Mentorship, Freelancing, and Personal Branding for UX Professionals ft. Rohan Mishra

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November 3, 2022
Rohan Mishra

Working for an exciting startup ✅

Building a thriving community ✅

Mentoring thousands along the way ✅

Rohan Mishra has observed the field of User Experience from every angle possible.

He started as a self-taught UX Designer. From there, he has dived into freelancing, worked full-time for exciting teams, and built a personal brand around UX Design.

If that isn’t impressive enough, he has mentored thousands along the way. He loves mentorship so much, in fact, that he is building a community around it!

Rohan’s career so far has been an exciting ride. With such a wide range of experiences, we felt like Rohan would be a goldmine of advice for other UX Professionals.

And our suspicions were confirmed! We talked to Rohan recently about UX careers and sought his advice on succeeding in the industry.

This article summarizes that delightful conversation and covers Rohan’s thoughts on:

  1. Growing your personal brand as a UX Professional.
  2. The ups and downs of freelancing.
  3. Mentoring others

Personal branding for career growth

Rohan started posting on LinkedIn in 2016. Six years, hundreds of posts, and nineteen thousand followers later, this decision seems to have worked out for him. Since Rohan has been “in the game” for so long, he had a ton of insight for us.

How to get started with personal branding?

Most of us haven’t realized it yet, but building your presence online is no longer just a “nice-to-have”. It’s essential, believes Rohan, for anyone looking to start or grow their career.

It boils down to recall. If people remember your name, they are more likely to bring it up during hiring or contracting discussions.

Fortunately, getting started is pretty easy! Especially on LinkedIn.

Rohan recommends starting small, as any self-respecting product person would.

If you have an aim in life, LinkedIn will have an influencer writing about it. To start building your online presence, you can just follow these influencers and read what they have to say.

Gradually, start sharing what you’re learning and you’re on your way to an online presence!

Of course, it is time consuming to create posts. Rohan gets that.

His advice here is to simply start with the comments! You can offer valuable insights, share your perspective on the topic of the post, or narrate a personal story that helps contextualize the post better. A meaningful comment is a great piece of content too! This is especially true for LinkedIn, since your network gets notified about your comments as well.

The art of commenting

Not everyone needs to write posts anyway.

If you’re looking for your first internship, for example, you should not try to establish yourself as a visionary thought leader. Instead, focus on showing up in internship discussions through your comments.

How to come up with things to post about?

Rohan posts several times each week. This is on top of everything else he has to do as the founder of a young UX community. We wanted to learn how he consistently comes up with posts.

Before the ideation process, it’s worth mentioning how he thinks of his content. According to Rohan, every piece of content on LinkedIn creates a difference in someone’s life. The little tip you post could be what helps someone else solve a problem at work. The interview hack you post could make or break someone else’s first internship interview.

Every piece of content there is intricately linked to someone else’s professional life. It helps if you think of your content in that context and not just a writeup meant to increase engagement.

On to ideation.

Most of Rohan’s ideas come from his daily experiences. He’ll meet someone or have an interesting conversation; that will spark an idea for a helpful post; he’ll write and post it the next day.

Rohan applies this principle to every post. Even when writing about Figma plugins, for example, he will make sure he limits his suggestions to the plugins he loves.

Rohan is trying to incorporate more discipline into his content process, and he would recommend that for us all. You can wait for inspiration to strike, but it doesn’t always happen.

A more reliable method is to take some time each week, create a list of things you’d want to write about, and set deadlines for these pieces. Rohan also suggests trendjacking as a way to reach more people. Identify what is being discussed in your industry and write your thoughts on it!

Rohan has thousands of followers on LinkedIn, a thriving UX community, and is building his YouTube presence as well. Still, he admits that his content process isn’t as disciplined as he would like it to be.

This should comfort you.

You don’t have to do it perfectly in order to win - just get started and fix things along the way.

Rohan suggests a “3-S Framework” to think about your content. Skill - System - Strategy.

A strategy would involve trendjacking, identifying a unique theme to position your content in, or developing a “tone” that ties your brand together.

Your system would dictate when you ideate, write, edit, and post.

The quality of your posts will depend on your skill.

The world’s smartest strategies and systems are worthless if you haven’t yet put in your time and developed your skill set! Write, publish, and get feedback - you can do the fancy strategizing once you’re good at the basics.

Take your first step towards personal branding

Rohan’s greatest mistake, according to him, was not starting even earlier.

It took him some time to realize that you do not need to be an expert to start posting on LinkedIn. He could have talked about his experiences, new things he was learning, the problems he was facing as a young UX Professional, and hundreds of other topics.

Avoid the mistakes he made!

Pick the platform you want to build on and take your first step today.

Freelancing vs Working full-time

Having done both, Rohan offers a unique perspective on the question of freelancing vs going for a full-time job.

For an employer, hiring a freelancer makes sense when their skill is needed for a single activity. Hiring a full-time employee makes sense if the employer wants to research a problem, improve a process, and develop a system. This should inform your career choices.

Do you seek deeper involvement in a problem? Would it be rewarding for you to spend a lot of time tinkering with a process to make it smooth and scalable? If so, getting a full-time job would suit you better.

On the other hand, if you only want to do it for the money - which is not a “bad” motivation at all! - you should look into freelancing.

Rohan believes that everyone should start with a full-time job, regardless of their reasons. As a beginner, you would not have the skills necessary to do well as a freelancer. Being surrounded by a team of more experienced people doing the best work of their lives will help you improve significantly faster.

Getting into freelance with just the basics will keep all the lucrative opportunities far from your reach. If you do end up with one of them, you won’t be able to do the kind of great work expected of you.

Freelancing is a great career path, but it’s important to manage expectations.

Freelancing - some caveats

Rohan had a few words of caution for those exploring freelance work.

To begin with, upskilling will always be tough. Your clients won’t expect you to learn while on the job. They’d expect you to do the job! However, your clients would still expect your quality of work to get progressively better.

This is less of a problem when working full-time. You have a pool of coworkers to tap into for advice. Most employers also offer upskilling stipends you can use.

Finances are also tougher as a freelancer. Some months, you’ll get more clients than you can handle. Some months, you’ll get none! Navigating these highs and lows can be stressful.

Finally, it’s easier to get started with a full-time job. There are well defined channels to apply. The barrier to entry is lower. Startups that love you even maintain job boards for you 😇. Getting started is tougher as a freelancer. You are a company of one, according to Rohan. Getting a client when you start freelancing is just as tough as getting your first customer when you start a company.

How to get started as a freelancer?

You’ve gone through the caveats.

You’re ready for the challenge.

How do you get started?

Rohan’s advice on getting started ties back to his advice on building an online presence and working full-time.

The most ideal arrangement for a freelancer would be to receive a steady inbound stream of clients. These clients would approach you, see if you’re interested in the project, and then offer it to you if you want. Such a stream can be established by building a trustworthy online presence, preferably on LinkedIn.

Of course, it’s quite tough to build a trustworthy LinkedIn brand overnight. It can take months, if not years.You still need to pay your rent and grocery bills while establishing your presence!

The second way to get started is through referrals. Those you’ve worked with, those you’ve helped along the way, other friends in the industry are all great sources for referrals.

This is where Rohan’s advice about getting a full-time job steps in. If you’ve spent some time in the industry beforehand, you will have an easier time getting referrals.

The best plan of action, therefore, is to start with a full-time role. While working full-time, start freelancing on the side and building an online presence to vouch for you down the line.

Mentorship Matters!

Going through Rohan’s profile, it is clear that mentorship is very important to him.

As we came to know during our call, he has been mentoring juniors right from when he started learning design!

Makes sense, then, that he now runs Design Sundays and helps hundreds of new designers find good mentors.

Regardless of where you are in your career, Rohan’s advice would be to mentor a junior. Having * someone * to ask for advice and guidance is always a blessing. Being that someone is the best responsibility you can take up.

Rohan has mentored over 1200 people so far. Over the years, he has identified three ways in which being a mentor has improved his career.

Also, read: How communities level the playing field from SF to Seoul ft. Felix Lee, Founder of ADPList

Articulation

UX is a complicated field, unfortunately full of jargon.

Clear thinking often requires giving up jargon and making sure you understand what the industry-specific words are hiding.

Fortunately, jargon would make no sense to a beginner’s mind! Mentoring someone, therefore, will help you find pitfalls in your own thought process.

Rohan experienced this when working with other UX professionals for Zomato. Since they were all professionals, they could communicate in jargon. Only after talking to newcomers did Rohan realize that he might be missing out on what the jargon term actually means!

Clarifying your explanations and putting them in easy to understand words is tough. Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize winning physicist, worked very hard to achieve this clarity. So did Rohan!

The impact is clearly visible too. One of the first things you’ll notice when talking to him is how clear his communication is. This would have been impossible to achieve without having mentored newcomers.

Connection

Rohan believes that human connection enriches our lives. Being a mentor has helped him connect with UXers across multiple age groups and from varied backgrounds. Of course this wouldn’t have happened had he not made a conscious effort to make himself available to his juniors.

Of course, the beginners of today will be the experts of tomorrow. Guiding newcomers is a great way to build a genuine bond with those who will define and lead the industry a few years down the line.

Contentment

Finally, mentoring others helped Rohan figure out his motivations too.

He had been mentoring people since he started his own journey. Along the way, he realized that the financial benefits of climbing the corporate ladder were not appealing to him. He found his contentment in helping others and building a community instead. So he quit his job to help others and build a community.

He has stayed faithful to this commitment. We are extremely excited to see how the Design Sundays community grows.

Go be a mentor to someone! It will clarify your thought process, help you build strong bonds, and maybe give you that missing piece you need for self-actualization.

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