Job hunting is hard. We’ve all been there, knowing where you want to go but you’re not sure what route to take. You’re putting yourself on the line whilst navigating through rejection and disappointment. Although the UX industry is booming and the demand for designers and researchers is at an all-time high, it’s still difficult to get an entry-level UX position when you don’t have enough experience. Just remember, when trying to break into a new industry there’s no set path for landing your first UX job. But, with our advice, we can set you on your way.
1. Research the UX Industry and define your goals
UX is a broad and growing industry. There’s UX design and UX research, product design and UI design, among many, many others. When making any life-changing decisions like starting a new career, it’s always best to start with research. Find out about the day-to-day tasks, what the lifestyle is like, how promising is the career path, whether the core elements of the industry align with the core elements of your personality, and lastly, ask yourself this question: Do you have any skills from previous experience that can be transferred to the UX field?
2. Learn and Develop your skills
The first thing you need to do before running into the UX industry is to learn to walk. The industry is constantly evolving as technology advances and the optimal user experience adapts, but you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to slack on your knowledge. As recruiters who work closely with UX designers, we often receive calls asking for advice on how to break into the UX industry and the most common question we receive from junior applicants is “Do I need a university degree in UX to get a job”. The answer to that question will, of course, vary from company to company, but in our experience, a degree is not the be all and end all of getting a job.
If you don’t have a UX degree and don’t have the time or funds, there are several other ways to learn and develop your skills, such as self-learning with eCourses or even attending boot camps or day courses in your local area. Training courses can help you learn the theory behind UX practices, and make learning UX more straightforward. Not just that, but courses provide you with a mentor who can provide you with feedback and critiques, helping you develop and hone your skills. Just remember, A certificate is not going to get you a job, but it’s not going to hinder your chances either.
3. Master UX tools
The UX industry is constantly being reshaped as new technologies and methodologies are introduced. Staying on top of trends will help set you apart from your competitors. According to research conducted by Adobe, 42% of hiring managers think that ‘knowledge of UX tools’ is the most important skill they look for in UX designers. Software like Sketch and Adobe XD are usually good starting points and they’re easy to learn, but with an overwhelming selection of tools available for UX’ers, it’s best to research what tools are not only preferred by employers but are also relatively cheap to start out with.
4. Build relationships and networks
We now live in a world where we can have the answer to pretty much, every question at the touch of a button. For this reason, we tend to forget how resourceful and knowledgeable our friends and connections are. It’s important in any career to establish a network of contacts, but it’s absolutely essential when first starting your in the UX industry. Start by reaching out to people you may have lost contact with either in person or through social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter. All social media channels have groups dedicated to networking so make sure to branch out and get involved in the UX community. Be genuine and curious when approaching people, you want to make lasting relationships, not just use and abuse them to get your first job.
Another great way to build up your knowledge and increase your chances of landing your first UX role is to find a mentor who can provide insights into managing your career. A mentor is someone with more work experience and an in-depth level of knowledge of the UX industry that is there to coach you. However, you must be careful not to demand too much of someone’s time! Also, build relationships with trusted recruiters who are specialists rather than generalists. Although they may not have active and live vacancies in abundance for juniors, a recruitment consultant immersed in the market can give you excellent insight and great portfolio advice, as well as connect you with industry experts.
5. Events & Hackathons
Extending from our fourth point, events and meet-ups are a great place to introduce yourself to like-minded people and not only build relationships with industry experts but also learn from their experience. UX events and conferences are also a great way to learn about the ever-growing UX industry. The UX conference coming up in September 2018, is great for learning about new, up and coming topics and trends. Similarly, attending a hackathon is a great way to improve your critical thinking skills whilst also building up your portfolio.
6. Side projects and freelance
If you’re in a full-time job and don’t want to risk losing your daily income, we recommend investing some of your personal time and start side projects outside of work hours. This can be a time-consuming process as you’ll want to take your time so you don’t want to overload yourself and suffer from burnout. Limit yourself to a few hours a day and you’ll be a-ok!
If you’re struggling to decide what your side project can be, first start by redesigning your favourite website or app or even helping a friend in need by designing a website from scratch. Once you get into the swing of things, you can begin to apply your UX design principles to your own ideas and projects, but be wary as there won’t be someone readily available to give you feedback.
7. Create a blog
It can be a daunting task when starting out, but the ability to write well about UX design is a huge bonus for any UX designers. Blogging can demonstrate that you’re both knowledgeable and interested in the field. Blogging is especially important if you’re a novice designer since it shows potential employers that you understand different aspects and concepts of UX even if your portfolio has a limited number of projects. It also allows you to stay engaged in the online design community. Link the blog that can be linked to all of your social media platforms to make yourself more known in the market.
Internships are a fantastic way to gain some commercial experience and present yourself to prospect companies. Although a large majority of internships are unpaid or for a better word, underpaid, it’s a great opportunity to learn experience and grow.
9. Create your portfolio
Having a portfolio is a necessary part of getting a UX design job. Your portfolio should speak to your design processes, understanding of UX principles and sense of visual design. If you’re struggling to get started with your portfolio, look at what’s on the market with your competitors and what the top dogs are doing. Pay attention to how they’ve laid out their design process and how they’re solving problems and telling stories. Ask your mentor or even a recruiter to review your portfolio. Listen to their feedback and incorporate it into your designs.
Once it’s ready, present your portfolio online. Create your own website and use social media channels like Behance to showcase your work to other designers. We know, it’s a monumental task, but it’s an investment into your future and will help you get the job you love.
10. Find and apply for jobs
Once you feel confident in your knowledge, have your blog and portfolio ready, it’s time to start applying for roles! The Application process can be a long and daunting process but for UX designer roles, the process is relatively straightforward and easy. When applying to design roles, you are mainly critiqued on your portfolio (but having a great CV also helps!), so make sure your portfolio is in tip-top condition. When interviewing, remember that UX is all about solving problems and hiring managers will want to test your skills. Find a way to demonstrate your newly learned skills into real life either in your portfolio or the interview itself. Ask for feedback from the companies that interviewed you, explaining how you value feedback and want to grow from the interview experience.
You’ll get a lot of rejections, and you’ll probably be ghosted by companies, but don’t give up hope! Fate is the optimal combination of choice and chance.
As you can see, becoming a UX design self-starter isn’t a simple thing to do. But no one said that starting a new career would be easy. If you put time into each of these 10 steps, then you’re well on your way to a successful career as a UX designer.
If you’re interested in attending UX courses, then you’ll be pleased to hear RedCat Digital have partnered with School of UX, to offer YOU a special £110 off their 4-Day UX course! Not only that, but we also have £10 off One-To-One Mentoring with a professional UX designer who can offer you advice on careers in the UX industry, recommendations of design books, tools and techniques, a walkthrough of the UX and UI Design process and much much more! Use our promo code: REDCAT18
4-Day UX Course: https://bit.ly/2KquI1O
One-To-One Mentoring: https://bit.ly/2KqBYut
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If you’re looking for roles in the UX industry, then give our UX/UI team a call on 02072657800 as we have a variety of roles available.