Design Career: Getting experience as a junior UX designer

Senior, senior, senior…

Two years ago, I started with the fantasy I would immediately get a job on a design team under a UX team lead. I thought I would learn while being coached and mentored on the job. After a few rounds of job applications, I learned a hard truth: junior design jobs are almost nonexistent.

It goes back to the age old: “You need a job to get experience. You need experience to get a job.”

Even the unpaid internships while in school don’t seem to help much. In addition, most new UX designers I’ve met (including myself) are transitioning from other fields. I’ve found there’s only one useful strategy: Fake it until you make it.

At the beginning of my UX transition, I was hired at a startup for very little pay to do web design. During my interview, I told them I also wanted to do this new thing I heard about called UX design, even if that meant working extra hours. At this point, I had no experience with UX. I didn’t even know what a persona was.

One book and one class changed my entire career. I started reading About Face while also taking David Travis’ class through Udemy. The combination of the two gave me the guidance I thought I was going to get through a design team. I muddled my way through the next six months, trying everything I was learning.

That experience gave me enough for my next round of interviews, and I was hired at a more established startup. Although I was being passed up for those jobs with the design teams, this new startup helped in a different way. I now worked directly with another team member who reviewed my designs. One step closer…

Yet again, I’m in a position where I’m applying to jobs with only a little experience. However, I no longer view gaining experience as something that should be given to me, but taken for myself. It is your own responsibility to push yourself out of the junior designer level to be useful for companies that need mid-level designers.

And now, back to job applications.

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