UX Is A Career

A man shapes a clay sculpture

It’s the start of a new year, you’re excited about the projects you have lined up, and you’re eager to get researching and ideating and designing and … hold up a minute!

There’s another project that you may have ignored for a while, which deserves your attention …

More than ever, executives and managers are realising that the user’s experience of their company’s products and services is crucial to the bottom line, and that that experience can be designed.

User Experience (UX) has emerged as the poster child to capture this alignment of design and business strategy. However, the term is also used in other ways. Ask ten different people what user experience means and you’ll get ten different answers.

For example:

  • UX is an umbrella term.
  • UX is a movement.
  • UX is a process.
  • UX is a role.
  • UX is a discipline.
  • UX is an industry.
  • UX is a philosophy.
  • UX is a collection of techniques.

All of these statements are true to some degree, so it’s no wonder the UX community has such a hard time defining what we do to the outside world. However, there’s one I’d like to add to that list:

  • UX is a career.

We’ve made a point of celebrating the fact that a career in user experience is interesting, challenging, rewarding, pays well, and has a low barrier of entry if you’re already working in the digital world in some capacity. There is currently big demand for professionals who have the breadth of a generalist, with specialties in user research, user interface design, information architecture, interaction design, and many other disciplines. It’s no wonder there is corresponding demand from graduates and experienced professionals alike to be a part of it.

Luckily for you, there are some amazing online resources available to help you build your UX career. Here’s a small sampling:

1. Usability Counts

Patrick Neeman has been writing about UX careers for a few years now. His UX careers guide is a great collection of articles on landing yourself the perfect UX job, based largely on his time working on Jobvite.

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Browsing the usability counts UX careers guide provides plenty of food for thought.

2. UX How

Troy Parke’s collection of advice, tips and templates on uxhow.com include how to build a portfolio, network with prospective employers and conduct yourself in an interview. The site only contains a handful of articles so far, but what’s there is insanely helpful.

Wondering what the hiring manager interviewing you for that UX job is thinking? UX How has the answer.

3. UIE BrainSparks

The User Interface Engineering BrainSparks blog has a collection of careers-related topics that go back several years. Whether you’re preparing your portfolio or deciding how to specialise, you’re bound to find something useful.

The archive of articles on UIE includes a ton of career-related advice.

4. UXmas

UXmas, the digital advent calendar that we’ve run with our friends at Thirst Studios the last two Decembers, has included a handful of articles on the topic of UX careers. From selling your skills and defining the direction you take your career to evaluating your skills and creating an effective portfolio, there’s something in there for everyone.

Some of the most popular presents under the UXmas tree were articles about a career in UX.

Of course, there are plenty of other resources with great articles on the topic of UX careers (feel free to share your favourites in the comments!) The important thing is that you take a few moments to shift your thinking away from your current project to shine a spotlight on yourself and your career as a UXer. The links above should help to you get started.

We’ll be publishing more on this topic over the coming weeks, but in the mean time I’d love to hear from you. What steps are you taking to shape your UX career in 2014?

Written by
Matthew Magain
Join the discussion

  • Good Summary.

    I have learnt time and time again that one of the most important things for your career is self promotion, and ensuring that people clearly outside of the UX echo chamber understand what your do and how you do it. In simple terms, without the jargon. In other words – Stop making UX an Illusion.

  • After years launching e-commerce sites for individual retailers, I’ve found the “generalist” valued in small businesses are not desired by larger companies who in search of specialists. UXMastery and others are helping me to build a skill set around a principle I’ve been doing all along: aligning business requirements with user requirements. Thanks for the continued sharing Matthew.

    • Thanks Jotham. If that’s your guiding principle, you won’t go far wrong.

      You may be onto something with the generalist/specialist thing. In my experience, the path of a generalist in a large organisation is to become a people manager, or a project manager. It’s definitely true that, as a generalist, I’ve felt better utilised in smaller organisations. Thanks for your comment.

  • These are fantastic resources! As someone new to the UX field, I have just landed my first job an Experience Designer, I have recently been pouring over resources like these. Two of my favorites would have to be betteruxportfolios.wordpress.com and UXbooth.com. One thing I haven’t seen much of is the personal experiences and points of view from those who are looking for a UX job or just starting out like myself. Is there anything like that out there?

  • Wonderful article and one that resonates well with me. I went from traditional marketing to e-marketing, from business to e-business. I love what Hawk says “In recent years employers have started to realise the importance of a user’s experience of their company’s products, and that that experience can be designed.” I was always great in customer service – then I was great at business strategy – then I loved design. UX provides me the opportunity to combine all three – it is the first time – I am thinking about a career and it is as a UX designer. Love it!

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