conversations within a while kind of pop back up and I have definitely settled into a not quite as busy as I sometimes am please but one of the things that I have certainly noticed personally looking for a consultant type work is that timelines are very unsure, very fluid.
I am a type of person who likes to plan ahead I like to have things booked out several months if I can and every conversation that I’m having right now is about “right now” for the most part and still the big difference I’ve seen is like a whole bunch of stuff dropped and then some other stuff kind of creeped back up but the the timeline is much shorter but seems to be a little bit smaller or not necessarily because people aren’t willing to spend money but because they’re not sure to plan for which i think is pretty understandable given the current circumstances but so I definitely went from like super super busy big decline kind of a little jump back up and now is I feel like it kind of comes in rolling waves like what what people are open to. How about how about you?
CN: Oh well it doesn’t help when you’ve got a whole bunch of clients who are in the hospitality industry! Yeah so so there was definitely a time when I was like oh oh this is interesting where’s everybody gone? And the last thing they want right now is some some research on some of the business plans that they had, some of the things they were up to, because all of a sudden they’ve gone into a completely different mode and it’s more for instance supporting their franchisees supporting people through through a whole bunch of situations that they may have had a game plan for it but they never had to put the stuff into practice before and putting stuff into practice is kind of different.
So yeah that that work dried up unsurprisingly yeah but then and then I was thinking well what am I going to be doing but then whole bunch of other people seem to, like you said, different people seemed to materialize and a different kind of work – it seems like going back more to doing things like remote design reviews of people’s sites so that I can give them a set of issues that they can then use to improve the site in the future or or other work as well that doesn’t involve that in-person research quite as much more reliant kind of on my expertise than on necessarily what I can do to help people understand their users needs directly. So yeah it’s interesting because that work has kind of taken over, again that whole thing about the fluid timelines is kind of interesting it’s like yeah we want the work we don’t quite know when we want the word let me get back to you when we actually get some budget justification for this and that’s always been the issue, always been the case, but it’s just seems to be a bit more kind of up in the air right now
CL: Ya no I found I mean I my main industry is federal and state government and I’ve discovered that that was actually a really good industry to be in right now the work never did stop and that’s it it’s not I’m not exclusively in that area but certainly it’s been a big chunk a big time particularly state government this year and and in that sense you know the work has kept coming and I felt very fortunate but again me too it is also that that world where stability is just not there and and projects have been slipping you know and then they come back and then a new project just appears from some non-profit and such and you’re like where that come from? you always- it just – it’s been so fluid.
So is there any rhyme or reason to these different projects coming in?
CN: For me, no. It’s just like people “Oh I found you on LinkedIn and I thought you might be or LinkedIn Learning, you know I’ve watched your courses and now I think you’d be an ideal person for doing this work for me” It’s not clients I had a relationship with before, which most of my work is typically referrals from existing clients or repeat work from existing clients this is just completely random stuff is which is great!
AS: That’s some of both I had a I have one client right now I had worked on something with a long time ago several years ago. We’ve you know we’ve stayed in contact and we talked about maybe picking things up in the future but I think the particular thing about them is that they are trying to shift their business be more online friendly whereas that was kind of a nice idea before now it’s quite business critical so that is the only pattern in terms of like people who have come back to me or there’s um another kind of project that I’m getting on where it was kind of slow going kind of slow moving maybe we’ll get to that maybe we’ll get to that and was it seems like the shift in how things how things are working how everybody’s working is kind of brought some of those needs into focus a little bit but the other end of the spectrum it seems fairly random to me so that’s not really any help for people watching is it?
It’s not like well you should really be focusing on this kind of clients or this kind of stuff.
CN: But actually there is something in it because I think the people that that have found me that wouldn’t have found me otherwise have done so through stuff I’ve published. So I’ve built that online reputation not necessarily with the intention of getting more work but definitely it’s made it so that people know that I exist and that I’m one of the people in this industry who offers this stuff so definitely if I was gonna give people tips that would probably in retrospect that would be one.
It’s like making sure you’ve got stuff out there that people want to read. People think “oh that person’s smart” I wonder whether they think that when they read my stuff or watch my stuff. Obviously they think he’s a really trustworthy guy so we should – yeah I don’t know what they’re thinking – but that’s something which has drawn people to me. If I didn’t have that stuff out there, that content out there, they wouldn’t know I existed and they wouldn’t know I offered these services and they wouldn’t have thought to approach me to see whether I could do any work for them.
AS: I think I think you know this might be a whole topic which is you know the the insurance policy is that that being visible and being present you know and so like in on social media in you know in many different spaces probably give you when things kind of go south and you need to figure out you know what do I do now yeah or how are people gonna find me or you know whatever you know where where can I exist when the physical space is no longer there for me
CL: No for sure so I mean then you know for a lot of us say if they go for the three of us anyway you know we’re coming from this framework of that freelance consultant model and I think there’s a lot to be said there too and and I would say you know in this in this uncertain state it is it’s neither better nor worse to be a freelancer it’s not like “Oh no one’s going to hire me” Because sometimes they’d say well I’m not gonna hire the full-timer I’m gonna hire the freelancer for the project I’ll figure out later so so I feel equally safe and which is which is probably not safe whether I’m a freelancer or or an employee there’s no right answer there for sure.
CN: But would you start your freelance company now?
CL: I started in 2008 you know about a month before the economy went bad but at that point I knew I had some some work. I didn’t start until I knew I had some work and it was all good you know it was all good it all worked out that we those were really good years you even as the economy was kind of bleugh, so a totally different world and then that that was nothing I think in a lot of ways compared to this although in some ways worse on because of the economic conditions it’s just different. it’s like a different kind of crisis.
AS: But I think one thing that I have to say, I graduated from university in 2008. I was fortunate enough to not really fully grasp what was happening. I knew the economy was bad but I didn’t really know what that meant. I didn’t know what – and to be totally frank – I’m still kind of not exactly sure that I know exactly what that means for me when unemployment is 10 percent versus 15 percent versus five percent like sometimes it’s hard to kind of suss that that out.
But I would say that very generally compared to the overall economy we can’t really compare UX work to the overall economy per se so I think we’re a little bit in a, not in a bubble in a bad way, but I think that sometimes things, not that we’re not affected, but I think things affect people differently in tech than they do in the rest of the world.
CL: Yeah, no, for sure so but but I think you know those those people that would be watching may not be freelancers you know – yeah to generalize of course you know where we’re sitting we could we can feel we could feel one way in that in this in this framework but I want to talk a little bit about about what it what the world is like for those both in the job and those seeking a job with a company or with an organization what do you think
CN: No it’s a different world than it has been but in some respects yes there might be less people hiring but two things about that: the people who are hiring still you can probably be pretty confident that they mean it and that they will be around for a while the other thing is with more companies hiring with the intention of having people work from home it might open up the geographic areas that you as a as a job seeker can … well you don’t have to think about geographic areas anymore.
Rather than being thinking what I want to stay in my current area what are the jobs in my area you might be able to take a job that’s across the country um I don’t know but potentially even take a job was in a different country just because the ability to work from home means that you’re you’re not limited to where you end up working
AS: Yeah and anecdotally so I am I don’t really do this full-time anymore but I used to work really closely with a large recruiting consulting firm and I also help run a local Ladies of UX group and a group called Tech Cities that’s about connecting people with opportunities though I am person who people ask questions about jobs a lot and even also just I think um I’m a name that kind of comes up a lot in my area if people are looking higher and so I will just say like anecdotally I kind of saw that same dip for full-time jobs of like yeah it seemed like stuff really slowed down everybody was kind of like not hiring or positing for a minute and then it seems like as everyone’s kind of maybe taking a breath settled it and figuring out what it looks like to work in a distributed way or kind of reconfigure their budgets or whatever people have started to hire again.
So even just from the the crudest supply measurements of how many recruiters reach out to me on a given day about a local job I feel like it meant from here down and now it’s kind of leveled back off again and then I know that in my area anyway where I live in North Carolina there’s quite a few people who seem to be hiring or at least the same five recruiters who are working on one job!
That could be it but I think there are people hiring uh there’s even new sites which seem to have sprung up, I’m not sure if it’s post-pandemic or what, to try and help people find jobs. One of them is the – what’s it called – the Amazing Design People List and that’s two things in one. It’s like … you know I’m gonna publish the link for that in the chat because … there we go amazing design people that’s ADPlist-dot-org that’s a place where you can a get your design portfolio reviewed by an existing designer who’s in the industry who will be reviewing it for not for “Give me a pat on the back” but reviewing it to show you how you might want to improve it to help your job prospects.
The other thing is they also have a list of jobs and you can search by location, you can search by job type, they’ve got UX research jobs as well as the more experience design, visual design, graphic design jobs so there’s a lot there are still jobs out there especially if you start looking around on some of these sites you’ll get this concentrated group of jobs that are obviously being posted by people who care about the design industry, design world so it’s not all doom and gloom.
CN: Yeah I think I think really you know we’re where we are kind of professionally the types of jobs that we do are still critically important if the economy goes down if the you know if if people are spending less money they’re going to spend the money on the things that are more usable you know they’re not going to expect me oh well you know what’s not so usable but whatever you know it’s okay and we’re we kind of in the in UX and every tangential job related to user satisfaction and and customer happiness it’s still a good place to be I mean it’s still in a place it’s still if there are still jobs.
To your point earlier Chris about about being able to be a little more geographically diverse certainly now probably probably at least partially going forward you know as as we see the evolution of jobs but UX is also about evolution I mean where we are about evolving the the technology to support what people potentially want to do so we are we can kind of both be you know be recipients of the benefit of you this this kind of new work from anywhere kind of world but we also can be the creators of it I mean we we can improve the we you know big picture it can improve the the very kind of infrastructure not technically but but usable make it more usable and you create this better world for for us and for everybody else you know
CN: “We have a vision”
AS: Yeah! I feel like this is a really good opportunity for people who I know that there is a – and we can could and probably should have a whole other debate about the discrepancy between junior design people or junior UX people and research people and junior jobs versus senior jobs – but one of the things that I think happens at a time like this is that people get creative and they get flexible so if you’re a freelancer maybe that means you take on a little bit different kind of job then you normally do maybe do some more digital marketing kind of type stuff, or you end up doing a little more product strategy where you normally wouldn’t um or if you are you are trying to get into a new place this is an exceptional time to be like well I was working in this other job and that job ended and so now I’m looking to expand I’m looking to learn a new thing I’m trying to make a pivot I think that it can be really scary of course but it’s also you can kind of look but as an opportunity to force some change to happen if you if you need to or an opportunity if you were looking for it before but couldn’t find an in somewhere now maybe there’s a way that you can do that maybe you take you know if you’re trying to transition into UX but your company has laid off UX people maybe you start doing some of those tasks and then put it under your belt or like I said if you’re if your freelancing or consulting maybe you take a little different kind of a project or offer a little bit out of a range of services I think that it’s easy to get kind of caught up in the “There are no jobs there are no projects” kind of feeling but I also think it’s kind of a matter of what you make of it and what you decide you want to do with it
CL: Well I mean I mean I guess also for to to the point of people who don’t have a job we don’t have a project there’s so much learning I mean I mean besides you know our our connection through LinkedIn learning (unpaid promotional!) besides that there’s plenty of there’s plenty of opportunities for learning there’s plenty of opportunities there’s books there’s there’s blogs or so much to to better oneself in a time of not having as much work or not having any work
CN: Yeah yeah it shouldn’t be like oh you know all is lost because And in fact I’d say it’s a actually almost a chance, don’t just take that learning and internalize it, also push it back out there. I was talking on – we were talking earlier – about having created content which people have noticed as a way of then them recognizing us and deciding that we might be the right person for a job if you’re learning a new thing, write about it.
Maybe take what you’re learning and then write an article about how would I apply what I’ve learned given the current situation where you know we might not be able to be as close to people as we normally would be or where we might be remote and in our work or what happens when what happens to if I was learning about user experience I was learning about user use research and I was thinking about recruiting what how does recruiting change in this current situation and write an article about that.
And just doing that will help you research it and think it through in your mind it gives you something which you put out there online and it’s also something you can talk about with some experience in a job interview so it’s serving multiple purposes at that point there’s plenty you can do at this point in time if you don’t have a job to really help improve your prospects in the future
AS: Yeah there was a question earlier about how experienced do you have to be to write or create things and I just want to say I don’t think that you need to have experience to write about a thing I just think you need to say that when you write a thing so if you write something then say this is my experience this is what I tried this is how it worked for me, great you can be at any level any experience you can do anything when however you are trying to teach other people how to do something you have to be honest about the experience that you have
So I always like to say I always like to say that anybody can create and anybody can teach people something from their experience but I want to also put a big caveat out there is that just because you wrote it down doesn’t mean you’re an expert in it and just because somebody else wrote it down doesn’t mean that they are an expert in it so yeah all the way around because one thing I’ve done a lot of hiring and one thing actually that has been a I guess red flag is when people have presented themselves as though they have tons of experience doing something and I’m like okay well tell me about a time you put that into practice and they’re like “Oh no I just wrote about it on Medium.” I’m like well that’s not the same that’s cool that you did that but it’s not exactly the same
So I just like to put that caveat out there that anybody has interesting things and like a slice of their experience can be useful but you have to be like really careful the authentic about representing your experience otherwise it’s not gonna do you well
CN: Yeah and so specifically to that to writing the Evil by Design book mmm I still feel like an imposter for writing it but I think that’s just the thing is either you feel… so I’m not sure if people know about Dunning-Kruger…
The Dunning-Kruger effect says people who are under-qualified over rate their expertise, people who are over, who are more qualified tend to under rate their expertise. So it’s difficult to know really am I just trying to be modest do I really know when I’m talking about do I really know what I’m talking about that’s where talking with other people can really help you out. Getting somebody else to give you the bullshit meter can really help. When you’re writing a book there’s editors who do that for you.
There’s definitely a lot of kind of journalistic research you do when you’re writing a book and there’s stuff where you think oh I didn’t know about that before but then you do some more research you find out more about it and if you’ve got a structure that you have already built in your mind or from your experiences it’s easy to plug it into that so for instance a background in psychology helped me understand more about some of the parts of the persuasive design experience that I didn’t know so much about. I wasn’t coming to it completely blank. So yeah it built into my existing experiences
CL: Well yeah I think I think if we kind of take take the the honesty persona a bit expand it out expanded out to everything you know as as really I say to the UX profession but really as any profession in any profession I mean being genuine is is a very good trait whether it’s how you present yourself kind of in your resume how you speak about yourself in person just be honest.
I mean frame yourself from who you are I mean obviously you’re still gonna have your stories and you still are I mean you can still frame a story in a way that you know says I did this stuff and I get this stuff really well and you know it was wonderful but but did to have that persona where like you’re like yeah no I don’t think that person’s being honest about who they are or what they do or or or where they’ve been kind of professionally is I think one of the biggest deficits one could have when when when looking for a job but also or looking for freelance work but also just kind of trying to get out there and network for that matter
AS: Yeah it’s a tricky balance I think we could also probably have a whole other conversation about Dunning-Kruger effect and Impostor Syndrome and maybe we should add that to the queue but I think it’s a I think it’s not that matter yeah write it down it’s a matter of sort of a self-reflection and also um you being able to kind of point to real-world examples of things so if you’re ever writing up your own experience you can’t be wrong about what your experience was. You may have things you learned you might have things went well what didn’t go so well you know that that is always gonna be true whatever you’ve experienced it’s always true. And we can we can put a pin in that and what revisit in another chat because I think that probably deserves its own own hour
CL: And Sonia asked a question you know how can you be modest at the same time that you’re a good at something and I think I think what I would say is you can say I did this awesome thing and it was so awesome it was amazing everyone thought I was amazing and you know they looked at me and they they just they said wow you know you’re wonderful yeah you could be like that and then people would be ooo that’s awful but where you could be like yeah I did this thing we learned these things and then let people come to their own conclusion that it was awesome don’t you don’t do you have to shove it at them I was awesome I was awesome I was awesome Just stop!
CN: The thing that helps with that where you don’t have to be modest about it you just have to be factual about it is talk about outcomes rather than output and this is something you talk about in in development too is like you don’t measure output otherwise people just write more lines of code because that gives you more output what you’re measuring has outcomes what was the effect of doing this and it’s pretty obvious you were awesome if the effect of some of the stuff you did was a major savings in cost for a company or it influenced certain people to do a certain thing or whatever it is that outcome, the results, will speak for themselves so you don’t have to be modest you just have to be honest about it but make sure that you’re framing it in a way that helps people understand just how awesome you really are
CL: Implicit awesomeness
AS: That’s a whole topic in it’s own right.
AS: I want to circle back to somebody else was asking about industries and sort of like what things might be most affected or whatever and I I just wanted to circle back because I’ve been thinking about this lots, I’ve been having lots of conversations so I fit in this this particular time there are certain industries where it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to take a hit travel and tourism an industry that is struggling also potentially and you know well they may not have the same budget there’s also sometimes potentially some places to change now
So I mentioned that one of my current clients is is a company that’s starting to do more in …. they’re a marketing research facility firm basically and they do recruiting and they have been a very traditional like in-person kind of a place and so while they don’t have unlimited budget it’s not going to last forever that’s actually a really good opportunity for them to have focus on she can quickly maybe more quickly than they would have liked but I think that when it goes back to that question about industry and what’s doing well and what’s doing not I’m not sure that we can be that …
I’m just gonna say this at least once one of every one of these sticky notes “It depends” because it’s thirty minutes and I’ve got to say “it depends” because as well overall maybe the market research industry has gone down maybe there’s opportunity to make this one thing better.
Maybe overall travel and tourism has gone down but there’s an opportunity to do some virtual tours of museums which didn’t exist before.
So I want to kind of encourage everyone, and I don’t have blinders on to say “everything’s fine” when it’s not, but to encourage people that even if you have traditionally worked in an industry that has been really hard hit right now or you know wanting to get into that that there is always opportunity but you also have to be open to different ways that might look like how that might look so the opportunity to work with again the travel industry right now might be different than it was six months ago it doesn’t mean there’s nothing it just means you might have to – maybe you have to offer smaller chunks of work or maybe rather than working there full time you can offer do some consulting for them for just a little project or something so I kind of want to put it out there that just because an opportunity doesn’t exist how you thought that it would doesn’t mean that it’s gone it just means it looks like something different now that’s been my experience over and over.
CL: I mean I throw in I think you know I felt fairly insulated in terms of having I mean yes certainly ripples but not not in a not in a terrible way largely because a lot of my projects have been have funding that was pre-allocated. Yeah that’s kind of the that’s been actually the best thing. And what are they? well one like I said I’ve been you know probably half my work over the last decade has been federal and state government which tax dollars are already paid you know or because basically the work happening now is from tax dollars you know last year that were allocated but also nonprofits that you know I’ve got a grantor to do a particular project one I’ve got a museum that had a had philanthropist funding you know you think things like that where where whereas like travel industry the funding is really real time you know it’s at least it feels that way so you granted that’s a very general statement but but it in my experience it’s it’s also been been okay in for by that decision role in some ways
CN: I’m wondering what’s reading some of the news about local authorities maybe potentially going bankrupt because they’ve had to pay out more recently than they have managed to get in income I’m wondering what that means for your role in six months a year’s time when the when the allocation comes up in a year’s time if you thought about that at all Cory?
CN: I mean I mean so I don’t I don’t like municipal governments I all right so mine is exclusively been US federal and state and in that sense you know sure I mean work is going to be hit I mean but we haven’t seen the sequestration that you know in terms of kind of the work flow the things were far worse when there was like in the federal government where there was sequestration which basically kind of froze everything in place for a year or whatever it was a year or two it took a long time for that to recover but that’s not the kind of economic impact that we’re seeing right now right whether either the federal or the state level again.
I can’t speak at all for municipal governments I don’t I don’t know but but but yes but I do worry also that for all of this when there’s funding I mean the counter to your point Chris the counter is that the funding happens the funding in the past is is fueling the work now but the funding that would happen now is that not happening therefore who knows what’s happening in the future so yes absolutely I think that’s a potential risk.
CN: So have a question for you guys. It’s based on something that from Amanda’s last point on from your point which is what do you think about working for free for somebody who’s in a position where they’re looking for a job and they get an offer of something that will give them experience but there’s no money associated with it what’s your what’s your thoughts on that should they take the role?
AS: I have so many thoughts!
CN: To be clear up front I do as well and I wrote a whole article on it.
AS: Here’s what I will say. I 100% understand why people want hands-on experience when they’re looking to hire and so I understand therefore why people want to do projects so they’re like anything you can give me I’ll take like you don’t have to pay me for it.
But here here’s a couple of thoughts that I have on that which is that one your work is still valuable even if the person that you are working for doesn’t have budget and so if they save money or gain money from work that you do, you’re putting yourself at a disservice you are devaluing the work that you have done and you’re studying an expectation that other people can hire you for free. And then when they do get budget they are not going to be like oh you know what we should do we should hire Cory for however much per hour for however much per project that’ll say a person who did it for free before we should hit them up and see what happens because we could do it
CN: And then we could spend the money on cookies instead
AS: Yeah or building more stuff because that’s a good idea. But I want to offer an alternative cuz I could go on for very a very long time about why I don’t think it’s necessary good idea to give away your work for free here’s what I will actually say though if that if there’s some sort of organization that you care about and that you want to improve I think it is okay to donate your time or your expertise as long as you treat it as a donation of time and expertise.
So for instance if you you know right like now there’s well there’s always been and there’s there’s probably more than ever activity I’ve seen talking about you know social justice and equality and ending racism. There’s more activity than I’ve ever seen on that front. If you would have given money to them you could give your time instead and you could help make improvements to you know an organization that’s working to that front that’s not the same thing it’s working for free though and so I want to distinguish like it’s okay to donate time and expertise and money all of those things are okay but I think that just finding any old commercial place who will take your expertise and run with it I don’t think is usually a good idea it usually ends up a lot better for the person who took your your time than it does for you
CL: I’ll throw in so I maybe a couple more many months later sometime last year I wrote a blog post about UX for good and I basically I said you know hey world if you have some if I have time and I and you have a like a doing something for good and you can’t afford to hire a senior researcher let me know and to be honest it didn’t work and also I didn’t have that much time time anyway.
But I was hoping that I would have the opportunity cuz there I have dead time as a freelancer dead time you know I’m not I’m not actually doing you know paid work and I was like you know I could do this good stuff and and what I didn’t want to do I think Amanda you with you you have hit the main point which was someone’s making money off of me I didn’t want anyone to make money off of me I wanted to do good and also you know I was I was at LinkedIn learning filming a filming of course shortly after and did like a learning break on UX for good so it was out there and I was like “I want to put it out there” and such and and you know like I said it’s something I still would do you know if I have time you know in the future but I think that’s that is really it.
It’s the it’s the “Am I doing good or not.” I also encourage people people say oh I can’t I can’t get any experience you know they’re always looking three to five years experience, find whatever organization you want to that you would volunteer for anyway you know whatever it is whether you know whether it’s some sort of communal organization a faith-based community your anything that you would say hey you know can I if your research are credible can do some research on your website you know with with my my fellow members you know if you’re a designer can I can I create some potential mock-ups of how things could look and then you’re on your own terms and that’s really cool and but again it’s just it’s not you don’t want to be left with the feeling that you’re taken advantage of, there’s someone taking advantage of you.
And as an employer you don’t want to have like sitting in the back of your mind for the next couple years you know I took advantage of this person because I wouldn’t pay them and and I got I got free labor from that it was awesome you don’t want to like have that something in the back of your mind
CN: I think those employers are actually okay with that that’s part of the whole problem.
CL: yeah maybe they’re not. Maybe you know they think they’re okay with it but but sometimes you could you be you say hey you know free labor and then oh I feel kind of guilty about that you know that years later they feel guilt years later
AS: I want to set out an additional piece to that to which is on the other end of things if I’m hiring someone (which I’ve done a fair amount of) if you are just like wildly approaching people to redesign their websites that doesn’t actually have a whole lot of relevance to what it’s like the work in almost any project I’ve ever been on because every project has constraints.
There’s time and resources and political conversations and constraints about what’s technically feasible and with the budget and so while it’s not a waste of time potentially to do you know to do an exercise to redesign a very poor website or something it is a much better use of time to be actually working in congruence with you know the rest of the team at the faith-based organization or the nonprofit that you’re working with or something and say “I worked with this real team I worked you know I worked in these real life constraints here’s what I was able to do, this is what we learned.”
You know whether you’re a researcher or designer or whatever role you’re in the real life constraints of working with somebody versus just like finding a website that you think is crappy online and redesigning it or running it through usability tests gives me more as a as the potential juror of you gives me a lot more context about how you’d be able to work with me and my team and the projects that we’re working on or whatever so I actually also think that it has to do not just with you don’t want to give away your expertise for free but you also want to be a situation where you really are able to add something valuable to your portfolio and you really are able to add experience and expertise that will be reflective of what it’s like to work in the real world they don’t think that always happens in those sort of exercises currently
No. just doing a mind exercise if well what would it what would it be like if I could redesign this site let me if we designed the LinkedIn site and I’ll make it so much better than it is now yeah you don’t know what linkedin’s goals are the business goals you don’t know what the constraints are technologically legally any of those things so yeah it’s a fun exercise, and you can tell me why you did some things you did but if you had to work with the team I learn a lot more about what you learned about well whether you can even work with other people to do this stuff
CL: I think there’s also an interesting future topic which is companies get condemned when they do X Y & Z “Oh this company did X Y & Z it’s bad they care only about their profits” you know “They don’t care about this or that.”
Talking about constraints I mean to seek to empathize with the company and understand their constraints and what they’re working on and saying hey you know okay they made a bad decision or they made a good decision but at least first you’ve got to understand those constraints.
And anything to do I mean and that makes a good consultant I’m not gonna come in and change you it makes a good employee you know I don’t I don’t need to to utterly up heave everything that you’ve ever done or or whatever until I understand fully the context that you’re working within and then I can perhaps tone down my critique and and within whatever realm you’re stuck
AS: So yeah let’s let’s put a pin in the in that conversation because I think you’re right I think that could be it’s its own and probably should be but so back to the sort of opportunity conversation I’m curious to know are there different places the two of you are looking at for new opportunities are there different conversations you’re having like how is it different now than it was let’s say is six months ago and dare we guess estimate about anything in the future or not at this point
CL: I’ve been honestly pretty pretty much coasting this year where you know coasting doesn’t mean I was coasting like perfectly but that when a year by the by by January you know I kind of knew I’d be fairly busy and then yeah, it dipped and I went back and if it went back I haven’t had that much time for a kind of real business development this year which of course is gonna kill me in 2021 regardless of the economy but you know it I’m still I’m still running off of 2019 kind of conversations which yeah which which is probably again made me feel safer during these times
CN: I was actually responding to comments in the in the chat so what’s it gonna be you saying what’s it gonna be like in six months I I wish I had my prognostication toolkit available to me because I’m not too good with that kind of stuff I
AS: What if anything are you doing differently currently then you’ve been before is there anything that you’re doing differently?
CN: I am taking more time to learn new things than I was before I’ve always felt constrained by the amount of work I’ve had – not being able to keep up with the industry, keep up with what’s going on, so I have actually made time for doing that and there’s so many free resources out there that you can do that with.
I mean sure, you can you can do things like you can get courses you can go to but there’s also one things I’m finding is looking at different industries which are related to mine. Looking in the marketing world or looking in… I’ve not done much quant work like real data analysis work with with with analytics so looking at things from that world and there are so many conferences that put their their sessions up on YouTube or up on Vimeo after the event.
You can create a conference in your living room from just that content and you can learn so much from these people so that’s what I’ve been doing with my spare time. It’s kind of enforced spare time.
But I don’t know that that I see my job changing very much in the future other than the kind of the continual change there always is in the industry.
I think Amanda something you said about people accelerating their move to being online, having an online presence, is something that might actually affect my work in the future but right now I’m not saying that is something that’s interesting to think about but I won’t change what I do or how I do it; it just might be a change in the type of work I get.
CL: We’re talking about the future and all these conversations about work is going to be it’s going to be entirely remote and you know we’re going to you will never have to have in-person contact again that sounds awful to me.
I love the fact that it’s possible, however you know being you being home now basically for months I really miss you know that physical presence of looking someone in the eye and you know and I hope that we’re at least I hope enough work doesn’t change that they’re still you know even if there is the ability to work remotely which is awesome for a number of reasons there’s also the ability to be physically present you know at least at least some of the time so yeah
AS: Okay so let me just put the caveat that if any of us knew the actual future we wouldn’t be here on this livestream, we would have some sort of tropical island that we lived on but I think that my like two cents are that I think that work is going to change from the future I think that nothing is going to go back I think everything’s gonna change.
I don’t think anything is gonna be exactly how it was before but I don’t think it’s gonna be exactly as different as people think either look I don’t think that everybody is going to work from home forever I don’t think that we’ve come to the end of in-person research I don’t think that we’ve come to the end of in-person collaboration sessions I just think they might look different than they did before
And who knows? People are really good at forgetting stuff maybe in ten years this will all be a distant memory. But what’s what’s happening is that it’s accelerating some of the shifts and culture that were already starting to happen in some places in terms of flexibility of hours and working in an office at home that kind of thing I think there’s going to be a shift in sort of outlook there but I really don’t think that everyone who’s currently working from home is going to continue to forever I just don’t see how that’s very possible
Yeah but who knows I didn’t think Murder Hornets were possible either so yeah
CN: Murder Hornets the biggest issue that everybody has right now. oh yeah.
CL: I think I think we reached the end of our conversation for today
CN: It all goes by so fast
CL: Yes but it’s not so sad because we’ll be back next week
CN: Yeah we will and we haven’t even discussed what topic were going to use next week but because we could tell you all about that now and give it a little teaser but yeah we don’t know
AS: So if you have requests, if you have particular things that you would like for us to chat about please let us know you can tag any of us with the #stickynoteschat hashtag or you can go to our website stickynotes.chat you can tweet at us or send us an email basically all of the ways that you can connect to a person or group of people you can do that with us or let us know in the comments here yeah
CN: Yeah so that’s know cuz we want your feedback yeah in fact this whole this session was was prompted by people’s questions in the first place anyway we had some some more boring everyday kind of UX stuff to talk about but people seem strangely interested in what their job prospects might be
CL: So well yeah so so it was great to I was I’m glad to get to talk with both of you but also to get to I guess have us be present to you know all the people who are watching so thank you to all those people as well
CN: Yeah you what make this fun so keep it up
CL: yeah yeah thanks for joining us everyone okay thanks guys
AS/CN: Bye, bye