“How do I get started in UX design?” This is the first question we get asked from people hoping to get started in UX design.
A lot of UX-hopefuls — practically all of them, actually — find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information floating around on the interwebs about changing careers and the skills you need to succeed.
A career in UX is becoming an increasingly popular choice. Why? Well, UX Designers are in very high demand from employers, the job is well paid and most likely are in demand in your city, they utilize a wide range of emotional and technical skills, and it’s (relatively) easy to get started in. So, let’s take a brief look at what you do and don’t need before you set off on the path to become a fully qualified UX Designer.
- You don’t need a college degree
- You don’t need a background in design (sure, it helps, but it’s by no means a barrier)
- You do need a passion for design and people
Do you fulfil the requirements? Great! Now it’s time to answer the million dollar question: how do you get started?
1. Learn the Right Things in the Right Order
There’s plenty of resources about UX online, but they’re not very well organised, and not particularly accessible for people looking to change their careers.
As much as Google tries to optimize its algorithms to display the most accurate, contemporary information, there are lots of outdated sites which slip through the net..
Figuring out what it is you even need to study can take a lot of time!
Doing extensive research could delay you by months, and even then, there’s no way to be sure you’re learning from the best material. Take blogs for example. There’s a lot of them out there, and they’re free, but are you really getting everything you need? So how about dishing out a few dollars to ensure you’re receiving quality service? With more and more companies offering courses, it’s difficult to ascertain which are offering the biggest bang for your buck. At the very least, online schools should be able to demonstrate solid examples of portfolios created and jobs landed by their previous graduates.
The best online UX schools play a critical role in building up a portfolio that will convince prospective employers of your skillset. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First of all, you’ll need to learn those skills. Established UX schools have developed their own structured learning environments.
What’s a structured learning environment, you ask? Imagine all the exact information you need to learn, delivered at the right time, and combined with feedback on your work from an expert in the field.
Structured learning environments also help you build confidence in your skills as each task builds upon the previous one. By intentionally limiting what information you focus on, you’ll develop a more intuitive understanding of what is and isn’t relevant to your learning (and, eventually, your career).
Learning in a structured environment is the fastest way to progress and propel you towards that all-important career change: Log in get started working on the right material, right away and start applying the skills to relevant projects with a UX Designer available to answer questions and give you 1-on-1 feedback.
2. Get a Mentor (a UX expert)
Having a mentor can mean the difference between success and failure.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
John C. Crosby
A mentor should be able to give you guidance on what’s most important for you to learn, which can, in turn, help you better focus. You need someone with experience in the field that can let you know what parts of UX are actually necessary in the workplace. Mentors take the “luck” out of learning and replace it with careful direction and planning. That’s not to say, however, that finding a mentor is easy. You can try friends, friends of friends, Meetup.com, or even Facebook groups like The UX School.
A good mentor will make you feel comfortable even when you’re stuck in the ignorant phase of learning — you don’t even know what it is you don’t know. They’ll invest their time and effort, working with you one-on-one while giving expert feedback to ensure you’re ahead of the crowd, which is a crucial element in understanding a new field.
It’s a lot easier, a lot faster, and a lot more fun to master a new skill with support from someone who has more experience.
3. Build a Portfolio
Why would a student need a portfolio?
Well, most employers will want to see what you can do before they hire you, and as a student, you may not have the work experience necessary to bring you to the top of the pile. You can bridge this gap with a stellar portfolio, the perfect demonstration tool for all the skills you’ve learned.
Much like in creative writing, you need to “show, don’t tell.”
Your portfolio is what lets you talk through the projects you’ve completed, showing off your new skills. You can answer questions like: “Where did the process go well? What could have been better? How would you approach it now?” And this demonstration shows that you know how to use important tools for vital skills like wireframing and user testing. No matter where you decide to learn the craft of UX design, make sure you’re building that portfolio! It’s only way employers will be able to see your passion, skill, and potential.
4. Network, Network, Network
Networking is a vital tool no matter what field you find yourself in.
Just remember: quality over quantity. This isn’t a card-collecting competition!
You need to have a goal in mind. Who do you want to meet and which industries are they in? Focus on the connections that will get you where you want to be. A personal message on LinkedIn can go a long way, but it’s not a one-way street. What can you offer the other person in return? Can you bring your own insight to the table?
Meetups are also a great place to practice networking and meet people. Check out Meetup.com and look for UX design meetup groups near you. If anything, you’ll find a few friends you can bounce design ideas off.
One great method of networking is to research speakers at conferences, then talk to them in advance and ask insightful questions; it sets you way above everyone else when the true networking starts.
5. Get Started
Getting started in UX is half the battle — once you’ve started, you’ll gain more momentum. While it may seem daunting at first, signing up for a structured course can cut out all the initial research and worry, getting you straight to learning, fast. Then, you can find a dedicated mentor who’ll help you really take on the challenge head-on.
Changing careers is no joke, and it can be terrifying for a lot of people, but taking a solutions-based approach will allow you to come up with a viable plan and leave your fears behind.
What’s holding you back?
There’s rarely a perfect time to start; it’s up to you to decide you want it and get started.
The UX Design course at CareerFoundry gets you started on the path to a UX designer and even pairs you up with a dedicated mentor. Then, once you’re finished with the course and are armed with your new portfolio, we support you in finding the new job you crave — and we guarantee it, or your money back. See our course for full details.
What You Should Do Now
- If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if UX design is right for you - sign up here for our free 7-day UX short course.
- If you are interested in becoming a UX Designer check out our UX design course (you'll learn the essential skills employers need).
- Find out more about our graduates: their journeys, portfolio projects, and salary increases.
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