How to get a UX job
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Published on December 31, 2014
Getting your first user experience job
Job postings for User Experience (UX) positions often ask for previous experience in the UX field. Aspiring UX designers shouldn't allow a relative lack of specific user experience work to make them feel as though they can’t break into the field. If you are an existing design professional, you can often apply your existing experience towards a position in UX, and also fill any gaps in your skills with some UX training courses or a UX certificate program.
Using your existing experience
If you have never had a formal user experience role, you may find that your previous design work incorporates essential elements of UX design. For example, graphic designers can often transfer their existing skills with gathering user requirements, creating early drafts, and final designs into user interface (UI) design skills, and these may be a stepping stone into a broader UX design role with some additional experience, guidance, and additional UX training.
Obtain additional UX experience
UX workshops generally cover UX principles, processes such as gathering requirements, testing, as well as creating deliverables such as sketches, process flows, information architecture, prototypes, and wire frames. A user experience course helps you to understand how these fit together, and can also help to transition existing design skills to a UX role more effectively. If you need to gain a broader set of experience, a longer-term User Experience Certificate program provides a more comprehensive education in UX.
Develop your UX portfolio
Applicants for UX jobs should have examples of UX work in their portfolio. Ideally this should show your design process, from sketches and prototypes through wireframes, and ideally the final project. In UX workshops you’ll discover you how to develop these pieces for different formats such as desktop, mobile and responsive sites, or apps that are created for mobile, tablet, or desktop use. Your portfolio pieces can be part of a full-time project or consulting project. If you lack commercial pieces that you've done for hire, these can be for a personal project, or a concept which you’ve developed personally. It’s important to be able to show and be able to discuss the thought process associated with the user experience decisions you’ve made for the project.
Applying for UX positions
Ideally you’ll find a role that matches your qualifications perfectly. But if you meet most of the job requirements posted, but fall short in one or two areas, don’t let this stop you from applying. If this is the case, be sure to include a cover letter explaining to the hiring manager why you are a good candidate for the job, even with these missing skills. At the very least you’ll gain an understanding of skills you may need to add, and possibly you’ll get some valuable interview experience a UX job. If you do land an interview, be prepared to explain how previous projects and your current role are similar with respect to the UX job you hope to fill. For example, a background in conversion rate optimization provides you with the ability to test UX ideas and measure their results, while a comprehensive graphic design role may be similar in nature to a UX design role.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.