8 Simple Truths To Think About Before Getting Into UX Design
“You must want to be a butterfly so badly, you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” (Sekou Andrews)
You’ve been keeping a keen eye on the UX/Product Design role for a while.
You’ve read a bunch of Medium articles and done lots of research on courses.
You decide to jump in and commit.
You pay for the in-classroom course.
One week in. “Shit, it feels like everyone else knows way more than me.”
One month in, “I’m exhausted.”
Finishing the course.“I’m buggered, anxious and excited. I’m ready to do this in the real world (I think).”
Three weeks after the course, “shit, getting a job is not as easy as I thought.”
You get the point.
It’s no walk in the park changing career into User Experience.
Here are seven simple truths to think about before getting into UX/Product Design →
(caveat: this comes from my experience as someone who had no background in experience design or digital stuff before I started.)
1. You might love-hate it (for a bit)
“Being supper uncomfortable and drinking too much coffee makes me twitchy”
It will screw with your head. Jumping into a new world freaked me out at first, it all felt so foreign. I never got bored, but I got bloody tired having to keep my brain in gear all the time.
It will stress you out being in this new world, and if you’re like me, you’ll drink too much coffee and have your monkey mind overthinking everything.
The point: Whatever will be, will be. Let it happen and don’t worry about it too much. This is the way it’ll be getting going. It’ll give you a few grey hairs and a few sleepless nights. Suck it up and enjoy it.
2. It might NOT be the right time for you
“Don’t rush, just because you have reasons! Reason with the reasons and take definite action in the right direction, in haste, where needed, or with patience, where it is essential to do so! Mind your thought and think about your action!” (Ernest Agyemang Yeboah)
In 2009 I closed my cleaning company in Scotland. I was massively stressed. This stress meant my body didn’t enjoy uncomfortable situations anymore. For a while after, I sat in the shadows avoiding situations which put stress on me.
Years late when I jumped into user experience I felt much better. I felt stronger. I was less twitchy and tired. I felt ready for the change and was ready to give it a good crack.
The point: Everyone is different. Timing is important. Don’t jump into experience design unless you can put your heart, soul and strong mental health into it.
3. It won’t stop being hard
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)
It’s a bit like training to do a fell run. Fell running is something weird I used to do as a teenager. It’s a running race up and down a hill. Training to do a fell run is bloody hard at the start. As you get fitter you get better, but it doesn’t get any easier. You just get better at being used to the discomfort.
The point: With experience design, there’s a steep learning curve. Once you get a handle on what’s being asked of you, it’ll feel less foreign. It will still be tough though.
4. Short courses get you moving, the rest is up to you
“You realise that you will never be the best-looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.” (Casey Neistat)
If you did a General Assembly ten week plumbing immersive course how much would you learn? Would you know enough to become a fully fledged plumber? You wouldn’t, you’d learn enough to get an apprenticeship.
Stupid example but you get what I’m saying (plus I wanted to shoehorn this crap joke in below 💩)
The point: Don’t rely on a great boot camp courses to get you fully started. They give you a great foundation and show a potential employee your commitment to the field, but there’s still lots to do. There are no short cuts for this.
5. Honesty and authenticity is a surprisingly valuable tool
“Don’t trade your authenticity for approval”
Ok, we hear this kind of stuff all the time in Medium articles. And yes it is a cliche, but bear with me.
If you don’t have much UX design experience design, don’t make out that you know lots. No one cares if you don’t know it all. People only care if you’re honest, authentic and hardworking. They will care though, if you’re bullshitting.
You’ll need to go for a junior end position. When I started out I emailed Mehran (my first UX boss) and said I’m looking for a UX design role and I wanted to start from the ground up. I was lucky and he gave me a crack.
The point: Don’t bullshit your experience as it will add layers of stress to your days. If you say you’re a rockstar, you’ll hate it for longer than a while.
6. You will need to make some ‘LUCK’, and be a little pushy
I am a greater believer of luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” (Thomas Jefferson)
For my first role, I got a lucky break with Mehran and Mick interviewing me and offering me a position. Luck’s created by talking to lots of people and not giving up.
Luck is every day. Luck is what happened when my now wife agreed to go out with me. Luck is what happened when I chatted to my mate Ash about getting into a digital a career.
The point: Hustle a bit to get in the door. Be patient and a bit pushy. There’s no magic to this. The more you people you ask for a job, the more chance you have of getting one.
7. Choose wisely who you take advice from
“Be wary of design advice from non-designers and be wary of career change advice from people who’ve never changed career”
“Advice is like cooking — you should try it before you feed it to others.” (Croft M. Pentax)
I just read this quote in an article by John Mashni and I stole it as it’s a cracker. Thanks John.
There are lots of non-UX designers who’ll give you lots of advice on the field. Depending on the person’s background, more often than not this advice doesn’t help. Mainly because lots of people don’t fully know what a user experience designer does day to day.
Get design advice from designers or people who’ve worked very closely with experience designers.
The point: Listen to the right bloody people. Such a shame to be put off by people giving you the wrong information.
8. Care less about your age
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind. it doesn’t matter” (Mark Twain)
This is a funny one. I’ve chatted to people who are 60 who’ve started in user experience design and it’s worked out well. I’ve chatted to 40-year-olds, and it’s been a battle for them.
My feeling is you shouldn’t give a damn about your age. Who cares. If you enjoy the word of experience design then just get on with it.
If you have lots of responsibilities, work around them, don’t fight them. If you start your new career causing yourself, your partner or your family lots of stress then read number 2 again.
The point: There’s no point worrying about your age. Work with it.