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4 years ago 5 min read

Plan Your User Experience Career

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Type in “User Experience” in Google Search and you get billions of links in less than 0.2 seconds. User Experience has become a sexy term. UX jobs have suddenly become more desirable than only a few years back. So how exactly do you start a career in the field of User Experience?

What do I need to know about the User Experience Field?

According to the definition by Nielsen Norman Group, User Experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services and its product. Which means a number of things, actually.

From designing interfaces, through planning information architecture to interaction design… Just take a look at a few visualizations below. Anyone who wants to start a career in the field of User Experience can definitely discover something for themselves – they just need to find the right angle.

Spectrum of User Experience
Source: http://ia.net/blog/the-spectrum-of-user-experience-1/
Disciplines of UX Design
Source: http://www.kickerstudio.com/2008/12/the-disciplines-of-user-experience/
The Intricate anatomy of UX design
Source: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671735/infographic-the-intricate-anatomy-of-ux-design

What skills do I need to start working in User Experience?

This is one of the questions that every aspiring UX novice asks. Well, as you may have noticed, since User Experience is a very vague term, it all depends on a specific field one is interested in. However, characteristics the prerequisites for all people who want to pursue a career in UX are to:

  • Be creative
  • Be communicative
  • Be observant
  • Be confident
  • Be willing to learn constantly
  • Be a team player
  • Be time efficient
  • Be good at multitasking
  • Be able to focus
  • Be patient
  • Be humble (though some would argue about this)
  • Be able to analyze data

These are skills that do not require specific, targeted knowledge. Of course, because of the huge interest in UX Careers, there are now User Experience studies you may benefit from: Human Computer Interaction or Visual Design. However, according to specialists, such as Chloe Lloyd (uxmatters.com), if formal education is not your thing, you can also try self-study. Read books, attend conferences and workshops and seek out User Experience groups near you and learn what you can from practitioners.

Click here for a list of useful User Experience books >>

Click here for upcoming User Experience Conferences and webinars >>

What Can I Do in UX?

Staffing agency Onward Search have made a thorough examination of job postings they had available and discovered that the top 3 projects that drive demand for UX Professionals were:

  • Web based (websites, e-commerce, landing pages etc.)
  • Advertising driving engagement (banners, email campaigns, social networking etc.)
  • Client-side applications (iOs, Android, mobile etc.)

The agency also discovered the most popular job titles:

  • UX Designer 26%
  • Interaction Designer – 24%
  • Visual Designer – 23%
  • Information Architect – 18%
  • User Researcher – 6%
  • Usability Analyst – 2%
User Experience Career - breakdown of job titles
Source: http://www.onwardsearch.com/UX-Career-Guide/

How to start User Experience Career?

First and foremost read this report on User Experience Careers by Norman Nielsen Group. This fantastic resource is great for anyone who has ever considered or is considering moving forward on the User Experience Career Path. Throughout 194 pages you can find not only a detailed analysis of skills that are most in demand, but also tons of tips for starting.

These are just a few out of hundreds useful tips taken from this report:

“I did not understand what people really wanted because I fell in love with my solutions. I learned to put people first.”

„I wish I’d understood that UX is less about creativity and more about evidence. When I started to promote it within my organization as a science rather than a subjective art, I got less contradiction and more buy in.”

“I wish I had been “more proactive at building a contact network. The best way to secure good, meaningful work is by having an extensive network.”

Every journey begins with a single step – Confucius

You and Luke Wroblewski, Irene Au, Matte Scheinker – to name just a few great practitioners in User Experience field – all have one thing in common. Everybody had to start somewhere. It’s the first step that matters, the first experiences in the field that matter.

Larry Tesler once interviewed the above practitioners (and even more great UX Professionals) and asked them what was most important to them when they started and what they have learned.

Here’s a glimpse of what they told Larry:

Irene Au: “Soft skills such as collaboration, negotiation, persuasion, and facilitation helped me get desired outcomes in a positive, healthy way that makes everyone feel involved and good about decisions. Being a good designer requires you to be versatile enough to understand what the overall strategic goals are, the technical underpinnings of the product, and what users need. Being able to have all perspectives requires patience, practice, and empathy acquired through listening and curiosity.”

Luke Wroblewski: “Each product’s interface needs to ‘tell’ people what it offers them and why they should care. This requires the ability to explain and persuade not only with logic, but with emotion. In other words, it requires storytelling”

Matte Scheinker: “My first job in the industry came when the small membership association I was working for needed someone to maintain their website. I leveraged my writing skills to get the assignment. […] While building the website, I discovered a love for the user experience part of the process. I merged my academic training in psychology with coding to convince a startup to hire me as an interaction designer.

Read more of Tesler’s UX professionals’ insights here >>

Pursuing a User Experience Career, like in any other field, requires a lot of persistence, self-determination and a willingness to learn more and more about the field in which you want to work and about yourself. Great passion, imagination and curiosity mixed with hard work and self-development can help you to achieve what you want – a career in User Experience. Your persistence and patience may pay off: getting a satisfying and well-paid job is a prize in itself.

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