“Square Peg. Round Hole.” A Career Talk for Liberal Artists

Justin McElderry

March 4, 2020

According to a 2019 study conducted by Freelancers Union, 57 million Americans (35% of the workforce) were active as freelancers in 2019. And, by 2029, this number is anticipated to rise well above 50% of the U.S. workforce.

Regardless of our opinion on the statistical nuance, or the viability of freelancing, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that freelancing teaches an invaluable skill: How to understand what you bring to the table and what the market is willing to pay.

–– So, why is any of this important for “UXers”?

It’s important because we can finally celebrate our wide-range of multidisciplinary skills and get paid while doing it. However, the piles of evidence alone aren’t enough to give us clear minds and open hearts. In fact, self-talk and frustrations remain the same.

Them: “So, what do you do?”
…Me: “Everything and nothing at the same time.”
“I hate feeling boxed into one particular type of design.”
“I don’t want to be a jack of all trades while being a master of none.”
“I’m doing alright in my career, but I can see the glass ceiling coming.”
“More money is always nice, but at a certain point, I want fulfillment.”
“All these job descriptions want me to be 25 years old with 25 years of experience.”

If any of these sound familiar, then this talk is for you. Join us in hearing from Justin McElderry – director of Educated Guess – an education hub and design agency focused on developing a perspective on these sorts of issues.

–– What can you expect from the talk?

Specifically, Justin will share the strategies and tactics he’s used to organize and voice his own unique value prop. These strategies are the pre-work before you even begin thinking about updating your portfolio or LinkedIn. Some of the topics covered within the framework include, but aren’t limited to:
• Understanding how to assess career opportunities
• Coping with information overload
• Building a personal learning plan that lasts
• Building a portfolio that best represents you
• Moving beyond “either / or” decision making

By the end of the talk, our hope is that you leave with an added sense of clarity, order, and inspiration needed to tackle these sorts of frustrations head-on.

–– About Our Speaker

Justin McElderry is a multidisciplinary designer with a background that includes product strategy, art direction, and sound design. Beginning his creative career in the music industry, Justin has since served as a strategic designer at Deloitte, head of content strategy for a YCombinator startup, and founder of Educated Guess.

Beginning as just a podcast roughly 18 months ago, Educated Guess has since expanded to partner with Adidas, Soho House, BeSocial, and A Ma Maniere to build pop-up design schools across the Atlanta area.

For 2020 and beyond, Justin is focused on growing his own design studio and expanding the footprint of Educated Guess regionally and nationally. When not focused on these two things, Justin’s “hobbies” include: working on new music, playing golf, watching sports, and reading.