Your UX career might be in jeopardy without you taking notice. You might be working on a project you feel strongly about, with the best teammates ever, have the most generous snack bar, and the most beautiful commute through a botanical garden where you’re greeted by doe-eyed squirrels munching on their morning snack.
In short, you are happy with work. But be cautious that these feel-good perks might prevent you from advancing in your career. And, unless you can guarantee 100% job security, your career should take precedence. Therefore never settle. Stay focused and nimble. And if you encounter any of the following situations, you should update your portfolio and get ready to run for higher grounds!
No regular releases
When there is no release schedule or pending releases are being pushed back, make a run for it! There can be various reasons why this is happening — some more closely related to your position than others — , but don’t beat yourself up about the why’s. Don’t stay hopeful and get caught up in the development of something that might never be. Instead, find yourself a place that delivers and builds upon that experience.
Does not revisit completed projects
You might ship one project/feature after another but never go back to review and analyze what you’ve done. You must revisit, or you have to run! Learn from the experiences, improve, and adapt. Don’t be scared; learning from your past work is a crucial process in understanding what makes great UX. You’ll get a better perception of what works and what doesn’t by analyzing your work.
Doesn’t do user feedback
If your company relies only on analytics and in-house/coworker user testing, get out of there! Data is not people. Data satisfies the business end. Data is up to interpretation. And don’t just read reviews on the app store either. You have to learn how to get to know your audience. Ask specific questions. Understand how they manage your product, what they miss, how it makes them feel on an emotional level. Only through that interaction, you’ll become an empathetic UX designer.
Sits on old technology
We all know it’s a fast-moving, fast-developing industry out there. But alas, some projects will never come close to cutting-edge technology, be it because the userbase sets dated requirements or management can’t make it work. If either is happening, get up and go! Now I’m not saying every job will be operating at the forefront of technology, that’s just unrealistic. But you should at least have a chance to stay up to date and have a roadmap that will allow for some new stuff developed within the near future.
Skips steps of the design process
Now, not every company has the luxury of hiring a team to work exclusively on one feature for a whole year. Some need a much faster turnaround with a much smaller headcount. Shortcuts are taken, wireframing or user testing is skipped. But if your company never gives you time or resources to go through the entire design process — even when you are developing a major feature — , then you shouldn’t give them your time. If you can’t hone those skills occasionally, your portfolio will be the Emmentaler cheese of UX.
Does everything in secret
Your projects are your career. If you need to keep signing NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreement) and can’t show off what you did without risking a penalty, rip that paper apart in the most dramatic way possible and run! Your company needs to understand that you have to be able to display your work to a certain degree. If they won’t budge and not even let you show off a modified version of what you pour your heart and soul into, you should reconsider your position. Your career is much brighter if you can work in a transparent community. Share, learn, and love!
Doesn’t cultivate positive feedback rounds
Pay attention to how feedback is given and received among the team. In a nurturing environment, feedback is natural and respectful. It helps you see different points of view and enables you to grow. Is the feedback neither given nor received or even met with resentment, then fake a distraction and run!
Copies too much
When your project keeps “borrowing” ideas from competitors, or you’re just reshaping the ideas that were already built on a different platform, get ready, set, run! There’s nothing wrong with “borrowing” once in a while; you can learn a great deal from others, by seeing what worked for them. But you cannot grow unless you step out of that comfort zone. You need to drive boldness; you need to foster innovation. Believe in yourself and nourish your creativity.
All is not lost
Of course, instead of running right away, you might step up and try to build an understanding of UX within your company. Show your teammates the value of UX. Demonstrate how proper UX practices can improve users’ confidence as well as the business overall. Become a champion for change and create higher expectations for your design output. But make sure to have everyone be part of the conversation.
If you find there is a willingness to adapt, you might keep your sneakers stored under your desk and assist your company in achieving the UX maturity that helps elevate the business and yourself.
Of course, if your job lacks a process, you can always make up for it with side projects or advanced training — though those are luxuries not everyone can afford. But you can sell yourself a whole lot better if you can present a thorough case study on projects you did on your day job.
So, if you care about where you want to end up careerwise, do not let the wrong incentives guide your path. Don’t get too comfortable; your professional growth is the most important asset you’ll be taking with you. Job security no longer exists in this day and age. Find yourself a place that allows you to do your best work.
Thanks for reading. Do add your thoughts and experiences on this in the comments. If you have any other points that fit this list, let me know, and I’ll include them with a shoutout.