So, you’re looking to upgrade or completely change your career; you’ve read some about UX design, and you’re intrigued—but now you’re ready to really get moving, and the only quesion is: How do you get started in UX design?
A lot of UX-hopefuls 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 design is becoming an increasingly popular choice for a few reasons:
- UX designers are in high demand
- Jobs in UX tend to be well paid (see our UX design salary guide)
- UX designers utilize a wide range of skills, many of which are transferable from other lines of work and not specifically design related
- It’s (relatively) easy to get started.
Good news, right? We think so. But how do you actually go about breaking into the world of UX? Here, we’ll give you five simple steps:
- Learn the right things in the right order
- Get a mentor (a UX expert)
- Build a portfolio
- Network, network, network
- Gain momentum: Keep learning
1. Learn the right things in the right order
There are plenty of resources about UX online, but they’re not very well organized, 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as Google tries to optimize its algorithms to display the most accurate, contemporary information, there are lots of outdated sites which slip through the net..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 are 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 is 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 UX design 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. For a brief overview of the skillset you’ll need to succeed in UX design, check out this video:
Established UX schools have developed their own structured learning environments to systematically equip you with these core skills and more.
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 feeling stuck or having difficulty understanding a new process or concept. 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 UX design portfolio, the perfect demonstration tool for all the skills you’ve learned.
To learn more about what a great UX portfolio includes, you can also watch this video.
Your portfolio is what lets you walk potential employers through the projects you’ve completed, showing off your skillset (including the industry standard tools you’ve mastered) and helping them to see what an amazing addition you’d make to their team.
No matter what route you take to learning UX design, make sure you’re building that portfolio along the way! 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. Gain momentum: Keep learning
Getting started in UX is half the battle. Once you’ve landed that first role, you’ll gain momentum from the learning you’ll do on the job. But you can enhance that by keeping on top of your own learning and staying in touch with industry trends. Here are some great resources to help you do that:
- 9 of our favorite design thinking books
- 11 Outstanding podcasts for UX/UI designers
- A beginner’s guide to inclusive design
- 15 Resources to help you play a part in empowering women in tech
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.
If you want to learn more about how to break into UX design, here are a few other articles you’ll find useful: