Fourth in a series. Read Beth’s other Getting Into UX posts here.
You’ve just got to start doing UX to get into UX. You’re not going to be awesome at first, but you’re going to get things done.
Do you currently work somewhere where UX doesn’t exist? Make it happen! Start wearing that hat. Even if you’re not building websites, find a way to start affecting the user experience of what you are doing. The important part here is that you really do the work, and that you record your work really well.
By “doing the work” I mean don’t just skip to the fun part. Do more research (or a bigger variety of research) than you think you need to. Come up with more than one concept. Compare those concepts. Try different methods of validating your work. When you have more exposure to a variety of ways to get the job done, you’ll know which one is the RIGHT one to use later on. You may have good instincts, but if you’re a beginner, you’ve got to go through the hard work of building up your experience and your toolbox.
And absolutely don’t forget to record what you do and how you do it.
Prepare an infographic of your research findings. Don’t just open Omnigraffle or Sketch and start wireframing — start by sketching and whiteboarding first. Document usability test results and then show your work again, like how you pivoted or made changes. Find ways to hang on to artifacts of your work, even if it’s just taking a photo of a whiteboard before you erase it.
When you can show your work, you become incredibly valuable. Showing your work convinces hiring managers that you have a process, that you know what you’re doing. It convinces clients that your recommendation is the right way to go. It doesn’t have to be overwrought, but always consider how you will prove to someone that you did this work. For me, sometimes this means organizing folders on my iPad so I can move through them swiftly in a meeting. For example, I’ll find artifacts from every stage of a project: a test script, a photo of me and my team doing cafeteria-style usability testing, a sketch on a napkin, a doodle in the Paper app, a pdf of a wireframe, a slide from usability test results, etc. I put all of these things in one folder so I can talk about my process with a stakeholder or a hiring manager.
Do you currently work somewhere where UX exists, but you’re not really connected to it? Start making those connections. In my experience, in-house UX teams love it when other areas of the company reach out. Many people I know got into UX by working alongside UXers to begin with, from business analysts to graphic designers, from technical writers to developers. If you love the UX side of things, don’t be afraid to let it show and ask questions!
You don’t have to give up your current work, either. There are so many ways to be a UXer. Some product managers also lead experience work on their products. Or you could be like our Senior Experience Developer, Evan, who incorporates his UX skillset into his work as a front-end developer.
Are you in a place where you see school as your next step? You have so many options! As an undergrad, know that you can fit a future UX career into a variety of fields of study. It’s really common to see folks with fine art or psychology degrees blossom into UXers. If you’re looking at a Masters program, Human-Computer Interaction and Information Science degrees have long been a standard. UX Mastery has a great database of programs to consider.
Interested in non-traditional education, bootcamps or apprenticeships? Lucky you — this is finally becoming an awesome reality for future UXers, most notably through Center Centre, a school seeking its first class of students right now. Apprenticeships are also becoming a more popular way to train a new class of UX professionals, though there still aren’t enough. Providing valuable apprenticeship opportunities is definitely something I strive to work towards. So if you’re reading this blog as a seasoned pro, join me in trying to create more opportunities for future UXers!