“Thinking Like a Designer: Strategies to Shine in Today’s Job Hunt”: Olivia Ouyang, Product Designer at Finix (Video + Transcript)

December 27, 2023

No one is immune to layoffs, so here’s advice from a jobseeker who recently found a job in this economy. In this ELEVATE session, Olivia Ouyang (Product Designer at Finix) will share her 5-step design process for crafting a job search plan tailored to your individual skills and aspirations. Attendees will learn how to recognize the transferable skills acquired from previous experiences and match with the current market needs like the AI trends, and how to fight back imposter syndrome and burnouts during the job searching process.


Olivia Ouyang discusses how to leverage design thinking in the job search process. She shares her personal experience of being laid off and finding a new job within two months using this strategy. Design thinking is a five-step process that involves understanding the goal, identifying the problem, being creative in finding solutions, testing those solutions, and iterating as necessary.


Olivia Ouyang: Sorry about the long description about myself. Actually, this is highly relevant to what I’m going to share today, about how, not just for any designer, actually for anyone who is job searching, right now, how we can actually leverage some of the strategy I will share next, to help you to land on your next job that you really want.

Hi, again. I’m Olivia, and as you probably can catch some of the keywords that inform intro, in the past four or five years, I have a course of different startup experience, various sizes and industry. And a lot of people ask me, “Oh. How can you just jump from, for instance, a consumer banking app, selling to an enterprise global trade, whatever, logistic kind of platform? How do you make that connection, and make the dots?” And this is what exactly I’m going to talk to you about.

Unfortunately this also, I went through that personally this year in January. I got sudden layoff, and the situation I face because of some of the visa situation that I have to really quickly figure out. This has ended up, I landed out my current job within two months, also leveraging the strategy and process I will introduce next.

With this talk, I’m going to introduce the process. It is called, Design Thinking. I am sure a lot of people, especially in tech, are pretty familiar with this. But how do you actually apply this in terms of a job searching progress, is something we’ll be interested. And after all of that, I will want to share some personal perspective in terms of, if you unfortunately have to go through the layoff process, and have a stressful timeline, how do you manage the burnout, and some tips that really can help you to go through this process.

Next, I’m going to introduce this amazing problem-solving process called Design Thinking, again. It’s a five-step process. Basically, I would say, not only I use it every day in my work, and also I use it on my daily life as well. For anything, small and big, you really can just start it from understanding, “Okay. What is the goal here? What do I really want to achieve?”

And next up, rather than jumping to a solution right away, you want to understand, “Okay. What is the problem here? I can’t get it.” And trying to understand much of the context and constraints and everything. And then, you can start being really creative, saying like, “Oh. With all of the resources I have, with all the tools I can access, what are some of the way I can potentially try to get my goal?” And then, with a bunch of the lists, and then, you can just try out and test. If you are an engineer, I guess a more familiar kind of way to think it is, whenever you are writing a code snippet, you’re definitely going to test it, and then get the compile results, so that you will know what to try next. It’s basically like that.

In terms of for a real job searching process, first off, you want to understand, “Okay. What’s your job searching goal?” The key message I want to emphasize here, the job searching is not a one-way problem. It’s actually a two-way communication, which is a match and fit process. When you’re being evaluating as a candidate, you are also need to evaluating the other party as a company. It’s important to understand, what do you really want, as a job seeker, and then, think about what you can offer to actually really stand out from other candidates.

With that in mind, you can set a goal. Remember, we need to understand the goal first. You can make a list of the next job you want to land on. For instance, I wanted to go smaller or bigger company, specific industry you’re interested in, team culture, the management style, so on. Everyone has a different priority list in this goal list. And you can always adjust as you go through this looping process, and evaluate as you go in the job searching process.

Next step is actually to think about, “Okay. This is what you want, and what I can offer.” This is not just simply list every single thing you have ever done in the resume, but really, really think through what that experience mean in terms of the skillset. You can quickly match that up to any job description you are seeing on the job posting. That will make the hiring manager easily to understand why you are a good fit.

Talk about my own experience, because I have an engineering background. Before, when I was searching for the new grad first design role ever, I need to tell a really good story in terms of how my engineering background will actually help me design. I highlighted, strong logical thinking skills, and my capabilities of communicate really effectively with other engineers because of my background.

Similarly, when I’m looking for the other job in enterprise space, and no experience in designing for platforms and so on, a really complex domain, I actually highlighted my startup experience, and how I deal with all of the ambiguity in such a small team, to show the potential I can deal with unknown spaces, even though this is a really complex and unknown space I have never worked in the past.

Next up is to define. We talk about your needs, and also what you can offer. Next step is the reality check, really, to understand, what is the job market really like? This is an example that I use personally to evaluate myself as a designer. And this is actually coming from one of the company I really, really like. They really being transparent and show this metric of skill metric on their website, and show, “Oh. This is what we use to evaluate everyone in the team, and we are looking for someone who can compensate all of the skillset to this team.” I do this to myself to evaluate how good match I am in terms of to the team, if I really, really like to join it.

And next up is, you can do another exercise is to make another list that, “There’s some of my strong suit of the skills, and also some of the skills I want to develop.” And also, what is your career interest, and things you want to try out next. And the more you can find a match in this inner cycle between you and the target job post, the better fit for both of you, of course. This is a good exercise you can be evaluating and iterating.

From Step Three to Step Five is really a loop. You need to constantly adjust, and then, take that feedback, and then, tweak a little bit, and try the other thing throughout the entire process. And it works through the entire job searching funnel, as well. I can give you some example from really beginning.

First job, you just starting to say, “Hey, I wanted to land an internship or a new grad job, or my next role in a certain timeline.” And you need to plan it backward, to say, “Okay. I initially think maybe I need a couple of two weeks for my portfolio, my resume, and then some times for technical, and then, some times prepare behavior, so you have that rough timeline.

You can idea it in terms of, what are some way I can be creative to plan that and evaluate that. And then, later on, when you put into practice, to build all of the things, you will know the gap between what you thought you could do versus the reality. In recording your process, you can come back, and then tweak it, and then to make a more realistic timeline for yourself.

And same thing apply when you get stuck in a particular interview round, you can do that, too, for saying, “Oh. I have my draft, and then I start sending out a lot of application, but why I’m not getting any screening calls?” You might want you to think of, “Okay. There are some other things I probably can try other than direct applications. I might also want you to be really active on the social media, LinkedIn,” and then share about your experience, your skills to catch more potential hiring manager’s eyes.

And when you’re doing a referral, is there some unique message you can help to try and send it out? And also, linking outreach, what are some different message you can play around that will help you to get more feedback, or some private talent pool that you can join, and reach out to those VC funds, talent pool share, across the portfolio of the companies. Those are some of the creative way that could get you more exposure. I’m just making example here.

Of course, you can use the result of, are you getting more calls, and what is the feedback for the outreach, to evaluate how effective different things you have tried. And the other example, similar to the last one is, for example, you are getting stuck with the technical interview. Other than just waiting for the next opportunity, of course, you can try, “I can probably just record my own session if no one’s practicing with me.” You’ll be amazed by how many thing you can cut that you get stuck, just by recording yourself. And also, you can help others to prepare interviews and then learn from how other peoples respond. Anything they can improve and then reflect upon on yourself, as well.

Of course, depends on the actual interview, and even mock interview feedback, you can quickly iterate on, what I can improve next. And along this way, actually because AI tools are so blooming right now, I remember when I got laid off personally, almost a year ago, I’m basically still using the old methods of writing everything on pen and paper, and putting all together things in the Figma tool, which is the public tool designer all use, and of course a lot of documentation, and all of that. But today, really with ChatGPT, and a lot of other AI tool that can help you mock interview, I will not say they replace your own role as a job seeker to make your own material, but they can really help you quickly to put up the first draft, so you don’t get stuck in the blank canvas struggle, I would say. But at the bottom line here, job searching problem is still finding the right match. This tool doesn’t change the fact that this is the problem you’re going to solve.

And lastly, I want to share some of my personal notes. And this is more callback to early on, when I’m saying I have some visa sponsorship needs, and also with a tight timeline. I would say, transparency really goes a long way. I personally learned the hard lesson. If you ever invest in particular situation where you have a clear bottom line about, “I need specific support. I really can’t go onsite every day. And I have a compensation bar,” or whatever thing, where you, in a really later station interview, you need a deadline, and then close it very fast, and so on. Really, really be transparent on the first call with HR. Because if you are being transparent, then they can help you the best as they could, and also it save both of you time. It’s much, much way better than you’re at a later offer stage, and then figure out there is something you can’t agree on in the very beginning, but you already both spend that much time to get through everything. That will be a really sad and unfortunate situation.

Next up is, of course. Talking about burnout. I also personally have that as well. And you probably often hear about people saying, “How can you give constructive feedback?” And thinking the other way around, how you can take feedback constructively. What that mean is, for saying you failed the interview today, of course you will feel sad, everyone will, no one will like the feeling like, “Oh. I just failed.” But you can take a while and accept the fact that, “I’m really sad.” Acknowledge that, “I didn’t do well today. But okay, what have I learned? Is that because I’m not prepared enough, so that I learned from today’s lesson that I needed to spend more time prepping certain problems before going to the next interview. Or I shouldn’t probably rush to schedule that interview that early, if I’m not prepared. Because it’s wasting both of our time as well.

But if really the feedback that the other party give you is, “Oh. We are really looking for the candidate that have specific skills or experience,” that you wouldn’t be able possibly get in such a short time, that is not a good match. Or if they just tell you, “Sorry. We just filled it with another candidate, upfront.” That again, is not your fault. You really need to understand what is actually the reason behind it, and then turn it to a really actionable item for you to move on, and really use every failure as a stepping stone for your next interview, and eventually get you to success.

To close that note here, I talk about how you can use design thinking, which mean you can think like a designer even you’re not, to trying to problem solve every single little thing during your job searching process, to really customize that to your own goals and needs. And also for tips here, really trying to be smart, leveraging a lot of tools to help you get started faster, so you don’t have reason or excuse anymore to procrastinate. Also, I talk about how you should be really transparent with the hiring managers, so that both parties can move on really smoothly. And lastly, how to take the failure and feedback constructively, so you can always take away and learn from every single interviews that you have, so you can perform better, and know yourself better next time.

And this is all my session, today. I know we don’t have time for Q&A session, but if you do have any follow-up question for me, you want to chat with me more, feel free to contact me here with my contact info. But with that, thank you everyone for attending my session. Really happy to be here. Thank you.

Amanda Beaty: Thank you so much, Olivia.

Thanks to everybody for attending. And we will see you in the next session.

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