I’m sharing some tips on how I landed my first UX role and I hope they’re helpful for your own job hunt. I joined OVO in early 2021 as a Junior UX Designer.
1. Complete personal projects
I didn’t complete an internship while I studied, and I learned afterwards that UX certifications are not as strong as hands-on experience. Even though you likely have excellent training, employers want to see you live in action, i.e. real projects.
This doesn’t mean you need to work at a large organisation; you could:
- complete a passion project
- help local businesses who may be unable to afford professional services
- find an internship (Workable is a good starting point)
These experiences are more unique and attractive to hiring managers. You’re showing your skills and knowledge in practice. You show that you can solve people’s problems, as well as business problems. You show you can deal with constraints like implementation and budget. Be sure to measure the success of your work too, hiring managers want to see you complete real work and its impact to assess your capability.
I love attending events run by Government Digital Service, User Experience Professionals Association and Tech Circus to meet people and understand their own journeys into UX. These events talk about ‘real-life situations’ which are insightful. Try to attend free UX events on Eventbrite too.
Use LinkedIn and connect with people who work at the places you’d like to work. Talk about what they work on, ask how their organisation sees UX, and how they are growing professionally. Mention some of your discoveries in your application! It shows that you know about their business and its operations. Everyone I reached out to was positive and happy to share their experience and recommendations.
3. Learn to solve problems creatively
As a user experience practitioner, you’re always problem-solving whether you are researching or designing. You need to apply divergent and convergent thinking during your workflow. That means to think outwards, generate ideas, seek opportunities, and then be focused and analytical, making decisions respectively. I honed this skill by getting a mentor and learning useful strategies. I recommend reading Creative Approaches to Problem Solving to learn about problem-solving.
4. Explain why user experience matters to you
Many people are moving into the field so you need to articulate why you care about UX. You need to stand out from the crowd. In 2017, Jakob Nielsen predicted ‘we’ll be 100 million UX professionals in the world by 2050'. This corresponds to 1% of the world’s population.
During your first interview with a company, make it clear why you love the field and how that contributes to your work. For me, I love the idea of empowering people with technology, making life easier, and making a positive impact for society.
Always be human in interviews too, be yourself. You are invited to an interview because they are interested in you, so tell a genuine story.
5. Own your process
There is a misconception that UX is about knowing tools. You need to know how to deal with situations. When you are given a design task you need to trust your way of doing things. If we think UX is about simply using the ‘correct tools’ does it need to be its own role?
My whole recruitment process was done remotely. Consider how you would run workshops virtually with team members. How would you run discovery tasks? How would you take advantage of digital tools to collaborate?
6. Understand agile principles
Learn how businesses operate using agile principles and ceremonies, like stand-ups, team walls, and backlogs. These tools help teams better communicate and align. As a designer, you will be using these to give updates and plan your work. The Government Digital Service does a great job at describing agile tools and techniques.
More importantly, you need to understand how scrum and kanban processes work and discover how you, as a designer, fit into the workflow. They are popular ways of working in digital teams and a great way to show you understand how things work during your interview.
Getting your first UX role is easier when you build a strategy to stand out from the crowd.
Think about developing your skills further after your studies. Work on real-world problems, talk to UX professionals, and learn how to constantly learn. When it comes to your interviews: be a storyteller, own your process, and learn about agile.
I hope this is helpful to other budding UXers. Message me on LinkedIn if you want to chat. I’d love to discuss how you might approach your own job hunt.
UX Designer at SSE Energy Services.