User experience (UX) has grown significantly over the past 10 years, as people engross themselves with more and more immersive, experiential technologies. For businesses across a whole range of sectors, the race is on to seek innovative UX talent, that can add a valuable perspective to their organisation and really understand the behaviour of their customers.
There has never been a better time to start a career in UX. But where to start?
Nathan Young, Design & UX Specialist at Forward Role, has been speaking to Suzanne Irving about her journey and how she joined the BBC as a Junior UX Designer.
Hi Suzanne, thanks for chatting with me today! First up… how did you first get into UX?
Having worked my way up to Design Manager at Home Bargains, my role was edging closer toward product trafficking which wasn’t the direction I wanted to take my career in.
I was horrified when searching for my next move, that companies expected Graphic Designers to be able to design, animate and code - which is fine but worryingly the salary band was coming down despite them wanting more skills.
I took a bit of a stop-check to find out what I wanted to do and think about where I was going to take my career.
I knew tech/digital roles were not for me as I hate coding and get no joy from it. So after doing a LOT of research I discovered UX and instantly knew it was where I was going to take my career.
How did you know UX was for you?
I did a lot of research into salaries within different industries, job descriptions and opportunities for progression. I looked into companies who undertake UX practices and projects and read lots of news articles. This played a bit part in my decision... it wasn’t an overnight decision. After asking myself the question “How can my skillset be in demand for the next 20+ years?” it was soon apparent UX was the way to go!
Was there anything else that worked well for you?
I decided to undertake an online course with a company called ‘The Career Foundry’ where I was given a mentor who supported me along the way.
We had to produce a time management product and the course acted as a real client, changing demands, budgets and timeframes, allowing us to challenge and consult. This course gave me a great foundation to start my UX career with a great insight of the whole UX process from start to finish.
What can I do If I can’t afford to pay for a course?
RESEARCH! Look into the whole UX process, there is so much free information you can access online and in books.
So I know what UX is and that it’s the career for me, now what do I do?
When you think you have a good understanding of the UX process you need to turn your focus onto collecting case studies and putting them into an online UX portfolio.
If you don’t have any case studies to start with, go and look at a product or company and analyse their website. Think how can I make it better/why would I make it better and again… do your research!
Interviews are one of the best ways of building a portfolio. Every time I went to an interview I felt I was increasing my UX knowledge a little bit each time by building my portfolio and making myself better for the next one.
I was putting my all into design tasks so that I could add them into my portfolio and use as case studies to highlight my ability to work on live briefs.
I knew to be successful I had to keep chipping away at it.
What about networking events, are they worth it?
Absolutely! I met a lot of people when attending meet-ups who have now helped me achieve where I am today.
Depending on how comfortable you are, I would advise throwing yourself into any remotely relevant meet-ups that are available. It is quite daunting walking into a room full of strangers, but you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, that was my mentality.
Meet-ups are normally free and they provide you with industry information as well as a good space to meet people from all different backgrounds, companies, levels and skillsets - who can all offer you some sort of support.
I don’t really use LinkedIn but should I?
100%! LinkedIn is a great platform for you to interact with senior people within the UX industry.
If you connect with hiring managers, senior designers, heads of departments etc. your feed will consist of relevant people sharing relevant information for you to use.
I think it’s worth sending very open and honest messages explaining that you are new to UX and asking for help. It’s nice to be nice. More than likely you will be pointed in the right direction or given some advice, but more importantly you are getting your name out there for future opportunities.
Don’t be disheartened if someone doesn’t reply, people are busy and some people have LinkedIn but hardly use it.
What would your last piece of advice be?
Getting into the UX industry can be a challenge but keep chipping away at it and invest time into your own brand.
Make sure you do enough research so that you know what you are getting yourself into and make sure you pick your path wisely.
Don’t do it alone, there are people out there who would relish the opportunity to help someone along their journey, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Preparation is key and interviews shouldn’t be seen as scary, more as a stepping stone into a very rewarding industry.
Nathan Young is a design and UX specialist at Forward Role Recruitment. For more help on starting your User Experience career or to get more information on some of the roles available at the moment call Nathan on 07824 382 040 or email email@example.com.