"I'm a recent graduate who wants a UI/UX career. Any tips, advice, or leads to get me started?"

Ashlea McKay

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"Dear UX Agony Aunt I'm a recent graduate, and I'm interested in becoming a UI/UX designer/developer. The problem is, I don't really know where to start! Is it too much to hope for that out there in the industry, somewhere, is a pro who would be willing to mentor me? Any tips, advice, or leads?" — Nishita

Dear Nishita, Congrats on your recent graduation!  I think it’s wonderful that you’ve found what that you’re interested in — and even better that it’s UX! Girl, I bet you don't know where to start! I've been there, let me tell you. One thing I know for sure: UX is a multifaceted industry that defies strict definitions and constantly evolves. But there are plenty of ways in, and you'll have no trouble if you foster these three things: empathy, drive, and an open mind. I now humbly present five of my best tips for starting your career with a bang. After you read these, explore the resources I've listed, and definitely head on over to UX Mastery (a place that any Uxer can call home).

My Stunningly Amazing Five Top Tips for Starting a UX Career

That's right — do these things and you'll be on your way to a dazzling career.

Start with something you enjoy

One of my favourite things about UX the sheer number of options available to you. It's that hot, and that in demand, that YOU get to choose which piece of it you want to bite off first. I’m an industrial designer, but the user research side of things makes me so so happy, so that's what I do. It may seem daunting, impossible, or even slightly cliche to simply "Do what you love". But armed with the three essential ingredients I mentioned above — empathy, drive, and an open mind — you actually can do anything. And you must make use of UX Mastery's UX Self Assessment Sundial. Trust me — it'll help you to clarify the skills you have and what you love. sundial UX careers uxmastery

Start a two-way relationship with a mentor

A mentor is a wonderful thing to have no matter what stage you are at in your UX career. You might even find yourself with more than one — I personally have four! They each bring their own experiences and skills into the mix, and I bring mine too. And here's the great thing about mentoring — I also have four mentees of my own. Mentoring is two-way street, so think about what you could bring to the relationship as well. You might have a skill your mentor wants to learn, or they may have never mentored before and you'll be their guinea pig. You asked if someone out there would be willing to mentor you. Yes absolutely! UX people are some of the nicest people around (if I do say so myself!). We devote our time to improving the experience of others, and truthfully, we never stop interating ourselves (an ever-evolving project). How do you find a mentor? Oh, that’s easy: just ask. Seriously, it’s that simple. Reach out to people who inspire you — email, social media, and video calling mean you don't have to let a silly thing like the ocean be a barrier!

Build meaningful connections with fellow UXers

Connecting with other UX humans, both online and face-to-face, is essential. Why? Because people are the heart of UX. We also make excellent company, what with our creative intelligence and our wicked sense of humor (well, that's describing me and the people I know, anyway!) For online connections, get thee straight to the UX Mastery community — it's where I found my feet as a new UXer — where it's totally fine to out yourself as a newbie and ask those questions burning a hole in your pocket (or mind). For in-person connections, a quick google search should turn up UX events and meetups in your area — be brace and just go! You will have a great time, promise.

Use Twitter as your source of quality UX-related content

Twitter is my favourite online resource for UX articles and resources. There are just SO many potential things to read, so Twitter acts as the perfect filter. Set up a Twitter account for all your professional UX stuff (do remember that this means no tweeting about how cranky you are that your cat didn’t keep its breakfast down). Only follow the people who do the things you're interested in (so no following the Kardashians). And make an effort to not just skim read the posts and resources people share, but to absorb the content, make notes, reflect, agree or disagree, brainstorm and wrestle with the ideas, put them into practise, discuss them with people, tweet, retweet, and retweet other peoples' retweets. And whenever you stumble upon a particularly interesting or useful post, sign up for their newsletter or add them to your RSS feed.

Amplify your online presence (CVs have been kicked off their throne)

The best advice I received when starting out was to build an online presence. At the time, I was iterating my CV and asking for feedback — the traditional "How to get a job" approach we were taught as tots.My manager told me then that it’s really not about your CV — it’s more about your LinkedIn profile, and your ability to share your thoughts with others through blogging and tweeting. CVs are still useful, but things are different now. Was he right? Damn straight he was!  In addition to the professional Twitter account you’re going to set up, update your Linkedin profile and consider starting a blog (which, incidentally, is a great way to engage with the UX content you'll already be reading and tweeting about — double whammy!).

Start Here: Five websites and ten twitter accounts to follow right now

Subscribe to updates and dive into the archives of these places:

Then search for these accounts and hit 'Follow' on Twitter:

Go for it Nishita — you'll do great!

Who is UX Agony Aunt? Can she help me?!

She certainly can! Head on over to her place and find out what she can help you with, and how you can submit a question.

Ashlea McKay
  • Ashlea McKay
  • Ashlea McKay is a user experience designer (UX), researcher and writer with a background in industrial design. Her experience spans both the public and private sectors and she is an internationally respected industry thought leader and conference speaker. Ashlea loves conducting user research because she learns something new every day and enjoys understanding what makes users tick. Ashlea is also passionate about mentoring and is heavily involved in the UX community at large. She regularly writes articles for well-known UX publications and is the co-founder and voice behind UX advice column, UX Agony Aunt. In her spare time, Ashlea enjoys colouring in and adding to her extensive LEGO collection.

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