First and foremost, welcome and thanks for stopping by! Since this is my very first blog post, you can probably imagine how thrilled I am at that very moment. But without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic 👇
The cool thing about being a UX designer is that you get to work on so many creative and life-changing projects and once you got your foot in the door, you are exposed to countless opportunities. Besides, this industry is also known for remote work and well-paid salaries.
If you are new to this field, don’t worry, you can learn to become a UX designer even though you didn’t go to school for it…neither have I. All you need is patience, the right mindset, access to industry-leading tools which we will cover later on, a portfolio and a huge learning commitment. Regardless of your previous academic or work background, getting started on a new journey is sometimes daunting, and landing your first job in UX can be difficult…trust me, I’ve been there! One thing I knew right away is that I have a deep passion for crafting meaningful experiences that shape how we interact with technology. If this interests you too, read on!
In the following, I have summarised five practical steps to help with landing your first UX role…
#1 Research the industry
Initially, I would suggest that you dive a bit deeper into the matter to get a more comprehensive understanding of UX design. While researching, ask yourself the following questions:
▪ Why do you want to start a career in this field?
▪ What are the pros and what may be the cons?
▪ Where would you like to place your main focus on?
▪ Can you see yourself thrive in this industry?
▪ What is your ultimate career goal?
Moreover, I would recommend to listen to podcasts like UI breakfast or Designing Yourself and also watch interviews of UX leaders such as Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen, Farai Madzima, Cosimo Scarpa and Tiffany Eaton…just to mention a few. These design thinkers share valuable knowledge about their roles, current and future trends and so much more. In addition to that you could also contact people on LinkedIn who work in the UX industry and kindly ask them if they could share their work experience with you. That’s what I actually did. In my early days, I messaged a few Freelance UX/UI designers and was surprised that almost all of them got back to me. I found that this was really helping me in gaining more insights.
#2 Obtain industry-specific knowledge
Let’s continue with how you can go about obtaining the knowledge needed for your new career path. Unfortunately, you will have to learn the UX basics and there is no way around it. I know from experience that it will be quite overwhelming in the beginning but I believe in your ability…you can do this!
Basically, you have two options to start with…
I. Enroll in a program
If you haven’t studied anything related to user experience design and you are absolutely unsure where to begin on your own, then a structured course might be a good option for you. Especially online courses are in high demand these days as they allow great flexibility for students. Amongst the highest rated online courses is the UX Design Program offered by CareerFoundry. This legit course requires a lot of self-discipline to finish on time but feeds you with everything that’s relevant to land a job. Speaking of jobs…this program even advertises a job guarantee upon graduation. This sounds great, but it also comes with a price. Luckily, CareerFoundry offers payment plans to students. Alternatively, you can also obtain your Google UX Design Certificate through Coursera. This option is less costly and students can go at their own pace. Of course there are many more courses available, so if neither of them is for you, you may also want to check out XDi, usability.de and the UX Design Institute.
Side note: If you reside in Germany and you consider taking a course to further your education which may be needed to land a job, then you can also contact the Agentur für Arbeit to see if you may qualify for a so called Bildungsgutschein.
II. Teach yourself
Teaching yourself is by far the cheapest yet most headache-causing option. Nonetheless, I was committed to teach myself using resources like YouTube videos, blog posts and a bunch of books. Yes, it’s cool that you can determine your own pace and study where and whenever you feel like it…but keep in mind that most of the time you stumble around in the dark. The biggest challenge herby is that you often don’t know what it is that you don’t know yet. In this case, you could also consider to enroll in a local college class without attending it just to get access to the syllabus. Just for some guidance.
In reality, many amongst the top UX designers are self-taught. Did you know that? Essentially, learning is a process and you need to give it time but with enough discipline, self-motivation and patience, you surely will master it too.
#3 Become proficient in UX softwares
You already came such a long way, so let’s start mastering softwares you will be working with in this field next. It’s always a plus to be ahead of the game. So the more proficient you are with these kind of tools, the more attractive you are for recruiters and the easier will be your onboarding.
When starting out as a UX designer, it’s — in my opinion — good to be a generalist with a broad understanding of the different disciplines (e.g. visual design, research, interaction design, engineer) within UX. This way you stay versatile because your role may vary depending on the size of a company. You still can specialise yourself in one particular area later on. But generally speaking, as a UX designer you will have to conduct user research, create personas, define user stories, design wireframes all the way to interactive prototypes and test your concepts and ideas. By doing so, you will be working with industry-leading softwares such as XD, Figma, Sketch, ProtoPie, Miro, Useberry, DoveTail and many more. Another great resource I can recommend you is UX Tools. There you will get a great overview on the most trending and highest-rated tools as of today.
#4 Build your first portfolio
Take a short deep breath, pat yourself on your shoulder and let us continue. At this point, you made a commitment to become a UX designer, learned the basics and mastered relevant tools, yet one more thing is missing. Exactly, your portfolio! Envision your portfolio to be your digital resume. This is what recruiters and hiring managers will look at prior to inviting you to a first round interview.
What to include in your portfolio:
As people tend to be curious, it’s nice to read a little bit about who’s behind the portfolio. Simply introduce yourself in a few sentences. You can write about your design journey, academic or work background, your passion for UX and even mention your favorite hobbies. Don’t forget to include contact details such as email, social media and phone number (if you feel comfortable sharing it) as well. This was easy, wasn’t it?
Next, we come to the more time-consuming and crucial part of your portfolio…your projects. In this section you should display recent projects you have worked on. If you haven’t worked on any real projects yet, then you may want to think about a fictive one instead. For this, you can think about apps that you frequently use and maybe there is one in particular where you see great potential for optimising a current or adding a new feature, and simply write a case study about it. Make sure to write down your process from start to finish. You can integrate anything from initial sketches on paper to entire prototypes. Try to keep the wording as easy as possible. I would also propose to mention your most crucial project learnings at the end of the case study. Ask yourself questions like: What went well? What could I have done better? Did I learn anything new during this process? How would I approach this project if I had to do it all over again? Try to go into detail without beating around the bush. As one of my professors always said: keep it short, sharp and shiny.
Where to build your portfolio:
We covered quite some ground and you are getting closer to the finish line. Now you simply need to figure out where you would like to exhibit your work. You have several alternatives. One of them is Behance which is owned by Adobe. Simply create a free account (or link your already existing Adobe account you have subscribed to) and you are ready to showcase and discover creative work. Alternatively, Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers can also host their portfolio on Adobe Portfolio for free. You can also display your work on both platforms for more exposure — that’s what I do. Once you have built your portfolio through Adobe, you can conveniently publish individual projects also on Behance with one single click. How cool!
Should neither of the platforms catches your interest or matches your expectations, you can also consider Dribbble which is similar to Behance. Unfortunately, these platforms are somehow limited when it comes to the layout, features, animations and micro interactions. For greater flexibility and a more intuitive user experience, you can also build your portfolio website from scratch with website builders such as Squarespace, Editor X or Webflow — no coding required! When choosing to go this route, you should calculate in more time and probably start sketching out your vision of your website first before you start implementing it.
#5 Apply for open UX positions
Finally, search for open positions on platforms like LinkedIn, Xing, Indeed or even Behance. You can also turn on job notifications to stay well informed at all times. Furthermore, ensure that your portfolio link is always visible in your contact section so recruiters and hiring managers can access it immediately.
Two more things: 1) To increase the chances of your profile being discovered by recruiters, use industry related hashtags such as #uxdesign in your profile section. 2) Make recruiters aware that you are open to work. This is another handy feature on LinkedIn. You can select what industry and positions you are particularly interested in.
That’s it. Now the waiting game is on. As soon as your first interview invitations appear in your inbox, it’s time to shine. You got this! I know it sounds easier than it is, but try to be yourself during an interview. Yes your technical know-how is paramount and will be questioned but giving a glimpse of your personality is also crucial.
If you won’t land a job after your first, second or third interview, don’t be too disappointed. Rather look at it as a great learning experience; find out where you can improve and move on to the next interview. In general, interviews are a great way to practice how you can sell yourself and your skills to a company. Over time you will get better and better until you eventually land the job you were looking for. As a reference, I only started to receive invitations to follow-up rounds after my fourth interview. In total, it took over three months until I was starting to see the first offers rolling in. So like many others, I know how frustrating and long-lasting this process can be.
Lastly, I wanted to share a list of commonly asked questions during a UX interview. It will help you to be prepared even better:
▪ How would you describe user experience design to your family and friends?
▪ What is the difference between UX and UI design?
▪ Why do you want to work in the UX industry?
▪ Do you have an example of a good as well as bad user experience?
▪ What UX framework(s) do you follow when working on a project and why?
▪ Can you walk us through one of your case studies?
▪ What are your strengths and where do you think you still can improve on?
▪ What are your short- and long-term goals as a UX designer?
▪ Do you consider yourself a generalist, specialist or T-shaped designer?
▪ How do you propose new concepts and ideas to stakeholders?
▪ How do you react to criticism?
▪ When you are facing a creative blockade, where do you seek inspiration from?
▪ What was your most satisfying, frustrating moment respectively?
▪ In what tools are you mostly proficient in? Why using exactly those?
▪ Where do you see the future of UX heading towards? (hint: AR or VR maybe?)
▪ Do you follow current UX / UI trends? If so, please name them.
▪ Are you familiar with the term the Next Billion Users? If so, please explain.
▪ What are the biggest challenges the Next Billion Users are facing?
▪ When should you conduct quantitative and when qualitative usability testing?
▪ What do you understand under the term universal design?
▪ What is equity-focused design and why is it crucial?
▪ If you take a quick look at our app, website etc., what would you improve?
▪ What are your USPs and why should we hire you?
As a matter of fact, I was confronted with a lot of these questions during my interviews. And no, I wasn’t able to answer all of them perfectly and that’s okay. As long as you show your potential new employer that you are eager and willing to learn and grow in your area, you will be just fine.
Puh, that was quite a lot we covered today. But you made it to the end and I am really hoping that some of the information was helpful to you. You are welcome to share my article with fellows and save it to your reading list so you can come back to it at any time. With this being said, I wish you all the best on your new career path. Stay sharp, be patient and just have fun.
Til next time 👋🏻