Coping with being benched
One of the worst feelings I have experienced in my UX career is being benched.
The experience is really awful!
In both cases it was because the agencies I was working for had no client or any project work available. So what sort of things happen to you when your benched?
Ideally, it wont last long
If your a consultant and you find yourself benched for a few days, or maybe a week then this is often ok. You work hard most of the time and those 60 hour weeks suddenly balance themselves out with some down time.
But the worry is what happens if your bench time becomes prolonged?
It becomes difficult to work
I find the bench analogy to be very similar to that of a benched footballer. Basically you’re never really on form and scoring goals for fun. You really are off your game.
Snail designed by Michael Wohlwend from the Noun Project
So I’ve found in the past that when someone asks me to do something for them I find it really difficult to get started, because my brain has become all soft and squishy from a period of long inactivity. To keep the football analogy going, its like a having a striker who scores goals for fun (known as being on form) and then someone who cannot connect with anything (known as going off form).
What to do if you are on the bench
There are a few things you can do, but it will really depend upon the state of the company and the opportunities that they can realistically provide you. You have to remember that the reason you are benched in the first place is because there are limited opportunities already and you may find that fixing the situation is difficult.
However you can try :
- Doing some internal work
- You could shadow people on other projects
- Do some reading or upgrade your skills with some training
- Tell people that you’re unhappy, as they may not be aware
The final straw
For me though, I’ve twice experienced two prolonged periods of being on the bench, and at some point I did the above but it went on and on, and I would see new consultants put onto projects and never on the bench.
In my case my bench time either lead to a forced redundancy because the agency in question had lost significant income due to having roughly 60% of its business with two major telecomm clients, or to me leaving at my own free will because of other opportunities.
Interview designed by Sarah Abraham from the Noun Project
Something I learnt from both experiences is that there is plenty of opportunity for us UX professionals in London. If your current employer is not giving you those opportunities for prolonged periods then that is unacceptable. I’ve found that now because I have a little bit of experience under my belt that it is actually very easy to get interviews, and if a prospective employer does ask why I have ever moved on from a job I have a reasonable explanation of why.
You only have to look at twitter, or any jobs board to see that us UX professionals are in demand in any industry sector.