After a decade of working towards med school, Emilie Mazurek made a career shift most would call terrifying.
She came to the striking realization that becoming a doctor would mean sacrificing parts of her life she really enjoyed—traveling, spending time with family, and volunteering.
So instead of taking the plunge to medical school, Emilie started down the path of another career where she could help people without sacrificing the fulfillment she valued outside office hours: UX Design.
We talked to Emilie about the three stages of her design career - starting her career, growing her career, and her recent move of pausing her career.
This article summarizes what we learned from her on:
Like many aspiring UX Designers, Emilie made the transition to UXD by enrolling in a bootcamp. Bootcamps are a fast-paced alternative to a traditional college—they offer the chance to be “industry-ready” within a few short months.
Since they require a significantly shorter commitment than a multi-year course, bootcamps are a popular choice for many in the industry.
Emilie did go down the shorter, faster path of a Bootcamp and managed to build a design career out of it. However, she warns young designers that this is not always the case. Many young designers graduating from Bootcamps struggle to land a job because not all employers see Bootcamps as sufficient training to land a real life job in UX.
So Bootcamps are not a golden ticket, but they can work for you. Emilie’s experience with a Bootcamp worked out for several reasons.
For one, she already had an unrelated but competitive degree, which will not be the case for everyone joining a bootcamp. Traditional degrees still contribute positively to how recruiters look at potential candidates, making it easier for you to land that interview.
Another factor in Emilie’s favor was that she had researched the space and selected a great bootcamp. Emilie’s bootcamp allowed her to experience working with Google - probably the shiniest addition a young designer can make to her resume.
All bootcamps have their unique pros, cons, and promises. If you go down this route, do some solid research and carry realistic expectations about your bootcamp.
A bootcamp—if you pick the right one—will be a valuable learning process. Still, putting that knowledge to use will remain up to you.
💡 Key takeaways on bootcamps:
When Emilie first broke into a design role, she was up against several junior designers. Today, it is even harder not to get disheartened by the sheer abundance of competition.
When we brought this up, Emilie recognized the hardships of starting a career today and had a few helpful tips to share.
Emilie had a background in biochemistry before she became a designer. Her years of training as a scientist made her well suited for the analytical demands of a UX design career. This differentiating skillset is what she highlighted during her job interviews. Soon enough, a company chose to hire her over someone with more experience in design because of this unique quality.
Based on her experience, Emilie’s advice for anyone new to the field is to lean into what differentiates you from the crowds of bootcamp grads applying for the same job.
She emphasized her unusual and unparalleled analytical foundation in the hiring process. Other junior designers should focus on the skill sets that makes them uniquely valuable to organizations.
Another actionable piece of advice given too often, and used too rarely is to post on LinkedIn—be vocal, share your work and your voice.
Consistently posting on LinkedIn is a clear signal for recruiters that you are involved in the design space.
This signal is often reason enough to prefer one applicant over another. In fact, Emilie had a colleague who got a job just for being nice on LinkedIn!
A long-term benefit of consistent posting is that a community inevitably begins to form around you—and these communities always pay back dividends.
Emilie has built a community around her on LinkedIn, which has opened countless doors for her—even we came across her because of a series of posts on LinkedIn! Of course, you can grow a community on any platform. LinkedIn is preferable since recruiters are already using it during office hours.
Building a small community and focusing on what sets them apart is probably the best thing a young designer can do for their career.
💡 Key takeaways on career growth:
After an insightful chat about working hard and getting ahead in life, it was refreshing to hear Emilie’s take on work-life balance & taking a break.
In a culture that often glorifies slogging at work, Emilie took a 6-week break from work to travel the world. We don’t see this happen too often, so we had to ask her about it.
In Emilie’s view, she & her peers too often fall into a career trap that expects them to have a “no days off” mentality.
As a junior designer or researcher’s career evolves, it seems natural to keep pursuing promotions and deadlines—going from one step in the ladder to the next. People who fall into this trap sometimes fail to enjoy the journey, spend time with their loved ones, or even ask themselves if they really enjoy their work.
Emilie notes that often we have a misinformed and unfortunate image of the consequences of a break. The first thing to recognize is that taking a break—a few days, or in Emilie’s case, a few weeks—does not spell the end of your career.
In fact, taking a break can help you avoid burnout and come up with brilliant new ideas—often making you a better asset to your organization.
And as Emilie puts it, “everyone deserves a break once in a while, and it’s okay to take one.”
A good team respects office hours, trusts its members to do their work without extensive monitoring, and understands the importance of breaks.
💡 Key takeaways on taking a break:
A “trending” term in today’s work culture debate is of course, “quiet quitting”. Quiet quitting is when an employee does what’s required ouf them for their job, but nothing more.
Quiet quitting has been trending amongst younger workers in particular as backlash against “hustle culture” where employees work longer hours and sacrifice their personal lives for professional growth.
We asked Emilie for her take on a cultural shift that’s driven by her generation. Her reaction was priceless: “Working 40 hours is the expected, it's not the minimum. And if you're expected to do more, you should get paid to do more.”
💡 Key takeaways on taking a break:
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