10 Steps to start your UX Career:

So you think UX is for you? In order to land your first job, there's a few things you need to do.

1. Have a clear understanding about what UX Design actually is (and is not.)

2. Get the foundation of the general UX processes

  • You have to start somewhere to learn the typical framework. This article sums up the process fairly well.
  • Enroll in a program, bootcamp, or online video series to guide you through the steps on a deeper level, and more interactive than reading a website.
           - NOTE:
    Do not rely solely on bootcamps to get you a job. They are a step in the right direction, but you can’t expect to only get a job from your bootcamp case studies. There is alot of work you need to do after! And sometimes there is stigma around them - so don’t brand yourself as a bootcamp grad.

3. Get real work in your portfolio

  • Your bootcamp or faux-company case studies will only get you so far. Entry level UX is extremely saturated, and your reboot of the Uber app isn’t gonna cut it anymore. It sucks to do unpaid work, and I’m a huge advocate of being appropriately compensated, but I gotta be honest with you, you need these real projects to get to the next level.
  • Hidden opportunities for UX that you can use for your portfolio:
  • Make a website for your friend’s side hustle. Your roommate is launching a podcast? Create a page for them. Your brother is a budding photographer? Design and test their website.  Your neighbor makes jewelry? Create a mini store site.
  • You can use website builders like Squarespace and Wix so you don’t need to code.
  • Use this checklist to stay on top of all the steps.
  • Reach out to local small businesses that need a revamp (or don’t have a web presence) and volunteer to build it. Be sure to have clear expectations about the project so you’re not going overboard on yourself.
  • In college, I designed for my local pizzeria, chamber of commerce, and library. I approached all of them myself and built the project.
  • Sign up for volunteer design opportunities these national websites
  • Catch A Fire has great short-term projects with non-profits that need help
  • Volunteer Match is a good database
  • Deloris - BIPOC-owned businesses that need pro-bono design
  • Participate in a hack-a-thon - Just search for ones in your area. They are typically 24-48 hour competition to solve a problem with your team. Its open to all levels so you can learn about the process first hand
  • You can find local hack-a-thon events here

4. Document EVERYTHING

  • As you do you projects, keep everything organized so you can put it into your portfolio.
  • You might not remember everything you’ve done several months later - so keep it up to date.
  • DO NOT DELETE ITERATIONS - simply make a new page and call if V2 or whatever.

5. Stay engaged with the community

  • Join UX Slack groups and Facebook groups to see what people are talking about.
  • DO NOT JOIN TOO MANY GROUPS. It will become overwhelming and not helpful. Pick 1-4 that you jive with and be active in those to start.
  • They are the best source to find jobs and gigs.
  • People can answer questions and give feedback in realtime.
  • If you identify as a womxn, join Hexagon UX.
  • Join local meetups
  • Don’t just network because “it’s what you do” - find your allys. Have a coffee date, ask those questions, but don’t ghost afterwards. Those people might send you jobs and resources down the line through your career. Always thank and offer help in return to those people.
  • Volunteer at events and conferences so you can sit in for free and network behind the scenes!

6. Make sure your Linkedin is up to date!

  • If you have your keywords and experiences relevant all lined up, you’ll boost your ranking in the recruiter algorithm.
  • Watch this video about how a recruiter views profiles.
  • Check out my guide to improve your Linkedin.
  • Do NOT change your headline to “looking for work” or “seeking employment at” - Use their “Active looking” banner option and put in your summary. But don’t seem overly desperate.
  • Increase connections so you’ll improve your algorithm, and have more secondary connections. Don’t add random people! Add professors, colleagues, people from your internships, etc.
  • I got my full-time job from a random recruiter finding me on Linkedin and cold messaging me.

7. Get honest feedback on your portfolio and resume

  • Find critique events at local design groups and communities
  • Ask a friend to proofread - even if they aren’t in UX. Hiring managers might not be well versed in UX, so be sure anyone can follow.
  • Usertest your own portfolio
  • Ask for feedback in Slack and Facebook communities
  • Ask mentors and connections from networking
  • Ask colleagues and fellow UX designers looking for jobs - trade portfolios!

  • Give clear questions you want for feedback:

       -  What are your first impressions?
       -  From looking at just the homepage, what kind of designer do you think I am?
       -  Are the case studies clear?
       - What questions arise about my processes even after looking through?
       - Would you hire me?
       - What is missing? Confusing?
       - How would you describe the organization of my case studies?
       - How would you describe me as a designer?

8. Get “interview ready” before you get one

  • Make a slide deck showing 1-2 of your case studies for when they want to see your portfolio - It will come across more professional than just scrolling through your website
  • Practice whiteboard exercises using this generator or these prompts.
  • Especially virtually, practice presenting over Zoom. Are you going to use a real board? Are you drawing with a mouse?
  • Practice your “Tell me about yourself” response
  • Have a salary or freelance rate in mind - you don’t need to offer it up but have your market research done already
  • Have your list of references ready to send - always get their permission and give them a heads up before you send

9. Be specific and let people know where you’re at

  • If someone offers to support you or asks how they can help, be specific about what kinds of roles you’re looking for or people to introduce you to. Always return the favor to help them
  • Feel free to specify certain industries that might be easier for them to narrow down someone

10. Ditch the “B” word.

  • Do not mutter or put on your website, “Hi, I’m ___ and I’m a recent grad from ____ Bootcamp.” That word is hurting you. Unless directly asked where you learned UX from, focus on your experience and passion for design when speaking about yourself.
  • Also squash “recent grad” - that words screams “inexperienced.”
  • The UX world is saturated with jr. UX designers coming from bootcamps. Don’t brand yourself as one of them, even if you are. You are a DESIGNER.  You’re not a bootcamp grad. You are a DESIGNER.