You may think that being a professional Web Product Designer right now is a great job, and it is. You may think that being a pro UX Unicorn AND working for yourself as an independent contractor is an ideal situation, and it can be. You might assume that it's wonderful to work from home, though the best part is simply not having to commute. Some people might covet my connectedness, truthfully, it's an expensive curse. The "Ideal" really falls apart when confronted with the reality...
Since 2011 all I wanted was to get off the merry-go-round of freelance work. You might think that having over nineteen years of web experience it would be easy to land a good gig, but I think this hurt me. In Baltimore where I live, depending on who I spoke to it was assumed I was either overqualified (aka expensive), or just too old. I had job leads that didn't manifest. It seemed like every recruiter was playing me (or just bad). I tried to work with a few start-up companies who really needed my level of expertise. For what ever reasons good permanent full time work kept alluding me so I kept contracting, wondering if I really am too old to work in tech.
The Effect of Healthcare.gov?
By October last year things started getting better. I started getting many more good leads for jobs. At the same time I had a pretty good contract position for a small DC based agency. I was earning money while working from home and I had the luxury to explore the growing job market for Senior Experience Designers. Could it be that the Healthcare.gov debacle suddenly made people realize that they needed people with experience working on their website? So many jobs were available I was able to weigh one against the other. Which company paid better? Which ones had a good corporate culture? The shortest commute? There were NO good leads in Baltimore except my contract gig, which was 100% work from home. Would they bring me on full time? Or would I have to commute to DC or further?
I'll Take the Commute, Thanks
By November I felt that I was being undermined on my contract. This ideal situation lost it's luster with the addition of a new "lead" designer who ignored me so thoroughly, I wondered why they wanted to use me in the first place. By Thanksgiving I realized that it probably wasn't the best thing for my career to be an easily dismissed sub-contractor, grateful for whatever crumbs of work that get thrown my way. I could do better.
It's a good thing I kept exploring jobs all last year, even though it was a massive time suck. When the right opportunity landed in my lap I was ready. Now I am happy to report the work is good and best of all it's great to feel like a grown-up.
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