• Published:
  • Under: User Experience

User experience (UX) has grown a lot in the past 10 years.  And as more and more people engage with technology in more immersive, experiential ways—its importance is more apparent than ever. As such organizations everywhere are seeking UX talent to add unique and valuable perspective to their work, making this a great time to consider a career in UX.

The questions is, where do you start? As someone who pivoted in her own career to eventually become a UX Strategist (and guest lecturer at General Assembly) I get this question a lot. I will walk through some of the most common queries I get, but the truth is, if you’re a strategic problem solver who can empathize with others, you’re well on your way.

Do I need to learn how to write code?

Having some technical background is helpful but not always necessary. Technical knowledge will help in communicating with your teammates and clients, but it is also something you will learn as you go. Some UX positions will require more technical skills, but that is not always the case. If you have a particular platform that you’re interested in working with, my recommendation would be to read up on the vocabularies used to talk about those programming languages/technologies. It may not prepare you to have an in depth discussion on technical requirements, but can help with your frame of reference.

How much design background do I need?

Where you work will determine how much visual design skills will be required in addition to your user experience responsibilities. Many companies hire user experience designers to be part of their design teams, and those individuals are expected to do both UX and visual design. Other companies, like CHIEF, have separate (yet collaborative) departments for their UXers. Of course it always helps to have some background in design. There are a lot of usability best practices that have direct implications on page designs. Even if you’re not creating full color comps, you should be able to speak to content chunking, labeling, functionality, etc. on each page. Luckily, there are lots of great resources online that detail design principles for the web. Design best practices and usability best practices generally align, so once you’ve learned the basics you’ll have an easy time communicating with designers.

What if I’m “doing” UX but don’t have the job title?

Getting your first UX title is one of the biggest hurdles when breaking into the field. The really good UXers out there are all problem solvers who use the Human Centered Design (HCD) approach to come up with solutions. The great thing about HCD is that it can be applied to any type of process that needs improvement. If you can speak to your problem solving process and how you investigate the needs of your audience, you’re halfway there. BE BRAVE when it comes to applying for UX jobs. Don’t let formalities stop you from putting yourself out there. When you get called into your first interview, be sure to give examples of how you identified a problem and worked through coming up with a solution. If you had to pivot your approach at any point because of unknown challenges, those are great experiences to highlight.

So in summary, here’s what you need to do to get on the path of becoming a UX professional: reflect on your problem solving skills, do a little coding and design research and get creative about how you describe yourself on your resume.

Looking for other ideas? Check out CHIEF’s event calendar to see if there are any upcoming UX meetups. Networking with other professionals is a great way to get additional tips and see who’s hiring.