Grab some coffee, this is a long one.
As some of you may know, I’ve been in UX for a little over two years but had been a team of one except for the three-month contracted gig that just ended. I paused the search for the Christmas/New Years break then applied for UX positions with two international retail brand companies and went on interviews for both. I was contacted by two different recruiters and worked with them through the process.
Company A interviewed me for a straight across the board UX Designer role on an established team, with processes in place and systems to follow. The interview went well and my recruiter thought I’d have an offer that day or early the next day.
Company B interviewed me for what I thought was the same role but after speaking to the Sr., he passed me to his boss, the VP of Digital, and head data analyst. Suddenly, they were speaking to me about a position that didn’t closely resemble what I thought I was there to discuss and when I asked for clarification, they said there were two positions and wondered if I was interested in the other (more of a strategist/architect role, less hands on design). I left confused since it was so far from what I thought I was there for, and called my recruiter immediately to get more information. He was also confused.
It turned out that they felt so strongly about my personality, portfolio offerings, and demeanor, that they began to push hard that I be considered for the strategist/architect role instead, a role they hadn’t made public or informed the recruiters about. No one had ever mentioned such a career track to me previously, I didn’t think it was worth considering given my lack of head down, team-based UX design time, and thought surely company B was delusional and, frankly, wrong. My portfolio is full of wireframes and user flows, which I’ve now come to find out are far less common than finished work featuring mostly UI (particularly user flows, which have always been a strong suit of mine).
Company A’s offer didn’t come same-day and I reached out to the Company B recruiter to ask if I could go back to Company B and further discuss the opportunity, since I truly couldn’t understand why they’d be so interested in me for a created position I didn’t feel at all qualified for. I met with the VP again, got a tour, met some of the team I’d be working with, and we got a chance to have a transparent, honest conversation about my misgivings as well as the other interview I’d had. He was beyond encouraging, said that in speaking with me felt that I was the exact person and personality match they were looking for, and felt they wouldn’t find another person that ticked all the boxes they had in mind for the job. I left that meeting with an unofficial offer, and the official offer came later that day.
My concern is warranted, I’m not blind. I am particularly worried that I’m skipping over potentially years of hands-on experience before walking into a company or two and helping them with theirs. Company B insists I will not be alone, I’ll have all of their support plus a Project Owner counterpart, and since it’s a created position, we can build it as we go.
I accepted the role and let Company A’s recruiter know that if things had been equal, I’d have accepted theirs. There, it would meant real time put in doing the work, solid experience, the safety of tested methods, and after a year or two I’d have likely moved onto another company. I worry that an elevated position such as this, a specialty-within-a-specialty will make it harder to find something comparable when I leave it.
But the hesitation was coming from somewhere beyond the professional voice; it was personal. Not so much impostor syndrome doubts, but more the kind I felt when D pursued me hard and I wondered, “Why me? What does he see in me that is such a big deal?” Followed with a little bit of, “Why do they want someone without all of the experience who would probably do better and not screw things up?” All of the self confidence that I have, I have mustered or worked to see and feel, it does not come naturally to me. When things like this happen, I narrow my eyes and look for the anvil. I’m working through that though, I won’t let it get me.
Ultimately, in spite of my misgivings, I took Company B’s extreme confidence in me into account and chose to take the risk of an unknown quantity (in terms of established processes) rather than go the safe route. An opportunity like this would have taken many more years and a dozen connections in my old city, I felt I couldn’t let it pass. So I have 10 more days of quiet couch, baking, dog, husband, and errand time, then a trip to New Orleans, then I dive into the unknown.