There’s a high demand for user experience professionals these days – LinkedIn recently listed UX designer as one of the top 10 hot tech jobs in 2017. If you are interested in the discipline, but don’t have any practical experience as a UX designer, you may think you don’t have much of a chance of breaking into the profession. Let me correct that pessimistic opinion – while having a degree in design or human factors definitely sets you apart from other candidates, they key to get in the door is to have the skills and the right attitude.
Here’s some advice that I hope helps…
Take advantage of online courses
There’s some great courses on UX design that are very inexpensive – my favorites are offered through Lynda.com, and you can start a free trial to check out what courses are available without spending a dime. There you can learn the basics of UX design as well as training on associated areas, such as user research and cloud computing.
Learn the tools
When it comes to UX design, the more tools you have knowledge of and experience with, the better chances you have at getting a job using them. The core tools are Photoshop, Illustrator, Visio, Omnigraffle, Balsamic, Adobe Experience Design, and Axure RP. The more tools you know (and list on your skills), the better chance you will have at getting past the initial resume review.
The great thing is, almost all of these tools have free trials, so you can play with them before you buy them – and there are also training courses for these tools on Lynda .com.
Be interested in people
Empathy and an interest in people – how they work, and what they do – is a key skill that any designer who creates interfaces that users engage with needs to have. Being interested in what users need to know and accomplish allows you to create more effective experiences. It will also allow you to ask the right questions of potential or existing users to ensure you are able to illicit user requirements to inform your designs.
Use the latest tech
Being adept at technology allows you to be better at designing solutions that leverages newer technology. So get (or try out) the newest apps and devices, within reason (and budget). Upgrade your computer, tablet and phone. Get accustomed to the “design language” that all these devices reflect and use.
Have a modern design portfolio (and put it online)
Even if you have not been paid to design anything, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a portfolio. Identify a “problem space” or industry you are interested in, define a use case, and design something. It may take some time, it may take some iterations, but you can build a good portfolio with a little effort. Ask your friends and family give you feedback as you are working to make sure you do your best (and elicit real feedback, not hollow “it looks great” quotes).
You want to show you can do the work before you get the job… and once you have something good put it online. Use free hosting services like WordPress to upload your work and use URL shortening sites like Tiny URL to create a personalized link.
Have (and show) attention to detail
When you build your portfolio, make sure you show a lot of detail in your wireframes or design documents. The reason why is simple: the more details you display in this work, the more confidence hiring managers will have in your ability to do your job effectively. Developers need detailed design specifications to build applications and sites, and if you show you can provide this type of documentation it will increase your chances of getting a position.
Don’t be arrogant
Finally, don’t be cocky. You need to be confident in the natural or learned skills you have, but also need to work well with others and collaborate. Being (or coming off as) arrogant does you no favors, either when you are trying to win the new job or after you land a design position.
The world of UX design changes every day, because people change every day. Being a good designer means you need to constantly refresh your skills and understanding of users, and being an arrogant “know it all” will always get in the way of that. Always.