8 useful and unique tips to plan & develop your career. Become a real UX Professional.
Every legend has got a beginning. All famous Creative Professionals like Luke Wroblewski or Jacob Nielsen were novice in their time. But, at some point of their work something happened. They understood that they are able to do more than just a next project, they may influence whole industry. All successful designers had to pass a long but inspiring journey before they become who they are now.
Now, you have a chance to boost your career in UX. Following thoughts should give you some useful hints and inspiration. Confucius said: “Every journey begins with a single step”, so the simplest way to boost your career in UX Design to the next level is to start.
Who should read this article
You are a UX Designer, a UI Designer, a Graphic Designer, a Visual Designer or a Student. You would like to know about the steps that will make your career in UX better. This article should inspire you to make more conscious decisions.
If you begin your adventure with Design and you would like to get into the UX Industry, this article will give you some unique tips. But, it does not cover the basics of this discipline.
If you already have years of experience, but you are not completely satisfied with your present work or skill set. You have an opportunity to enhance it with thoughts presented below.
So let’s begin to discover tips that will help design your career.
1. Fill The Gaps In Your Skills
There is no shortcut, you have to know the basic principles. Pay special attention to fill the gaps in your knowledge about the UX. Read and study topics about Information Architecture, Visual Design, Interaction Design, Usability Engineering, Design Validation, Research and Prototyping. Good description of major UX competencies you will find in the following article – The Five Competencies of User Experience Design
You may find a lot of posts, courses that will let you learn the basics. But there is much more to be done, so let’s move on talk about some not obvious things.
2. Generalize & Specialize Skills
When the set of your basic skills will be ready, choose the one discipline you engage most to specialize. This concept is called “T-shaped Designer” and is widely known idea introduced by IDEO CEO Tim Brown. This is a very practical approach.
If you are T-shaped Professional it means that you have got a wide knowledge about the whole UX Design discipline, but you have your own single speciality. You have in-depth knowledge focused around this one skill.
This concept will let you quickly find your place in a team of designers. It should also rapidly boost your authority in a discipline you have chosen.
3. Experience as Much as You Can
It does not matter how many years you work in a particular profession. It does matter how many various experiences you have and how they influence your approach to the design.
Unusual events, different projects, original people you met may become a foundation of your successful journey as a Designer. How to make this wonderful experiences happen?
Tools & Software
Constantly learn new tools. You may have a master level in Photoshop or Sketch usage, but there are many other tools that will unleash the potential of your imagination. Do you use Origami Studio for Prototyping? Have you tried Figma or Kite Compositor?
We live in a golden age of tools for creative professionals. Every new year brings a new software that may change our workflow. Don’t let you brain to stuck only with your favorite one.
Discover Other Perspectives
“Coding is hard.” “Business is a boring and complicated thing.” Have you ever heard opinions like this? These are ridiculous thoughts that may limit your potential.
Steve Jobs always said that “Design is how it works”, so learning how to implement your idea will give you a unique view on the work and cooperation with Software Engineers. Personally I recommend Swift as your first programming language. It is quite simple to start and has got plenty of useful tutorials from Apple to begin with.
Next, CEO IBM Thomas J. Watson always repeated that “Good Design is Good Business”. So get the knowledge how the sales and business focused person is thinking. The ability to think how this people make their decisions will lead your career to the next level. You will be also able to communicate with them efficiently – that is a precious skill.
Traveling is a great opportunity to open your mind to new experiences. You will meet people thinking in completely different ways. Various cultures, languages, architecture, even food – all of these things will make your brain generating fresh ideas.
You should consider going abroad at least for a one week yearly. This way you will be able to rest a bit and return to work with a mind full of fresh concepts.
Go to Design Conferences
Being a participant of a great event is a unique experience. Listening to authorities, ability to ask them questions, talking to the people like you – all of this is happening during conferences. Event may take a day or two, but will inspire and motivate you for a weeks.
Choose at least two conferences a year and join them. Try to attend the ones with international speakers. Thoughts presented during the event will inspire you to move on.
Join to the Community
Conferences are great events, but if you would like to get a fresh and inspiring knowledge constantly – you should join several communities in social platforms.
Groups will let you to talk with other professionals, you will be also able to present your work and ask for feedback. Members of the community posts inspiring articles that may improve you skills rapidly.
This is why I have also created own Facebook Group to connect people that would like to get unique insight in UX. Feel free to join here.
Why to experience all of these things?
You may have some doubts and think “why is it so important to experience all of these things to boost my career”. Well, the answer is simple. As a designer you create stuff for people. Is is more than sure that you design for the ones that are not living in one country but for everyone around the world.
It is extremely important to know the culture of other nations, to listen to other ideas and various the models of thinking. Experiencing all of these things will help you enhance empathy, which is crucial in design process.
Joining events and communities will increase the level of you creativity and lateral thinking.
Finally, using many tools will open you mind for the fresh possibilities and overcome the limits caused by usage of only one software.
4. Search Your Feelings
While you will join communities, events and start continue your professional work, you should let yourself to have a moment of reflection. Is this what is happening making me happy? Is it what I want to do in my life? You have to answer this questions.
All your effort to boost your career will bring the best results when you will truly passionate about the Design. Pushing yourself into things you do only for money is a waste of time.
The best of the best in their discipline do not treat their job as a 9 to 5 work. What they do is becoming their way of life, a way they perceive the reality.
So, if you really love designing things – keep going. Focus on your passion.
5. Find Your Place
What does it mean to have a successful career? It depends on your needs. There are many opportunities. These are the most popular ones.
From a Designer to a Manager
For some of us being a Chief Design Officer, or a Creative Director is a dream. Leading the team of designers gives a lot of opportunities to influence many products and to help other members of them better.
This path has also some disadvantages, you may have less time to focus on the core of your profession – making great things. There will be a need to sacrifice several hours to join boring meetings and to do the paper work.
Becoming The Design Professional
Next, the opportunity of mastering the professional skills and doing the fabulous designs as an employee of well known company or a startup may be a definition of success.
As a specialist in your discipline, you will be able to design lucrative products and search for the new design trends. If you would like to focus on the core of the work, this may be a career model for you.
Inspiring Path of the Freelancer
Finally, there is also a tempting possibility of becoming consultant helping various companies. Following model of career gives you opportunity of designing products for many companies what is good because boosts your creativity and makes the work more interesting. However, there is always a risk of long periods of time without any contract, what may be frustrating.
All of mentioned above types of career, may lead you to become a great designer. Finding the way that will suit you the best may take time. It is good to know alternatives.
If you are a student and you would like to read more about the types of the career (Corporate, Startup or Freelance) article written by Alexis Collado will be helpful – How to choose your first design gig: startup, corporate, or freelance?.
6. Make the plans for long term career growth and short term goals.
Most of us live from a one day to another, but if we would our dreams to become the reality, we have to make some actions. Nothing happens accidentally, every success may be planned.
Think of your career in a long term perspective. What you would like to achieve in 10 years? Write down your goals. Now consider what things may be accomplished in a next 5 years. Finally, note the plans for a next year. The goals from the shorter period of time should lead to the accomplishment of long term ones.
When you will set up all of your objectives, write down the actions you should take to accomplish the goals. However, make every action precise and measurable. Do not waste your time with abstract ideas. Your goal should have a deadline and all of your actions should be done until the date.
Making plans are important, because they gives a direction to your career. Take your life in your own hands, do not let others to make it for you.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
Scientists searching for secret recipe of successful people found that in the most cases it is not about the talent, but about the hard work to make things happen.
Statistics show that we need about 10 000 hours of exercises to master a single skill. So start to practice you design skills. You have a head full of ideas from the experiences mentioned above and you have a plan. Now it is time for the training.
Everyday exercises in various design disciplines should become your daily routine. There is no excuses. Even if you have to spend lots of hours with you daily work, you should take a least 30 minutes to learn something and to practice.
Habit of everyday learning and practicing will constantly improve your design skills. The ability to acquire knowledge continuously is important to keep mind fresh. This is one of the most precious things in our industry.
When you will notice that your skills become stronger than your colleagues from work, you will become more confident with your designs.
It is a sign that you may begin to share your knowledge with others. This way you will build authority. You were attending some local meetups or conferences for a several years? Maybe now there is a chance to become a speaker?
Give back to the communities you belong and be helpful. You may start a blog, run courses. Every action that you will choose to share your knowledge will also organize information in your head.
By helping others you will become more and more popular. Finally you may become a real mentor and join to the pantheon of people you always admired.
This article is very long so let’s conclude briefly.
All of mentioned tips will let you change your career for the better one. But remember, there is a great difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
Do not seek for the excuses and start changing yours from today.
If you would like to read interesting articles about UX & UI, you may be interested to join UX Misfits Group on Facebook. Feel free to join here – UX Misfits Community.
To Remember all the tips more efficiently, I have prepared simple infographic that summarizes points. Here is a full presentation: