Lesson from a Career Shifter: from Market Research to UX Design

Career shifting and conquering impostor syndrome 

Earlier this year, PitchMe partnered with the pioneer in education and career transformation, General Assembly, to allow its user experience (UX) design students to help redesign PitchMe’s website as part of their final project coursework.

As pioneers in the future of work, PitchMe aims to shine a spotlight on today’s most in-demand skills. In this series of conversations with ‘career shifters’, we speak to some of the individuals who have taken General Assembly courses to either upskill their existing careers, or to reskill altogether and change careers. 

Here, in the first of this fascinating career shifter interview series we’re speaking with Raul, who also completed the General Assembly course in UX design, following a career as a market researcher. Raul speaks to us about what he learned in the course, the soft skills he is able to transfer to his new role, and his point of view around ‘working smart’ by putting his soft skills to work in relevant ways in his new industry.

Here’s Raul’s career shifter story:

What was your career before taking the General Assembly UX Design course?

For nearly seven years, I worked in market research, more specifically as a field manager running surveys and research studies commissioned by well-known companies in the industry. 

The position did not require any specific training or diploma, but my BA in Communication and Media, life experience, the love of foreign languages and curiosity about pretty much anything were all key to being able to do the job.

Why did you decide to shift careers? 

The impetus for shifting careers was two-fold: first, I wanted to feel in control of my path and, second, I had finally found something I was interested in. 

To give you some background on what led me to the decision, whilst I was not feeling completely fulfilled by my job and industry, I started looking for something else. The problem was I had no idea what that was. I had a few interests ranging across different subjects and industries —  such as urban planning, linguistics and screenwriting —  but none felt right. 

Perhaps I felt so because my experience shifting into market research, which was a bit of a fluke, made me suffer from impostor syndrome. In hindsight, I guess I was being held back by my dread of feeling like an impostor again. 

I don’t recall when or how I came across this new thing called UX Design, but it immediately felt like I was onto something. So, I enrolled in a few weekend and online courses to learn more about the subject and career. 

Even though I was becoming more passionate about it with every course I took and had some of the soft skills required, I still felt it would be too much of a stretch for me. It was only by talking to designers who had gone through the same process that I became more encouraged to take the leap. Learning about other people’s experience was exactly the nudge I needed.

What did you know about UX design prior to taking the course? 

Here are a few of the reasons why I have chosen to career shift into UX Design: it’s a thriving industry and community, there are so many paths and one can fairly easily shift direction within it. My interests and skillset could easily be employed and it allows me to work from anywhere in the world. 

In terms of the job itself, being able to develop a wide range of skills and to perform various tasks —  from user research, competitive analysis to user interface design —   was the main factor that led me down this path.

How do you feel about entering the job market in a new career now that you’ve completed your course?

I feel very positive and motivated about it. Needless to say, finding my first job in such a competitive market feels quite daunting and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the new challenges I face every day and that my first experience will probably be a baptism of fire, but I’m taking my time and seeing the journey as a design sprint with its iterations and tests. 

Since graduation, I’ve worked on my case studies and found a mentor to help me put together a sleek portfolio that helps pivot my skills and career aspirations.

On the whole, how do you feel about having switched career paths?

As this is my second time shifting careers, I guess I’m used to it by now. As I mentioned, the first time it happened quite by accident whilst I feel much more in control this time around. 

It’s very exciting and energising to experience this again with a completely different perspective. That does not mean it’s entirely anxiety-free.

Do you think the skills from your previous career are transferable as you look for work after the course? 

Yes, definitely, especially soft skills. With that in mind, I also think they will be no more than a good baseline on which to build. As this is another industry, I’m going to work smart and diligently on how to employ them in relevant ways in this new context. 

In fact, this has been one of the main talking points during my mentorship sessions, how to portray my transferable skills in the best possible light. Though it can be tricky to craft a plausible narrative, I believe companies are willing to take a chance on career shifters like me, as long as they see potential.

How was it to work on PitchMe platform’s project?

It was such a priceless experience to have PitchMe as a client on my first project as a UX Design bootcamp student. I was very excited but also a bit nervous with the pressure to deliver a solution that made a difference to a real live product that is used by thousands of career shifters and job seekers in similar circumstances as myself. 

I guess this is when it really hit me that this was not a concept project, but one with a real client with their own business goals and views of the product and that they would push back and challenge us if needed. I feel very lucky the PitchMe team did not pull any punches.

As a platform, PitchMe is definitely ahead of its time, pushing the market to start taking action on the reality that people no longer have a linear career path, but a squiggly one. It’s really cool to see a platform focused on skills and where they can take you rather than on where you’ve done or been. It helps to level the playing field.

Taking the leap through upskilling and reskilling 

Today’s job market is more dynamic than ever, and new skills are in demand every day as technology quickly advances. As a result, honing your skills is more important than ever, both when you’re looking to get hired and to continue to progress in your career.

If you’re looking to boost your skills, you can check out General Assembly’s expert-led training offerings here

And if you’re ready to have your skills speak for themselves, in front of some of the world’s top employers, why not create a SmartMe profile? It takes just a few minutes to create and its 360-degree view of your skills might just land you the career of your dreams. 

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