How to land your first UX role
In this article, I'll share my personal advice for those struggling to land their first UX role. Landing your first role as a designer can be challenging, but in this article I’ll give you the best advice I can about how to kick-start your UX design career.
I’ve made a list of five essential areas that are invaluable to propelling your career forwards.
Get out there
If you take nothing else away from this article, don’t ignore this: you need to be the first name on someone’s brain list when an opportunity explodes. And there are specific ways to worm your way into people’s brains.
First things first, get on board with the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) and Interaction Design Association (IxDA). They’ve got countless resources, reading materials and up-to-date job listings on their sites.
They also hold regular careers events, which you need to be at. I’ve employed people directly from those events. There are countless events like this throughout the year, so make sure you identify them. Try Eventbrite and Meetup.
Studiously trawl job listings. Also invest in researching company, brand and business websites – make notes and take names. Having an order of preference is also useful – think about who you’d like to work for and why.
LinkedIn is your friend, as is social media generally. LinkedIn is a professional network so it carries some weight if you connect politely and have a story to tell. Use Twitter to demonstrate you are a decent human with opinions and ideas. If I meet you at a careers fair, I’ll subsequently find you on Twitter, because that’s where I begin to understand you personally. Follow big names in design, share and comment on their content; the same applies to prospective employers.
Don’t send generic applications & tailor your CV
You can create more specified applications by examining your own career goals. Consider what industry you’d like to work in, who you’d like to work for, and if your application is setting you up to achieve these goals.
If you want to work in design, an active, demonstrable interest in the field is essential. Align your skill set with what the company you’re applying to is looking for – this means tailoring your CV. Drawing out particular aspects guides the reader and offers a hierarchy to the information you’re presenting.
Companies often want to know what you can bring to the team. Being hired is down to the balance of your skills and who you are as an individual, combined with how you can enhance or build on existing company culture.
Show your work
Always have a design portfolio on hand. This should be a showcase of the work you’re proudest of and most confident about, whether that’s evidencing your university projects’ design and process, your designs that have made it into the real world or work you’ve done in your own time just for fun. The most important thing, however, is that you demonstrate how you respond to a brief, consider outcomes and iterate on ideas.
Community platforms such as Dribbble or Instagram can help you gain a following, are great for amplifying your voice and are often the best way for you to collect evidence and showcase your designs. Wrapping up your degree show? Capture that. Working for a couple of weeks at an agency? Capture that. Work experience or training course? Capture that. Capture everything.
Know your limitations
There are many full-stack UX design roles advertised that require UX, visual design and coding skills. The truth is that UX professionals don’t have a deep knowledge of all of these areas.
Don’t be afraid to tell interviewers if you need to work on a particular area either, “give them an idea of what they can expect from you but also say how you’re trying to improve.” The important thing is to find an employer who’ll help you learn and reach career goals.
Use rejection as a motivator
Many people give up when they get bad news or if they’re feeling frustrated with the process. Dealing with ‘failure’ is an important life lesson and it’s a normal part of the job hunting process. Take ‘no’ as a driver to get that ‘yes’.
Criticism is good for you, not bad. Keep looking forward to the next interview and application. It’s fantastic how you can get up every time.” View each job application and interview as a learning curve.