6 brutal truths aspiring UX designers don't want to hear

6 brutal truths aspiring UX designers don't want to hear

Colton Schweitzer
Colton Schweitzer
It takes a TON of time and hard work.

This can’t be stated enough. If you want to get into UX, be prepared to dedicate 10x more time and effort than you anticipate. This can make it really hard for people with full-time jobs.

UX is an ultra competitive field for people who are just starting out. Companies want to hire someone who can hit the ground running and not have to be handheld the whole time. Develop your skill set with that goal in mind.

The people who most often succeed out of university/colleges and bootcamps didn’t just rely on the projects that were prescribed by the program. No, they found ways to build their UX muscles through design challenges, hackathons, their own personal projects, and whatever other methods they could find to get experience. 

The long and short of it, if you choose a bootcamp or university, you’ll need to put in much more time and effort to land a job in UX. 

The educational institution (university or bootcamp) where you learned UX does NOT guarantee you a job.

Holy cow… if we got a nickel every time we were asked, “Which bootcamp or university program do hiring managers or recruiters prefer to see on a resume?” The answer is none of them.

Most hiring managers and recruiters don’t care where you went. They care what kind of experience you have and about your personal story getting into UX. They care if you can start the job and make valuable contributions to the team without bogging down more senior designers. They want to hire someone who can independently go through the UX process with little to no supervision.  

The myth that bootcamps portray with their “Job Guarantee” is just that, a myth. Also, if you haven’t already, go and look at the pages and pages of legal language attached to the “Job Guarantees” from the top bootcamps. Here they are:

Designlab Job Guarantee

CareerFoundry Job Guarantee

Springboard Job Guarantee

The guarantee is voided if you miss just one of the requirements. And the list of requirements is incredibly long.

After graduation from whatever program, it will likely take a beginner UX designer months and months, if not a year or longer, to land their first job. Don’t succumb to the hype of the "Job Guarantee." The majority of UX jobs ask for at least 3-5 years of job experience. Most companies aren’t looking to take a chance on a new designer.

Go into the field knowing that you have to put in a bunch of extra time to build your skills and create your experience for yourself. 

Your starting salary will almost assuredly be lower than the national average.

Unless you’re in the U.S. and starting in a city where the cost of living is super high, don’t expect to be making six figures out of the gate. Take the job, build your experience and your portfolio. It takes years of hard work and proving yourself in the field to start earning the higher salaries associated with UX.

That said, there are people who immediately make those salaries. These people have experience in similar fields that directly apply to UX. This gives them a leg up. 

After going through a bootcamp or university program, you’re still a UX toddler.  

Even though your title coming out of a bootcamp or university program is UX designer, you’re really a junior UX designer. Just like anything in life, it takes time to build up your UX skills to be an efficient, effective, and knowledgeable UXer. You wouldn’t start learning guitar and expect to be Eddie VanHalen (RIP) in even 2 years time. Similarly, don’t expect to come out of a university program or bootcamp knowing everything and feeling 100% confident.

You’ll have built a great foundation to kickstart your career, which is awesome. You learn so much being on the job. Be open, curious, and receptive and you’ll continue to build your UX chops. 

When you’re first starting out, take whatever UX position you can. 

Don’t be picky. If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, it’s tough to get a job as a junior designer. You don’t have a lot of bargaining power in the beginning of your UX career. You have to prove your skills as a UX designer for most companies to be willing to take a chance on you. Like Abba.

So, if a company offers you a position, take it! Even if it means moving. You have to start building your portfolio and experience. Once you hit that 3-5 year mark, many other companies will start becoming interested in you. 

All that said, this only applies to companies that are offering real UX roles. If a company offers a role where you don't get to practice a true human-centered process, don't take it.

It’s just as much about marketing yourself as it is your UX skill set. 

If you think you can rely on your experience and wait for a hiring manager to notice how awesome you are, think again. To get a job in UX, you have to be able to market yourself to hiring managers and recruiters. This means your portfolio has to be top notch.

Unfortunately, in our experience, many of the portfolios coming out of university programs and bootcamps all look alike and are mediocre at best. You’ll have to put in a lot of time and energy perfecting your case studies and portfolio in order to stand out. You'll also have to make a kick-ass portfolio presentation deck for your interviews.

In general, it's really tough to get into UX nowadays. You have to be willing to put in a ton of time and effort to make the transition. If you are have a strong mindset, stay persistent, work hard, and continue practicing, you can absolutely make it happen.

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