How to build a career in UX Design
User Experience (UX) design as a discipline has gained prominence. Nothing new there!
But for those who are taking a first step in exploring a career in UX design, it’s worthwhile reassuring them with a few insights.
In certain countries (Scandinavia, UK, US), the practice of UX design and research is at a mature stage. Therefore, the user’s point of view is ingrained in the design thinking process of the practitioner. In Asia, we’re yet to get there, but we’re moving towards it. We’ve seen traction in the discipline in the past decade and it gets better from here (2021 onwards).
You can thank the acceleration of digitalization that we see around us. Companies are building digital products that are addressing human needs and solve real-world problems.
In India, technology hubs such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai have witnessed a surge in job opportunities in this space. We’ve witnessed the emergence of UX design as an integral part of the product engineering process.
UX design jobs are here to stay. Some points to ponder –
UX Design makes it in the ‘The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2020’ by LinkedIn.
The remuneration is promising for a beginner, and it varies from country to country. According to payscale.com – the annual salary of someone with one year of experience in USA is over $65K. The salary of a UX designer for the same level of experience in Singapore is S$41k per annum.
Credentials – CV, Cover letter & Portfolio
What does it take to be a UX designer?
It doesn’t really matter what your background is, you can have an education in Finance but still pursue a career in UX design. Equip yourself with the right qualification that addresses the fundamentals of UX design. Join a professional short-term course on UX design. There are plenty of options out there. To name a few –
Adroitness in problem solving, empathy, interpersonal, communication, and presentation skills will take you far in your career. So, hone your skills with free online tutorials on these soft skills. Remember it takes time, effort and practice.
A few tips for beginners seeking a job in UX design –
Bring out the showmanship during interviews. But don’t go overboard and stick to the script. Before the interview, research the company, understand the business of the company interviewing you. Comb through the Job description, company website, social media, and other reading material provided by the recruiter. Ask questions that are relevant to the job such as the expectation from the role, the career progression within the company, and the performance measurement mechanism.
A word of caution – If you can’t make it for the interview, professional etiquette demands that the interviewer be informed in advance. You would like to keep the door open for interactions in the future.
Recruiters are looking for bright sparks. To make their lights blink, you’ll require a portfolio that stands out, makes the first impression. If you don’t have significant projects, create some. Work on mock-ups on brands that you can bring a difference. If you’re a beginner, gain experience on diverse projects. It’s too early to specialize.
A range of work shows that you’re willing to explore. Whether you’re showcasing your work through your website, behance.net, or a document, some must-haves – visually represent the methodology that you follow, a brief bio on yourself with a few lines on your inspirations and the genre of work you love. Never present your entire portfolio to a potential employer. Emphasize your best work and work that is relevant (business-wise) to the company that interviewing you – for a better recall.
Tips for senior hires – companies want to see your experience in handling teams, maturity in handling client relationships, and the impact of your contribution to the top-line or bottom-line. Make sure it’s highlighted in your CV.
An observation – the degree of expertise of what you’ve accomplished with a creative software or tool is not important, just knowing that you’ve used one will do. Mastery comes with practice. So, it’s not necessary to mention how much you know about a creative software or tool – I’m referring to the number of ‘proficiency’ stars marked against a tool or software in some of the CVs that I often come across these days. The stars aren’t necessary, but the mention of the software is!
Most of us pay less attention to the cover letter or introductory email to potential employers. A ‘cut & paste’ approach doesn’t work. Highlight how your strengths will add value to the role in the letter or email. For that, you’ll need to understand the role and the company you’re applying for.
A copy sample of a ‘to the purpose’ cover letter –
I seek to apply for the position of ‘UX designer’ that was posted on LinkedIn on 12 February 2021. I’ve been working as a UX designer for 5 years at agencies and start-ups. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects including eCommerce websites and mobile Apps. As I understand from the job description that the task at hand is to introduce new ecommerce Apps. I am also aware that in a start-up, one has to be fiercely independent and that sometimes there are unavoidable deadlines to meet business objectives. In my experience, I have had success in delivering digital user experiences and my portfolio will showcase so. I can bring value to the design thinking culture of your organization by:
- Setting UX design standards for all digital projects.
- User research and testing.
- Internal stake holder engagements.
- Maintain the balance between design and functionality.
I am a firm believer that no matter how well I conceptualize the user experience of a digital product, it has to meet the needs and expectations of the user, not just look good. I find it a personal challenge, and one that I enjoy, to try to balance both of these objectives. A user interacting with the developed end-product is the ‘moment of truth’ that I look forward to.
Shorter learning curves – Absorb & Practice
Curiosity to understand user behavior, new products, trends, and technologies is important, and the incessant desire to learn ‘the new’ is a quality that is expected of a UX designer.
You can’t get enough of online content, webinars, workshops, boot camps. There’s a ton of reading material out there. Some recommended blogs that’ll satisfy your curiosity –
In every profession, defining your career path is essential. Similarly, as a UX designer, define goals for yourself. I like to list down what I have to achieve every 3 years. It could be the attainment of a new certification or a job progression in the organization.
Set goals to skill yourself. Create and follow an individual development plan that details what you must achieve and when.
Like a performing artist, a UX designer should partake in gigs. Doing so has its many benefits. It breaks the monotony of labor and moves you away from what you deal with daily. At times it’s refreshing. Gigs are good money and can also be pro-bono in case you’re interested in just the exposure or learning. Ensure that the gigs that you take on do not conflict with your day job. It’s temporary and time-bound.
Finding a good gig is not difficult these days. Besides opportunities posted by various groups and recruiters on social media, there are platforms such as upwork.com and freelancer.com one can consider. Senior hires can explore toptal.com.
Remote working is the new normal. Equip your workspace with the right paraphernalia – internet network, cloud storage, and productivity tools. Invest in a subscription for cloud-based Digital Asset Management software such as KURATE. Other tools include hotjar.com for heatmaps and marvelapp.com for rapid prototyping and collaboration.
Mentors & Influencers
Good mentorship is priceless. Having mentors and influencers around you can help you chalk out a great career as a UX designer. Talent backed by seasoned advice is cardinal at all stages of your career from the time you take your first crucial decisions on your portfolio to deciding the next move in your career. The people who have inspired me the most are the ones that I have worked with.
Most of you are likely to specialize in an area of interest after investing a certain number of years in the craft. For example, I know of many a UX specialist who has ventured into the FinTech. They’ve mastered the nuances of UX design to address the changes in user behavior and adoption of new technologies and they chose to stay in that particular domain. However, in your early years, the more diverse experience you gather the better and that’ll provide you with an insight into what makes you tick and what doesn’t.