Learn what capabilities and skills are needed for the job
This quick start guide is for designers who need a concrete, actionable plan to break into the UX industry.
UX and UI designers are some of the most in-demand tech jobs out there - but getting into the UX industry isn’t easy. The demand for jobs is high - and the supply of interested beginners is even higher. The job market is full of university students, bootcamp graduates, self-taught designers, and freelancers. Standing out to get the job is harder now than ever.
If you’ve been hunting for advice on what to do to get results and overwhelmed with all the information out there, then this quick start guide is for you.
So how do you break into the UX industry? How do you become a hireable designer?
You will need to meet these four criteria:
- Have the minimum level of proficiency in hard UX and UI design skills
- Be able to execute design in the real world with demonstrated design thinking
- Have a specific skill - or stack of skills - which makes you special
- Have proof of all of the above
Let’s go over each one.
Minimum Proficiency in Design Skills
Good design is not only how something looks, but how something works - a delightful combination of form and function. Most designers who are struggling to get entry-level design jobs are lacking minimum proficiency in at least one of the two areas.
You’ll need basic UI and visual skills in order to create the “form” of your design - its appearance, aesthetic, or layout. You’ll also need basic UX and user research skills in order to create the “function” of your design - its feel, flow, usefulness, and ability to solve user’s problems.
These skills are the foundation of all great designers, and you’ll need a minimum level of proficiency here before anything else, such as networking or interviewing.
Executing Design in the Real World
A popular misconception is that designers are simply creatives, artists, or visionaries. But in the world of software and hardware, designers are much more than that. They are problem-solvers, merging creativity and artistry with functionality and usefulness.
Their designs are intentional solutions that account for edge cases, errors, and for when users are in non-ideal conditions - designing for what goes wrong, not just when things go right. It’s usually work experience that teaches designers about this mindset - that’s why employers value work experience so much and avoid hiring designers without it. We'll talk about how you can gain this type of mindset later on in this guide.
Find What Makes You Special
Every designer, like every person, has particular strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Starting out, you may not know what these are, or what specific facets of design interest you the most. When you aren’t familiar with these, you’ll try to jump at opportunities that don’t suit you, unintentionally showcasing the wrong things about yourself in portfolios and interviews, and fail to stand out to hiring managers or companies.
Take time to think about and explore what makes you special as a designer. What are you really good at? Are you especially good at a certain skill, or do you possess a unique set of skills? Do you have hobbies, education, or work experience outside of design that gives you a perspective others don’t have?
Leaning into your strengths and interests will help you stand out from the crowd, advance in your career, and match with the right opportunities.
None of the three above criteria will matter much if you can’t prove them. As a designer in the UX industry, you are entering a world of practitioners. In this world, proof of being able to do something is king, with past work experience being the strongest form of evidence.
You’ll need to demonstrate your skills through a portfolio, case studies, and resume, and in talking about your design process. We’ll go into more detail about this in a later section.
The Action Plan
With these three focus areas in mind, it’s time to get moving on an action plan that’ll make you competitive in the UX industry.
We’ve run this action plan with lots of beginner designers and mentees with great results. This isn't a “hack” or cheat code - it requires hard work. But if you follow the plan, it will help reduce uncertainty in your process and guide you to focus on the things that will most improve your chances.
- Get basic UI skills to the minimum level of proficiency
- Get basic UX skills to the minimum level of proficiency
- Learn design thinking and execution
- Lean into your key strengths
- Create proof
- Get feedback
- Get on the market
The rest of this guide will walk you through the details on how to start putting this plan into action.
|✅ Know what generalist skills are needed
|✅ Know the strategy and the action plan