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UX Career Development

Your constantly-updated definition of UX Career Development and collection of topical content and literature

What is UX Career Development?

UX career development is the activity professionals take to grow into more fulfilling user experience design roles. They can create career maps to measure their progress and stay focused in the right direction. Whatever their role, individuals should invest in themselves to avoid stagnation and realize their potential.

Your UX career development is a journey you should plan. However the role begins—e.g., networking—a career map helps you focus on long-term goals, find relevant shorter-term ones and stay motivated as you log your progress. So, as you deliver on job expectations, you can invest in your career and master your expertise.

"Obstacles can't stop you. Problems can't stop you. Most important of all, other people can't stop you. Only you can stop you.”

– Jeffrey Gitomer, Author, professional speaker & business trainer

See why following your passion and doing great work is the most important career development device for a junior designer.

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© The Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA-NC 3.0.

UX Career Development—Set a Course to Meet a Happier Future You

Whatever your proficiency and career status in user experience (UX) design, the only way to advance is to work on yourself. That means to focus on growing your skillset and planning actionable goals. These should become vital stops on a liberating personal voyage. The alternative is to stay on a “safe”, familiar plateau—to keep practicing your craft as “a job” and hope years of hard work will somehow automatically catapult you to somewhere better. The reality is that a circular path leads nowhere. Career satisfaction is about proactive self-actualization—tapping the resources you find and taking the time to strategize how to blossom into what (and where) you want to ultimately be, stage by stage while leading a productive work life.

UX roles keep evolving.

As UX tools and UX roles keep evolving, this is a risky industry in which to stagnate, regardless of how content or accomplished professionals may feel. There’s always something new to learn, to stay competitive. If you’re applying straight from university/college or hoping to side-step from, e.g., graphic design, some inroads are:

  1. Internships—Typically 1 month–1 year at low/no pay, these can be powerful career starts (with the right organization and program).
  2. Offering your services informally, cheaply—E.g., designing friends’ websites.
  3. Career development programs at work—Developing your skillset to transfer to your company’s UX department.
  4. Networking—Joining online and/or local groups to make connections.

For designers, these are often fundamental stepping stones to gaining the experience they’ll need for compelling UX portfolios and can serve as important parts of their UX resumes.

Use a Career Map to Stay Hired and Inspired

Unless you’re well established at the most senior stage of your career, you should prioritize creating a career map. It’s a customizable tool to help you plot how to develop and advance. Work on your map daily to get a clear picture of the direction, objectives and assistance you’ll need, and to course-correct that much earlier when you feel lost.

You should use these steps, paraphrased from the Addison Leadership Group:

  1. Put as much into self-development as into your career dailyEven with a hectic schedule, you can make time without overcommitting to a rigid educational or training program. Instead, you can find ideal at-your-own-pace online courses and books. Snatches of time you spend here and there throughout your day will help.
  2. Take incremental stepsBreak your long-term goal into a series of shorter-term, week-to-week objectives: e.g., seek small managerial duties to build experience.
  3. Master your strong pointsRather than raise your weaknesses to a mediocre level, stick to optimizing your specialization/s. Complement your expertise by keeping up with the latest industry-respected software releases.
  4. Find a coach/mentor—The former can help you structure everyday efforts; the latter, longer-term ones. If you ask for help from others (e.g., colleagues), you may find a wealth of insights, too.
  5. Keep moving forward, daily—Don’t let fatigue or drudgery derail your dream. Provided they’re useful and meaningful, those moments you invest in keeping your self-development efforts current will add up.
  6. Log your progress:
    1. By reviewing how far you’ve progressed, you’ll find it easier to stay motivated.
    2. You’ll notice which activities are worth pursuing most.
    3. You’ll have a document to help explain your objectives and efforts—and prove a serious mindset about your ambition.

Remember to keep self-development a daily activity. By working well at what you do now, you may get recognition (or at least keep your job), but you’ll need to take charge of your own path to a better future and treat it as a separate concernto arrive somewhere ideal instead of escaping. Only you can care enough to make it happen.

Learn More about UX Career Development

Take our UX Portfolio course to consider your UX career development path: https://www.interaction-design.org/courses/How-to-create-a-UX-portfolio

UX architect at Respond Software Liam Friedland explores how career roadmaps help in UX career development: https://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2019/01/managing-talent-strategically-using-career-roadmaps-1.php

UX Mastery discusses ways to advance as a UX leader with some industry heavyweights: https://uxmastery.com/ux-leadership-finding-your-path/

Literature on UX Career Development

Here’s the entire UX literature on UX Career Development by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about UX Career Development

Take a deep dive into UX Career Development with our course How to Create a UX Portfolio .

Did you know the average UX recruiter spends less than 5 minutes skimming through your UX portfolio? If you want to join the growing and well-paid field of UX design, not only do you need a UX portfolio—you’ll need a great UX portfolio that showcases relevant skills and knowledge. Your UX portfolio will help you get your first job interviews and freelance clients, and it will also force you to stay relevant in your UX career. In other words, no matter what point you’re at in your UX career, you’re going to need a UX portfolio that’s in tip-top condition.

So, how do you build an enticing UX portfolio, especially if you’ve got no prior experience in UX design? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll learn in this course! You’ll cover everything so you can start from zero and end up with an incredible UX portfolio. For example, you’ll walk through the various UX job roles, since you can’t begin to create your portfolio without first understanding which job role you want to apply for! You’ll also learn how to create your first case studies for your portfolio even if you have no prior UX design work experience. You’ll even learn how to navigate non-disclosure agreements and create visuals for your UX case studies.

By the end of this practical, how to oriented course, you’ll have the skills needed to create your personal online UX portfolio site and PDF UX portfolio. You’ll receive tips and insights from recruiters and global UX design leads from SAP, Oracle and Google to give you an edge over your fellow candidates. You’ll learn how to craft your UX case studies so they’re compelling and relevant, and you’ll also learn how to engage recruiters through the use of Freytag’s dramatic structure and 8 killer tips to write effectively. What’s more, you’ll get to download and keep more than 10 useful templates and samples that will guide you closely as you craft your UX portfolio. To sum it up, if you want to create a UX portfolio and land your first job in the industry, this is the course for you!

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