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The Interface is a brand-new podcast exploring trends and hot topics for UX content people.
This episode is a recording of a LinkedIn Live event held on Thursday, May 11. Shannon Leahy, Senior Experience Content Strategy Manager at Adobe, joins Patrick for a live podcast recording to discuss the current job market and tips for content designers navigating the job search.
Connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and get your custom salary and industry career report!
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Patrick: [00:00:01] Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of the Interface podcast. This month we’re bringing you another LinkedIn conversation we had with the UX content design community on LinkedIn. And this month it’s with Shannon Leahy. With all the layoffs and the turning of the job market UX content, but also just the broader design and tech markets, we wanted to have a chat about what’s happening in the market, what jobs are out there. Shannon is a senior manager of UX and content design at Adobe and she has been sharing dozens…must be over 100 jobs at this point in the content design space. So she’s a great person to have on to talk about what’s happening in the market and trends that we’re seeing. Are the jobs coming back? Are there entry level jobs? What do people do who have been laid off? And we have a great discussion. So that’s what we’ve brought you today. Now, before we start, I just want to let everyone know that the results of our UX content salary and industry survey are available on uxcontent.com. There’s a full breakdown there of median salaries by location and experience. We don’t just look at salaries, we look at a whole range of things like top collaborators, the number of people who you work with, the number of designers you support, what people love most about the job and what they’re most frustrated by.
Patrick: [00:01:21] And also we have a free tool on the website where you can download a custom report that is tailored to your statistics. So you put in some information about where you live and how much experience you have. We’ll actually give you some statistics about what people in your demographic say they earn and what their biggest challenges are. But then we also compare you against people who have ten years experience in that same demographic, and then we show you the differences so we demonstrate to you what you can expect in the rest of your career. So it’s free. Check it out. uxcontent.com. The 2023 Salary and Industry Survey. I’ll also stick a link in the show notes. That’s it. Here’s the conversation with Shannon Leahy from Adobe about the UX content jobs market. We’re live. Thank you, everyone, for joining. We’ve got a few people trickling in already. We have a lot of people who are scheduled to join us today. So super excited to have you here. We’re really excited to talk today about what’s happening in the UX content industry with jobs right now. And I am very excited to have Shannon join us. Shannon, thank you so much for joining. And I’m sorry to say I didn’t ask you how to pronounce your last name, so I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce it.
Shannon: [00:02:52] No worries. No worries. It’s Leahy. It’s Leahy.
Patrick: [00:02:57] Leahy. Leahy. Shannon Leahy. Shannon, thank you so much for joining us today. Super excited to have you here to talk about what’s happening with UX content jobs.
Shannon: [00:03:09] Yeah, likewise. I just thank you so much for having me. I get a little excited about this. If you couldn’t tell from how much I post about it on LinkedIn. But no, it just it means a lot to be able to chat with you and hopefully, you know, give people some real talk and also some reassurance because the content community is just so amazing and full of heart. So getting to pay it forward and try to help people in little ways.
Patrick: [00:03:47] Well I’m really excited to talk about that. But before we start, could you just give a little bit of an introduction about what you do in your current role and maybe a little bit of your background in the industry?
Shannon: [00:04:00] Yeah, sure. So my quick TLDR is I am an English major. I’m one of the many English majors who found their way into tech. Got my start in web copywriting at small and local agencies here in the Richmond, Virginia area in the US, and then did a brief stint as an instructional designer doing training videos and classroom-based training for companies before making the jump into UX. So most recently I was at Capital One. It’s a financial services company here in the United States. I was there for about six years, started as a content designer IC and then moved into UX manager role and then transitioned into being a senior manager of content design. And about what, probably seven, eight months ago I embarked on a new adventure and I’m now a senior content design manager at Adobe.
Patrick: [00:05:12] That’s a great journey. I feel like there are so many people in content design who come to the industry through different ways. And I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have been English majors or they’ve been creative writing majors, and then they end up coming into the industry through a similar sort of path. So that’s great. And now you’re at Adobe. Of course, that’s pretty busy right now with the acquisition of Figma, which we don’t have time to talk about today. But I’m sure you’ve got a lot on your plate right now.
Shannon: [00:05:48] Yes. I’m not at liberty to discuss the company that does not have a name right now. No, we’ve got a lot of other stuff going on. Really exciting stuff happening with things like AI and also some really cool new work that’s happening across some of our core products, as well as some work in places like product equity and inclusion.
Patrick: [00:06:12] Yeah, That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining. Today we’re going to talk about jobs. And as people listening may well probably aware, the tech industry overall has had a bit of a tough time in the past year. There have been a lot of layoffs. And most recently there was a new announcement of layoffs at Shopify last week, where about 20% of their workforce has been unfortunately laid off and content designers have been a part of those layoffs as well. And so over the past year, there has been a little bit of a change in the industry in terms of sentiment, I would say. I’d love to just start by asking what your observations have been about that change and what do you feel like the sentiment in the content design industry is right now?
Shannon: [00:07:17] Yeah, I think it’s a mix of different things, right? Because first and foremost, I do want to acknowledge and make space for a lot of people are tired. They’re overwhelmed. They’re frustrated because I can’t remember if it was on LinkedIn or Twitter, but just seeing a lot of discussions about how the layoffs that are happening, they are disproportionately affecting content designers as well as teams like research and a lot of DIB. So a lot of equity and inclusion teams, which, you know, this is really, really core and fundamental to just making experiences for people is understanding them, communicating with them in ways that resonate and being really mindful and purposeful and making sure that you’re not perpetuating harm or doing other things to potentially hurt folks. So it’s kind of like a slap in the face to say, okay, well, there went, you know, my role there went my job, you know, and then also now knowing that you’re up against so many different folks and talking to folks, they’re applying to jobs where there’s hundreds, hundreds of other applicants or things like salary information not being consistently available or even salary ranges being so extreme, you kind of don’t really know, what should I really be paid for this work? So there’s a little bit of that.
Shannon: [00:08:56] I would also say that I feel like there’s also been a feeling of care and hope and community and not in a toxic positivity way. But I mentioned that the content community has so much heart. And so what’s really resonated with me and the kinds of things that I’ve tried to help amplify too, like Melanie Seibert, she’s a UX manager now at Indeed. But she made a post full of job boards and specifically focused on job boards that have content or UX jobs. Chelsea Larson put out kind of like a call for if there are folks who wouldn’t mind opening up their calendar to doing portfolio reviews or even just offering time to vent with people and just kind of be there for folks. And then I think this predates the kind of latest round of of layoffs and things. But I want to say, was it last year or a couple years ago? But Candi Williams put together a list of free and low cost UX and content resources. So I just keep getting overwhelmed with this kind of feeling of people looking out for each other and trying to help take care of each other in light of some pretty grim and really hard circumstances.
Patrick: [00:10:36] Yeah, I feel like the empathy in the UX content industry is really strong. That sense of just looking after each other is really good. And it makes going through these tough times a little bit easier. I think one of the the things that makes this time so stark is when you go to LinkedIn or any of the type of job board. And in the past couple of years, there have been a lot of job ads from a lot of these larger tech companies, particularly Meta, Amazon, maybe not so much Netflix, but certainly Google. And if you go on and look at a lot of the job boards now, those companies are just not hiring. And for a lot of people in the past few years, those companies were the first step for them to get into the industry because a lot of those companies were hiring really aggressively. And as a result, they had a lot of entry-level jobs. Now, because those companies are not hiring so much, the number of entry level jobs has shrunk. And that obviously makes getting into the industry a lot harder. I’m wondering, does that echo what you’re seeing and what are your thoughts on the entry-level job market right now for content designers?
Shannon: [00:12:12] I have a lot of spicy hot takes on this one, as an individual. So it’s interesting to me. I’ll start first with where entry-level jobs are with bigger companies. I think this is a place where there’s still a lot of work to be done because, yeah, some of the more entry-level, maybe full-time roles haven’t been there as much. I have still seen internships popping up. But some of those internships, they’re linked to air quote, you can’t see me, but, you know, traditional schooling requirements. So you have to either be in a four-year college degree program or doing a graduate-level program. But there’s that requirement of still being in school and being at university. I’m kind of jealous. I’m like, oh, I don’t think these programs existed when I was doing my my BA in English. So on the one hand, it’s really exciting to see those opportunities. But then on the other hand, when I think about how many folks might be out there who want to transition into a UX role and want to work as a UX writer or content designer, or they don’t have the means to go to a traditional four year school, I think there’s some opportunity to re-examine our relationship with internships and linking them to schooling requirements and potentially also opening up more apprenticeship-style opportunities and programs. Maybe did a course in a community college through psychology, and then you did some training through a bootcamp, and now you’ve got some really important skills that could give you that path into content design or UX writing or content strategy. This is something that, just personally and professionally, I would like to try to help figure out and contribute in that apprenticeship space, you know, where and how to make those kinds of opportunities available for folks. The other thing that came to mind for me when we were talking about entry-level roles and kind of where they’re at. I wanted to challenge that a little bit because I personally think that more entry-level roles have been out there, but they haven’t gotten the spotlight or the TLC or this implied, I think somebody on Twitter was talking about like pedigree bias, but we got really excited about the growth and proliferation of content design on these big sexy in-the-news-all-the-time design teams. But for so many folks, myself included, my path into content started out in other roles, in other industries, at way smaller companies. This is something Jane Ruffino gets really excited about and passionate about too, is, spotlighting those opportunities as well and really helping to draw the parallels and connections between, hey, if you’re going to school right now and yeah, if you have amazing opportunities to land at a really big company as your first role out of school, that’s super, super cool. But so many folks have done jobs working for … I was at a four person web and graphic design shop for the first several years of my career. But I still picked up and learned a lot of important skills around collaboration. And I even started learning how to like sketch and wireframe stuff, even though I was like making websites for plumbers and things like that.
Patrick: [00:16:46] I mean, you raise a really good point that like, you know, I think you shared a job earlier today or yesterday with a title that wasn’t content design. But if you look at the actual job description, it’s content design. And so sometimes the titles of these entry-level jobs can sometimes put us off. But if you actually look at the work that you’re doing, the parallels to getting into content design and UX writing, are there. And that’s what’s most important, right? It’s that experience. It’s getting that work that you can put into a portfolio and just get that hands on experience with the core type of work that you’ll do in product writing. And so looking at those job descriptions I think is really important. But I think the other thing too is that, I think one of the questions that we’ve had a lot is like, you know, is this still worth pursuing as a role? And I’ve had to remind people that, sure, compared to last year and the year before. The number of content design jobs has gone down. But it’s not just content design, it’s everything, right? Like it’s if you look for product manager roles, like there are very few of those, you know? And it’s the same with UX research, UX design roles. It’s just the industry as a whole has slowed down a little bit. And so everyone in other industries as well and other professions, they’re experiencing similar slowdowns as well. I think you mentioned before, like UX research is one that’s experiencing this right now. In some ways, I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s a silver lining, but it’s just a reminder that this isn’t content design specific. All of these roles are having a little bit of a tough time right now.
Shannon: [00:18:51] Yeah. And I think part of it can come down to too, with depending on where your interests lie and how comfortable you are with taking a little bit of a pivot, there could be other roles like just even internal communications, for example, that on its face might not feel like a UX job, might not feel like a content strategy job. But if you take that similar mindset of centering people and giving them tools and information and resources that help them accomplish something at the end of the day, and that something might be knowing more about the direction the company is going in or things like that. I like to think that there’s still ways in other kinds of jobs to kind of sneak in, sneak in and practice some of these other skills and still have an impact on people and help people. Because I think a lot of folks, too, who go into UX content, they want to help and they want to do something for the community that they’re part of. Some folks that I know who have recently transitioned into UX content roles, they did start out in places like internal communications or knowledge management, but they started infusing their practice and their work with doing things even if they didn’t have a budget for research or they didn’t have access to something like User Zoom or UserTesting.com.
Shannon: [00:20:27] I know one person who would go set up in one of the like central cafeterias that where they worked, and they would just ask people, do you have a few minutes while you’re on your lunch break? I’m working through this this piece of content for an internal press release or an internal memo or something. So they were doing things like content testing in a completely different role. Being an instructional designer, I’ve told people that at the time it felt kind of like a random pivot. But there’s so much overlap between adult learning principles and content design best practices around … you want to chunk information out for people so it’s easier to understand, you want to sequence things in a logical order, break it into steps. Like all these things. My deliverables looked different at the end of the day because I had to make scripts. I had to make scripts for an animated training video. And then I eventually had to deliver user journey maps and things like that. But there were still a lot of parallels there.
Patrick: [00:21:39] Yeah, absolutely. I think like one of the things that stands out to me right now with all the jobs on the market is you look at the places that are looking for content designers right now or even, as you say, they’re not looking explicitly for content designers, but people in other sort of content-adjacent roles. And they are usually at smaller organizations, particularly quite specialized and they aren’t at companies you may not necessarily know, right? You may have not necessarily heard of these companies before, but those are often the best roles to go for because they are big enough where you’re going to get support but small enough where you’re going to get your hands on a lot of different projects and you have the opportunity there to to scale content design, really define the approach. I think we we have a bias towards, companies we know, right? So I want to go work at Netflix or I want to go work at Google. And yeah, it’s great to have those on on a on a resume right? Like cool, looks good.
Patrick: [00:22:51] But what really matters most is the type of work that you’re doing. And so at these smaller organizations, you have the ability to do exactly what you just said, a little bit more, I guess you might call it guerrilla testing. You’re able to do things in a little bit more flexible way. And so being able to go for those types of roles is a great first step. I saw recently that Vanguard is a financial services company. They were hiring some content designers. And even if you look at that and you think, well, I don’t know the first thing about investing, right? I don’t know the first thing about financial services. Working at a company like that, which is not traditionally like a tech company, that can be a huge, huge win if you get to do interesting work there and complex work. That’s the type of stuff that future hiring managers will look to and be really interested in.
Shannon: [00:23:53] I recently was lucky enough to get to speak at Confab, and part of the premise of my talk was there’s so many skills that I built up when I was at the companies that nobody had heard of. They’re just these little companies in Richmond that are local to the area that I’m in. There’s some really compelling stories in there and I had to also kind of give myself a pep talk around, this work matters, too. And this is just as important as something big and splashy that someone may have done at a bigger company with more budget, more team members, whatever the case may be. Just talking to people that I trusted, confiding in mentors and talking through these things and them helping to also reinforce, yeah, yeah, that work mattered too. Yeah, the irony of now … I’m like, oh yeah, I get to throw around big fancy titles on my resume now and big fancy companies that I worked at. But again, I wouldn’t have been able to take this path had I not done all the other things that I had done first. The other thing I want to add on this point, too, around looking for and celebrating and helping to draw out those parallels … own your story, work with other people, like mentors to help you find those talking points. I think I have a message to other hiring managers, which is to be more open to portfolios and work samples that don’t show screens, samples that aren’t UI text, because really it’s about those underlying behaviors and mindsets.
Shannon: [00:26:08] You can teach somebody, here are some different considerations you need to look for if you’re approaching doing, you know, I’m paying my credit card bill. How I’m going to design a flow for that’s going to be different than how I used to write long form blog posts when I was doing social media and search engine optimization stuff. But coming at it again from, I’m earnestly trying to answer a question someone has, I want to help them, there’s there’s so much parallel there. And for better or for worse, I have noticed in my own journey, because a year ago I was interviewing, I’ve noticed that some companies have a bias and a preference for having prior experience working on product teams, product design teams, and having worked with product managers and tech leads. So yeah, I would challenge all of us as we’re looking at and writing job descriptions, to set conditions and make it okay for people to come with stories and work that, yeah, it might be an internal memo or it might be an intranet site that somebody helped develop, but that counts too. It’s more about understanding their problem-solving process. If they couldn’t directly get into the mindset of the people they were writing for, well, how would they approach that instead? How did they get creative with things? How do they structure their writing? There’s a lot of other signals you can get from different kinds of work.
Patrick: [00:28:01] Like I completely agree. We get a lot of questions sometimes from people who are entering the industry going like, oh, I don’t really have a lot of experience doing product writing, but you know, I’ve done this content audit, I’ve done this information architecture. I’ve done similar sorts of things. And I always say, this is gold. What you’ve got here is amazing. And sometimes, hiring managers can get into this frame of thinking. I remember speaking to one hiring manager. This is a few years ago now, and they were looking for someone who had been on a product team and they were interviewing someone who had shown a bunch of different samples. And those samples included writing for some components like tooltips and a couple of other common components. But that was in a website context. And that person didn’t get a second interview because the hiring manager was like, well, we really wanted someone who had written in a product context before. And I was kind of baffled because to me, the principles are the same. Sure, the context changes when you’re writing a tooltip based on what the product’s in, what the message is for and so on. But you still understand the core principles of what it means to write for those components. So to me, hire for attitude, right? You hire for the thought process. And then as you mentioned, you can you can teach. If they’re smart and if they’re already showing you that they have the ability to write in those contexts, then you can train them for skill and the nuances of being in a product team. So I completely agree. Hiring managers need to be a bit flexible because otherwise you’re just missing out on some great talent.
Shannon: [00:30:06] Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Patrick: [00:30:08] So let’s talk about some of the jobs that you’ve been seeing at the moment, because you are providing an essential service, I think, for the content design community on LinkedIn. I think not a day goes by where I see a few reposts from you about the different types of jobs that are out there right now. So if anyone isn’t following Shannon, I’d definitely recommend that you go and follow her because her posts are invaluable. I’d love to hear from your perspective. You’ve been posting a lot of jobs. What’s standing out to you right now? Are you seeing any trends about the types of companies that are hiring content designers? Is it a bit random or are you seeing sort of certain things, certain trends pop up?
Shannon: [00:30:56] Thank you for the very, very kind words. I’ve been joking with folks that I’m pretty sure I broke the job recommendation algorithm for my profile, which is really, really fun because I’m getting to see really cool and sometimes random stuff pop up. Yeah, but gosh, trends. So something that is very near and dear to my heart, and that I was really excited to see starting to happen more and more at the onset of the pandemic, was a lot of jobs pivoting to being remote. So some of the remote options are still out there, but I am starting to see a lot more hybrid, and in some cases they are just straight up requiring you to be on site. And this is another gentle plea to hiring managers and design teams and leadership out there to please reconsider that and maybe let the pendulum continue to swing towards remote, because it does help open up opportunities for folks to work at companies that they might not have otherwise been able to, which just then gets you different kinds of folks to be part of your team makeup, Remote options are also really inclusive and they’re more accessible. So for folks who can’t or aren’t comfortable traveling right now because we’re still in a pandemic, just going to throw that out there. Requiring butts in seats and you need to see people … it just kind of feels like it runs contrary to the whole human-centered part of human-centered design. For me personally, seeing that remote job opportunities were out there again, even like a year ago, that opened doors to me, being able to have conversations with companies that I might not have been able to work for. I would really like to see more remote jobs come back for folks because it’s so important. Salary info is starting to be more available, which is really cool. But also sometimes, we talked about this earlier, the salary ranges are kind of extreme. I’ve also noticed in a couple instances that sometimes numbers are written out in words and it just gets really hard to read and parse what the salary range is. So, so please everybody, please provide reasonable ranges and write them in numbers so we can read them.
Patrick: [00:33:49] I’ve been looking at some of the descriptions of the actual responsibilities in some of these jobs. And to me what’s interesting is that, there’s all the standard stuff that you see in UX content, being able to understand the design process, work in a product team, identify issues, usability issues, take part in user research, like all the standard stuff, right? But what’s interesting to me is that we’re beginning to see … and this is purely anecdotal, I don’t have any data on this … but I feel like compared to perhaps a few years ago, more positions now are asking for specific skills and abilities in areas like accessibility. That’s becoming more of a requirement. I mean, a few years ago it was rarely mentioned, but now I’m actually seeing it quite a lot. Are you seeing the similar thing?
Shannon: [00:34:48] Yeah. I think this is popping up in the job descriptions themselves and then also conversations. I think Candi Williams has talked about that accessibility is everyone’s job. And in addition to that, inclusion and equity, being advocates for that, helping to write in inclusive ways, all of that. It’s part of everyone’s job. I would say too, on the flip side of that, I’ve noticed that job applicants, they’re asking about those things too. I had the opportunity to interview for an intern for my team for this summer and I want to say, 100% of candidates were asking about where and how diversity, equity and inclusion … how is that showing up both in the work that is happening for the people who use products and services, as well as how is it showing up internally in company culture and how the team thinks and approaches work? It was just really powerful and kind of eye opening because these folks, they’re still students, but they were so focused on learning more about that and really kind of asking probing questions to make sure that it’s not just lip service. They really are thinking critically about where will I spend my time and my energy and does that align with my values?
Patrick: [00:36:53] Yeah, and good questions to ask. I feel like that’s again, I don’t have any data, but I feel like that’s a change from maybe 3 or 4 years ago. It’s much more common. So I think, one of the questions I have right now, if people go and follow you, they’ll see that there are jobs available. And sure, it may be a little bit more of a competitive market right now, but they’re out there. So what would you be recommending to people who are looking for UX content jobs right now? Perhaps not necessarily at the entry-level because we’ve already sort of touched on that, but maybe more the mid to senior. What are some things that people should be doing right now to make themselves, I don’t want to use the phrase attractive to hiring managers, that’s not the right term. How can they make themselves stand out?
Shannon: [00:37:51] I’ll start there because then I’ve got some other thoughts too, where to look and things like that. I really think it comes down to really just kind of showcasing, you know, and really pulling from and being able to tell a story around some of those evergreen and transferable skills. So for folks who are already in the industry, or rather, I think this might apply a little bit more for the direction I’m going in right now, if you’re trying to transition into the industry, those writing skills, critical thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration, how you’re doing research, how you’re starting to think about inclusivity and accessibility and pulling out and drawing those parallels. When I was still an instructional designer, I hadn’t worked with product managers yet, but I had to be on these review calls with a review committee with clients. And there were like 50 to 100 people on those review committees at any given time. So no, I didn’t work with product managers, but I sure as hell learned a lot about being able to work through different types of feedback, bring people to alignment.
Shannon: [00:39:26] So even if people disagreed and like, oh, didn’t like that word choice, or oh, I would have gone in a different direction, but still getting them to kind of all agree that, okay, we’re all going to come around and support this direction and continue to work together in service of our learners and do the thing that’s right for them. Even if we’re having some creative differences, I think being able to really own that story and showcase that. I think one of my other evergreen tips too is, if you can find a connection to, if there’s something about if the company is involved in pro-bono work, if you’ve noticed that they’re putting out a lot of cool resources for the community at large, continue to do that homework and kind of find out what it is about that company that really, really jives with you. I think the other thing, switching gears a little bit, is and we started kind of talking about this, but another trend or just something I feel more in tune with is, there’s a lot of opportunity in a lot of different places that would be air quote, maybe unexpected. I remember I got really excited about posting a job, I think it was with Amtrak and they were looking for service designers there. They’ve got like an innovation and transformation team and they’re looking for service designers and other kinds of design roles. And I never would have thought, oh yeah, let me go look at Amtrak for a UX job. But things like transportation, logistics, somebody that I used to work with, I think they’re now a product designer for the NHL. So the National Hockey League. My husband’s really big into soccer, and I know that Major League Soccer has been hiring roles on and off over probably the last 12 months or so. Health care, medicine, EdTech, there’s so many different other places where there is a need and a hunger for UX content folks. I know Jane Ruffino, I think she worked for a lock company on some projects. And again, I never would have thought to look for these places, but they’ve had their epiphany and they get it and they want to work with content folks and they want to make a difference in how they’re communicating with people.
Patrick: [00:42:06] I was just gonna say I feel like sometimes people get scared to apply for those places because they think, well, I don’t watch hockey, right? I don’t have anything to do with hockey. But really it doesn’t matter because what you’re bringing are UX content principles, right? That’s what they need. So I feel like sometimes, we as UX content designers, we put ourselves down. But no, you’re the expert. So you go to the hockey team … you don’t work for a hockey team, you work for the NHL. You you can see how much I’m into sports or not really. You go and you say, these are the principles. I’m the expert. I can give you the advice that you’re looking for. I think there’s just a need for some confidence there.
Shannon: [00:42:58] Yeah, I’ll offer something else, too. Speaking of a confidence boost and and moving into the the pep rally part of my notes. I would also say that content designers, in my very humble opinion, make some of the very best UX managers, UX senior managers, directors, VPs. They make amazing design leaders. And I would really encourage folks, if you see UX designer roles, if you see service design or design strategy roles, heck, if you see a product manager role. I know somebody, I know a content person here in Richmond, who started in content strategy and content design. They’re director of product management now. Please, please look at those roles and put yourself out there for them, because a lot of the work that you do and the ways that your brain is wired to think about and solve problems, systems thinking, connecting dots, thinking about and thinking across space and time and different touch points and also taking into consideration … oh yeah, hey, we should buddy up with the customer care team and make sure that what they’re telling people on the phone, it’s similar and resonates with what they have read when they’re in the app or they’re on our website or if we just sent them an email. All of these connections are there and content designers are really good at finding them and finding ways that things can feel cohesive while still allowing for, hey, the way that I’m going to have to like script out or provide something for a customer service agent or a customer service rep, that’s going to be different than how if I’m calling a phone system like IVR and I’m talking there. Yes, they all have nuances and we can account for those, but they can still help create that unifying thread. And a lot of what you’re doing when you’re in these other types of roles as a UX manager or director, you’re helping to orchestrate these things and look for those connection points holistically. There’s so many transferable skills that come from coming from a UX content background. And you’re able to have really meaningful conversations around … hey, is this meeting up with what we’re hearing customers or prospects or other people, is this lining up with the problems that they’re sharing with us or the pain points they’re encountering? Or when we talk about this business goal or that business goal, what does that really mean? I’m going to keep asking you questions because that’s one of our superpowers, too. We ask so many questions and that’s what you’re doing in these other types of roles, is you’re helping clarify and give direction so that people can go do really cool things.
Patrick: [00:46:14] What are you seeing regarding AI right now? Because one of the questions that we’re hearing from people is … is AI going to affect our jobs and what should I do regarding AI? And it’s such a fast-moving area. But to be honest, in the job ads right now, I haven’t seen AI have an impact on roles. And in fact, I just saw an ad yesterday that I shared at HubSpot where they’re looking for a content designer to work on their AI tools. So if anything, to me, it’s having the opposite effect, it’s actually increasing demand. I don’t know if you’ve seen any signals about that, that you might be able to speak to. Maybe it’s too early, but yeah. What are your thoughts there?
Shannon: [00:47:01] I personally haven’t gone out of my way to look for AI-focused jobs because my hot take on all of it is this is new technology. And it’s going to have an impact. Sure. Fine. Great. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that you still need to have these core skills around creative problem solving and critical thinking. And there’s a lot of nuance and context. And again, with the creativity piece of it, we UX content folks, we have to be able to mix and remix different things that we know or new things that we learn. I don’t think the robots are coming for our jobs. Because they’re just, they can’t. I don’t know, maybe in another million years.
Patrick: [00:48:05] Yeah, exactly.
Shannon: [00:48:06] The other thing I’ll say is … I think, depending on where and how AI is popping up in different companies, I know that things like AI and machine learning, in places like financial services with virtual assistants or infusing those kinds of things into chatbots, my instinct is that this is going to be. Like the bigger opportunity is going to be finding considerate, ethical, creative ways to use technology to help make things less, you know, take out some of the friction, make things a little bit more seamless, help connect dots across different internal systems. That’s where I feel like being familiar with and learning how to do those things, that’ll be a place to pick up those skill sets. I want to say that in talking to some folks at Confab, that was more the direction the conversations were going. It’s how does this kind of technology plug into and help work alongside or complement things we might already be doing. I don’t know. I keep seeing people tweet about prompt engineer jobs, but they haven’t come across my radar.
Patrick: [00:49:47] I feel like content designers are prompt engineers already. Our expertise is in language. We’ll be speaking more about AI very soon. We’re developing some some tools around that. But the way we see it is that, if you’re using a text generation tool, then the quality of the output is based on the quality of the input of the prompt that you’re giving it. And therefore any type of prompt you give is going to need the context of your users, your customer research, all of the other variables that go into making a product anyway. None of which an AI tool can do. Only you can do that. So to me, I equate it to something more like Figma, where it’s a great tool. And yeah, you should probably learn how to use it because it’ll make your life easier, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to understand the principles and the underlying infrastructure of what you’re doing and following the design process. When looking for jobs, it’s a good tool to have but not going to replace anything. We’ve got about ten minutes left here. This hour has flown by and we still have lots of people listening. Is there anything else that you would like to say about the current UX content jobs market? To me, I feel like, after listening to you speak about it, it’s quite optimistic. There’s a lot of really cool jobs out there right now at some of these, as you mentioned, some of these areas where you may not consider them. Do you have any other comments about the market right now and how people should feel about it or what they might be able to do to stand out?
Shannon: [00:51:41] I think the other thing I would leave folks with is more I just want to offer up that if you are looking for a job right now, whatever circumstances brought you to this, you are worthy. You are amazing, talented people. And I don’t mean that in a weird, insincere way. I really truly believe that content designers are some of, just they’re amazing humans, first and foremost. So virtual hugs for everybody. If you’ve ever met me in real life, I’m a hugger. I want to leave people with that, and especially folks who’ve been laid off. It’s not you. It is 1,000,000%, not you. I think the other thing is, again, it’s another message for hiring managers because I would love to encourage hiring managers, if you’re filling roles that might be, it’s a UX manager role, for example. Please advocate for telling your recruiting team to look for folks who come from a UX content background. Don’t just screen for design school, don’t just screen for UI or visual design skills. Help them understand and see that bridge to the systems thinking, to the power that really tapping into how people communicate. That’s at the core. Like all of us are designing conversations with people. It’s about connecting with people and helping them do a thing or find a resource. How do you do that? You got to talk to them. You got to communicate to them. You got to guide them through a process. So looking for folks who have these other superpowers. There’s so much untapped potential to have folks stepping into these other kinds of roles. And that’s that’s on us. That’s on people who are in positions to influence those systems. Yeah, that’s what I got.
Patrick: [00:54:26] I think that’s great. I think that’s great advice. I feel like we’re in a tough time right now, but there have been tough times before. And as you mentioned, I think one of the things that people just need to hear is that when you get laid off, it’s not your fault. Right? In a situation like this where the industry is going through something as a whole, it can be really, really easy to internalize and take these things personally. But you’re not alone. So there are lots of people who are going through the same thing. If I can encourage people with some resources to help, definitely go and follow Shannon on LinkedIn because the jobs keep coming and I don’t know how you find these, Shannon. I’ll go and look for jobs and have a look and then I’ll see you share things that I’m like, oh, I didn’t see that one, I didn’t see that one. I don’t know if the algorithm’s working over time for you or what, but yeah, you’ve got some really good suggestions. So everyone please go and follow Shannon, We’d also encourage everyone, if you want to get an idea of where you are in the industry and what you might be able to go for and where you might be going, head to uxcontent.com. We have a tool where you can get a salary and career report and it’s completely free and it’s based off of our salary survey. So you can actually benchmark yourself against peers and then people who have slightly more experience to see how your salary can change over time and what you should advocate for.
Patrick: [00:56:19] In fact, our salary survey found that among people who negotiate, most are successful, whether that’s for salary or job title change or more vacation time. So definitely go and check that out. Please advocate for what you are worth. And then finally, I would just say just keep trying to learn new skills, keep trying to adapt to the changing market. I would also just as a last message, and Shannon, I’m sure you have something to say about this, but I think there’s something to say for confidence, right? Sometimes when people are searching for jobs, they can get into the the frame of mind that, oh, I didn’t work on this particular project or I didn’t work on this particular project. So I’m not going to be as strong a candidate as some other people. But as you mentioned, it comes just down to what your process is and what your thought process is and how you approach something. As a hiring manager, I would much rather talk to someone who did a website content audit that they might think, oh, it’s not a part of a product, but if they approach that case, study in the right way and they have the right, or at least they follow the design process and they’re thoughtful about how they do things, I would much rather hire that person than someone who wrote UI text but didn’t really explain why they did it or how they explored variations.
Shannon: [00:57:58] We could probably have another hour conversation about storytelling, about transferable skills and things like that. Find your personal board of directors. If it’s old co-workers that you really, really trust. If it’s a mentor. Some workplaces offer coaching, you can be connected to a career coach. Some places offer that. I also know some folks who do coaching and would love to introduce you to them and also tapping into online communities. The Content & UX Slack group, Lead with Tempo, I got to open up Slack and now look at all the channels on in groups I’m in. There’s another couple that I can look up and if folks have questions, happy to share those too. But I’ve really found it affirming and helpful to go ask people questions and trade notes and compare things. And then I think, Jessica Smith and somebody else, they were setting up some just really casual Zoom calls on Fridays, if they knew someone who was working on their portfolio, they kind of had open call for, hey, if you want to get some feedback on your portfolio or think out loud about something. But yeah, just find your people, find your people and hold them tight. Figuratively, potentially, literally if you’re local to them or in the same area as them. It all comes back to the people.
Patrick: [00:59:58] Awesome. Thank you so much, Shannon. Thank you, everyone, for listening. We’ve just about ran out of time. So if enjoyed this chat, please let us know. Shoot myself or Shannon a message on LinkedIn. I know I’d be happy to hear from anyone. Or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. What did you like? What would you like to see more of? And yeah, please go and follow Shannon for all those jobs and other various thoughts. I’ve found them very useful myself. Shannon, thank you so much for joining. This has been really helpful for people and it’s just really good to hear from someone in your position to hear that there’s optimism and there’s good things happening as well. People have some reason to feel hopeful right now as well.
Shannon: [01:00:47] Yeah. Another just general resource plug. If you are not already following Vivien Costello and humanity centered, they’ve done some really cool events lately talking about how to cultivate joy and hope in really, really hard times. They also have just fantastic resources about a lot of other things. I just want to extend the thank you back to you Patrick and UX Content Collective and for everyone who joined, your time and your energy are finite and I really appreciate having a chance to spend a little bit of time with folks and for you giving up some of of your day to be here with us. I really, really appreciate that. So thank you all for for coming and hanging out.
Patrick: [01:01:47] Seconded. Thank you, everyone. Alright. That brings us to an end. Again, go follow Shannon. Check out the free salary and content career report at uxcontent.com. And we’ll see you all next time. Thanks again, Shannon.
Shannon: [01:02:03] Thanks, y’all.
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