5 Ways to Prepare For a Career Change Into UX Design
It all starts with a feeling. You’re sitting at your desk, and it begins to creep up on you. You realize that you don’t actually care about what you’re working on. In fact, you’re starting to lose interest in your vocation altogether. You no longer feel challenged or engaged by your daily tasks, and as a result, you struggle to give 100% at work each day. That’s when it hits you: it’s time for a career change.
No matter your background, UX design is one of the most dynamic fields to enter into. As new platforms, patterns, and software emerge almost every day, UX designers sit at the cutting edge of digital design. With the promise of a fulfilling career, stimulating projects, flexible working, and a handsome salary increase, there are infinite reasons why a career in UX design is so appealing. But deciding that you want to become a UX designer is the easy part. The hard part is…well, everything that comes next.
Recognizing that it might be time for a career change into UX design is as daunting as it is liberating. While this revelation is the first step on your road to finding a career you love, preparing for a career change involves significant risk-taking, and a willingness to embrace change in some pretty radical ways. In this blog post, we’ll present the five best ways to get you ready, set, and prepped for your debut in the exciting and burgeoning field of UX design.
- Get to grips with the industry
- Take inventory of your skills
- Immerse yourself in the field
- Get social
- Set realistic goals
- Final thoughts
Ready? Off we go!
1. Get to grips with the industry
It’s not uncommon for keen UX hopefuls to plunge feet-first into the world of UX design without truly taking the time to understand the full scope of the field, what it entails, and just how hard they’ll have to work to become a fully-fledged UX designer. Before you start splurging on fancy new software, run a fact check against some of the expectations you might have as you enter into the field.
Start by gathering as much information about the field of UX design as you possibly can. Browse current job ads to see what kinds of tasks and responsibilities you can expect to take on. What will your day-to-day look like as a UX designer? What skills will you need to learn, and how will you learn them? If you’re considering a UX bootcamp, how much time will you be expected to commit? What sacrifices will you have to make to truly get this career change underway?
It’s also essential to gain a more long-term view of the industry. What salaries and employment rates can you expect as an entry-level UX designer? What potential is there for promotion and progression? Make sure you gain a well-rounded view of the field of UX design before you commit!
If conducting this in-depth research makes you feel more determined to become a UX designer than ever, you’re ready for step two.
2. Take inventory of your skills
You might not even know it, but it’s highly likely that you have valuable skills that are transferable into UX design. If you’ve been working in marketing, for example, you’ll have the user-centricity and the creativity that are central to the design thinking process. If you’ve been working in architecture or construction, you’ll be adept at project management and have a keen eye for user flows. No matter your background, it’s worth taking stock of what skills you’ll be bringing into your new career as a UX designer.
UX design is an incredibly versatile discipline that can be applied to a myriad of different contexts and industries. Start reflecting on how you can apply what you’re learning about UX design to your current job, and it will give you some real-world context to the theories you’re coming across. By taking small steps rather than making an abrupt change, the transition will seem less overwhelming and a lot easier to manage.
3. Immerse yourself in the field
The best way to get ready for a career change into UX design? Total and complete immersion in the field. From the community of reputable UX designers who blog on Medium, to the myriad of UX design bibles that every aspiring UX designer should have on their coffee table, you’ll have no shortage of content to get you started. Even if you start scrolling through UX design social media accounts during your daily commute, the internet is jam-packed with UX design inspiration—so take advantage!
Regularly perusing other people’s work on websites like Behance and Dribbble will also get you up to scratch with what a good UX portfolio should look like. You’ll pick up on trends, start recognizing patterns, and reflecting on what kind of UX designer you’d like to be. By immersing yourself in UX-related content, you’ll be one step ahead of the game.
4. Get social
No matter how much independent research you’ve done, the best way to gauge what your career path will look like is by talking to those who have walked the path themselves. Even some of the industry’s most successful UX designers started off in a totally different field, and there’s a wealth of industry professionals on LinkedIn who are more than willing to offer their insights into how to boss a career change into UX design.
Start by regularly attending meetups, networking events, and Q&A sessions. Networking events may seem like an extra effort, but they’ll enable you to socialize with other budding UX designers, industry professionals, and UX design students. If there are no meetups available in your area, reach out to online communities and set up skype meetings. To make sure you’re getting the most out of these sessions, write down some of your most burning questions ahead of time. Getting first-hand advice from the people who have gone through the process will make you even wiser as you begin your journey and give you a real sense of what’s in store.
5. Set realistic goals
Staying motivated while undertaking a career change is no small feat. At first, you might feel so overwhelmed by your 5-mile long to-do list that you’re tempted to throw the towel in before you’ve even begun. The solution? Create specific, achievable, and realistic goals with set deadlines.
Start by outlining your larger goals. What path do you intend to take? If you’re opting for a UX design bootcamp, when do you want to graduate? How many hours can you realistically set aside to study UX design? When do you intend to start applying for roles? Perhaps you might want to have a complete portfolio in six months and be a fully-fledged UX designer in ten months. How will you achieve this?
Once you’ve established your larger goals, break them down into smaller, more manageable action points with set deadlines. Maybe each week you want to read three articles on UX design, attend one meetup, or schedule a call with at least one industry professional. These will depend largely on your specific needs, but it’s vital that these smaller to-dos are taken seriously. By completing these smaller time-bound tasks, you’re keeping track of your progress without losing sight of the bigger picture. Remember, you’re in charge of your progress!
BONUS TIP: Becoming a Facilitator (or even better, a Workshopper!)
You’ll hear us say this a lot around here, but from our experience of working with hundreds of designers at some of the world’s largest companies, the best way to set yourself up for success as a designer, AND be taken more seriously by your non-designer colleagues, is to learn how to confidently facilitate workshop sessions. From freeing yourself, and others, of ‘busy work’, to being recognized as a strategic thinker, becoming a Workshopper equips you with extremely transferable skills that will make your career change MUCH smoother.
It’s unlikely that from day one in your new life as a UX designer you’ll have free rein (or ample confidence) to run sessions with clients or colleagues, but the sooner you start familiarizing yourself with workshop formats and facilitation tactics, the sooner you’ll be able to put these skills into action and gain real-life practice, meaning that when you make your career change you’ll already be 10 steps ahead and will have tangible way to differentiate yourself from those that have been honing their design skills for years.
Luckily Workshopper.com was created to help people like you with just that!
So there we have it: the essential steps to prepare for a career change into UX design. The prospect of a career change can often feel like parachuting off a cliff plunging yourself into the unknown with no safety net. But the fulfillment you’ll get from finally being in a career that challenges and engages you makes the journey getting there more than worth it. The most important thing to remember is that you get out of this journey what you put into it. As long as you remain motivated, disciplined, and willing to learn as much as possible, there’s no reason why you won’t flourish into a successful UX designer. Keep an open mind, and everything will fall into place.