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7 tips to grow your career as a junior UX designer

UX design is one of the few industries that actually grew during the COVID-19 pandemic — a trend that looks set to continue, according to the UX Design Institute.

Global lockdowns and the rush to implement remote work led to an increase in UX design demand — which is likely to continue increasing as more people join the online world.

According to We Are Social, the number of internet users has increased by 301 million since 2019 — putting pressure on companies to provide seamless user experiences to increasing numbers of customers.

This is great news for aspiring UX designers — regardless of whether you’re a recent graduate or looking for a career change — because it means there’s more work available than ever.

Plus, new courses are making it easier for aspiring UX designers to launch their careers, such as Google’s UX Design Certification, which gives you the basic skills you need to get started.

However, it’s a competitive field, and you’ll need a solid plan to successfully launch and grow your career. This article will cover seven tips that will help junior UX designers set out on the right foot.

1. Become a master problem-solver

All design is problem-solving. Every successful design that exists in the world today came about as a response to an identified problem.

UX design focuses on the experience of the people who use a software product, app, or website. Therefore, the need to problem-solve is inherent in this field, and the role of the UX designer is to anticipate, mitigate, and resolve any problems that users might encounter.

Therefore, to be a successful UX designer, you need to be a master problem-solver. If this comes naturally to you, that’s great, but don’t worry if it doesn’t. Just like any skill, you can cultivate your problem-solving abilities by simply looking at examples of UX that are all around you.

Train yourself to spot ways websites or apps can improve the user experience. For instance, does a website have lengthy dropdown menus? Does every option open in a new tab, disorienting the person using the site? Could the onboarding checklist be more streamlined? Could the checkout page be clearer?

Make a habit of analyzing UX wherever you encounter it, follow top UX influencers on LinkedIn who talk about these issues, and look at every UX challenge as an opportunity to solve a problem and positively impact your field while growing as a designer.

2. Take a UX design course

There is no more straightforward way to grow your career than to upskill yourself using a mix of free and paid online courses. Fortunately, it’s no longer necessary to go back to school and get a Bachelor’s degree — there are plenty of online courses that will provide you with the skills you need to get started.

Identify an area of UX that you want to grow in, such as information architecture, UI design, or visual design, then enroll in a course — it’s that simple! Here are a few of the most popular websites for UX design courses:

3. Have a process and keep refining it

UX design is all about process — and lots of trial and error. Because of its scientific nature, you’ll need a clear structure, goals, and a robust process if you want to grow in this career.

Your design process should start from the first step — identifying a need or problem — and take you all the way through to testing and refining your solution. The basic process for UX design thinking is as follows:

  • Product definition
  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Validation

It’s important to keep in mind that iterating on your process is as important as having one. Revisit your steps regularly and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my process helping me take this particular project through to completion?
  • Is any part of the process acting as an obstacle?
  • What parts do I need to retain or get rid of to improve the speed or quality of this particular project?
  • Are there any overall learnings I need to apply to my process after this project is done?

4. Schedule time for sketching

Stay connected with your pen-and-paper roots, and always set aside time for some quintessential drawing and sketching practice. This will help your brain get used to generating ideas and keep your creativity flowing. To avoid being ‘always on,’ schedule this time into your calendar throughout your working week.

Be deliberate about what you’re sketching and keep in mind the end outcome for your users — how is your sketched idea improving their life? Don’t be afraid to try things that seem unrelated to your problem — the best ideas often emerge out of this lateral mode of thinking.

Relatedly, try not to call an idea a solution too early — even if it appeals to you. When you feel like you’ve arrived at a solution, explore two to three other options to judge whether something else can do the job better.

5. Refine your communication skills

Sometimes, the skill holding you back has nothing to do with your design abilities but your ability to communicate your ideas.

As a UX designer, communicating your ideas clearly to both internal design teams and external stakeholders is essential. The ability to explain the rationale behind your choices and break them down into terms understandable by non-designers is crucial to evolving your career.

Adapt your language based on who you’re talking to — although avoiding jargon is always a good rule of thumb — and learn how to tell a good story. The best brands were created by people who shared a joint vision of a story to tell.

Working on your communication will also make you more sociable, opening up the confidence to thrive at networking events and learn laterally from your peers at work.

6. Map out your career path

The UX designer role demands versatility in terms of the kind of environment you work in. You could be one out of many UX designers working under a design lead at a large multinational, or you could be the only UX designer building your company’s website from the ground up.

This means you have to decide how much independence you want in your daily work life. Some companies will have a complete growth plan chalked out for you, while others will turn to you to create one for yourself.

So ask yourself — how fast, how effectively, and in what direction would you like to grow? Use company objectives and key results to tie personal milestones with company-wide goals and strategy. That way, you upskill yourself in a way that makes you increasingly indispensable to your team.

7. Learn to receive and give criticism

Learning to take criticism comes with the territory as a UX designer. Positive and not-so-positive feedback will come your way often, and you’ll also have to dish out some uncomfortable truths yourself.

Learn the art of kindly conveying the truth without sugarcoating it — and learn to accept the same kind of truths about yourself. Here are a few tips for receiving feedback gracefully:

Don’t take it personally

No matter how passionately you’re immersed in UX design, you will never be your job. A bit of healthy detachment goes a long way and helps you not to take criticism personally.

Focus on specific, actionable mistakes

If your client, teammate, or boss is not giving you clear, actionable feedback, gently steer the conversation back into specific, quantifiable issues with your work and teach them how to give design feedback you can actually use.

Set realistic deadlines

Let clients or colleagues know you’ll need time to integrate their feedback into your designs. Avoid overpromising, especially if you have other work piling up. Giving yourself more time to find the right solution is better than rushing to turn the project around.

Remember the positive feedback!

Humans are risk-averse creatures, so we tend to remember the negative more easily than the positive — but it’s important to celebrate the things you did right.

Many creatives keep a folder where they save all the positive feedback they’ve received to lift them up on days when they may feel less confident in their abilities.

Get ready to launch your UX design career

With all the opportunities currently opening up, there’s never been a better time to start a career in UX design.

With the right training, a stunning design portfolio, and a plan, you’ll soon be on the path to the career of your dreams.

Of course, you’ll also need the best tools in the business backing you up — including a digital asset management tool that adapts to your needs.

Playbook is a visual digital storage system created with designers like you in mind. With Playbook, you can store, share, and collaborate on files — and never again spend hours searching through folders and subfolders for that one elusive JPG file.

Did we mention that you also get 4TB of lifetime storage? Sign up for your free account to access it right away.