Over the past 12 months, I have spoken to a few companies hopelessly looking to grow their design team but have no idea what skills they are looking for in a designer. On the flip side, there are so many designers looking hopelessly for work but aren’t getting it.
I recently read an article that implies an enormous 82% of Fortune 500 executives don’t believe that their companies recruit highly talented people. A related survey reports that 73% of workers are disengaged and contemplating getting another job.
Through experience and research, I have a few theories about why this is occurring in the design industry.
1. Ability is limited
For businesses large and small, this is quite a scary thought. There is a high demand for talent and a sea of designers, but the lack of strategy and holistic thinking is a problem.
When hiring a designer, I look for a balance of solid skills, style and strategic thinking. For the majority, strategic thinking is the weakness, and in all honesty, businesses want this.
UX designers are becoming an integral part of improving the delivery of customer experience—they bridge the gap between aesthetics and business. A designer needs to have a passion for the company and work towards advancing both the business goals and user needs. I cannot express enough that design is not just about aesthetics and this is the problem with ‘the lack of talent.’
So many designers are talented in a creative way, but when it comes to business, they need guidance. It’s crucial to know businesses focus on growth, revenue and global domination—not the pixel width between two components.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a big ask, and perhaps this is where the breakdown is. Businesses are holding designers to an unrealistic standard and asking one person to fulfil many requirements—but this seems to be the direction of UX design.
How hiring managers expect designers to develop
2. Expectations are too high
Companies want the ‘unicorn designer’— a hybrid. By this, I mean hiring managers are looking for design skills, coding skills, video skills, content creation, photography, etc.
The truth is designers are highly skilled in one area and proficient in the rest. In my opinion, businesses are looking to cut costs and hire one person with all the skills instead of hiring 2 or 3 with specialised skills. This doesn’t work—designers often have these secondary skills, but they will never be able to do them as well as their primary skillset.
Take me for example. I specialise in web design, and this is where my primary skills are. But, I do have skills in branding, photography and illustration. Yes, they could come in handy from time to time, but I don’t sell myself on these skills.
“Focus on being amazing at one thing. Being average at everything will burn you out completely.”
I am a firm believer in having a focus. A lot is going on in the world of tech, and it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with everything. Don’t be average at everything when you could be incredible at one or two things. Find your niche and keep an eye on what’s going on in that area. For everything else, filter your intake into manageable chunks.
3. The false vision of ‘a dream job.’
I feel this might come across a little negative, but I think employees have a false understanding of what this means.
We all wish for that one job we love, the one that feels like we have never worked a day in our lives and the one that doesn’t feel like a chore in the morning. The same goes for companies trying to fulfil these dreams we all want.
Social media has had such a negative influence on ‘the perfect life’—Instagram in particular, we all know that one image which makes someone’s life look incredible. In reality, its all set-up, a subtle lie, and a snapshot moment on there way back to reality.
Companies are trying to create this ‘dream job’ and making promises while recruiting designers. However, when it comes to light the job doesn’t always excite us, we lose motivation and feel disengaged.
“No job has zero downsides, and it’s unrealistic to expect perfection from a particular role, employer, or yourself.”
Expectations are one of the biggest disconnects between a designer and the company hiring.
4. Unable to adapt processes
Some companies are so stuck in their old ways, there is almost no room for creativity. Companies are struggling to understand the importance of testing products, building prototypes and adapting to new employees. Designers are being brought in with high expectations but are held back and as an outcome feel disappointed, bored and frustrated.
Processes are important but you cannot hire a UX designer without some leeway for experimentation. If you want to know what your users really think, and delve into the pain points and improve your product, you have to allow for this. If not, designers will look elsewhere as they cannot do the job you so desperately wanted.
This leads to my next point.
5. Companies don’t know what they want
Businesses are stuck in the concept that UX is about products and the services they offer their customers. They are yet to understand the ideas that UX can be applied to all services within a business—it requires collaboration.
There is an assumption that companies need a UX designer when they don’t even know what they do. On the other hand, I am seeing more designers just sticking UX to their title because it helps get them a job.
It simply doesn’t work! Companies hire what seems to be the ‘buzz’ word, the designer applies for what they think ‘everyone’ is doing and both are absolutely clueless. Recruiters are most likely copy and pasting job descriptions without understanding what the company truly needs.
Both the company and designer need to have a solid understanding of what is expected. It is very difficult to grow as a designer if the company you are employed by doesn’t allow for a UX process. To do the right UX process takes time—if you don’t allow for time, its not a priority. From a designers perspective, this brings frustration and questioned ‘why did they hire a UX designer in the first place’.
Do your due diligence before taking a leap of faith because both scenarios lead to unhappy results.
These theories do not answer all the questions and perhaps the problem is more complex. However, these are ongoing issues within the digital industry.
It isn’t easy getting a job or hiring a new designer but the key to a successful transition is knowing what you actually need from a company or employee and not what you think you need.
Better education is still an obvious solution from my perspective which is why want to help people improve their understanding of UX design. Expectations are crazy, I am unsure when these will settle down (if ever) but eventually people will level out and stop creating this false understanding of the ‘perfect job’. If not, they will be looking for a very long time.