Getting started

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

Colton Schweitzer
November 2, 2020
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.

Back to library
14
Back to library
14
The UX process for absolute beginners (with free cheatsheet!)
1
Getting started
How to become a UX designer in 2021 (and beyond)
2
Getting started
UX vs UI
7
Getting started
Do UX designers need to know how to code?
8
Getting started
Recommended UX books
9
Getting started
UX university programs: Pros & cons
12
Getting started
UX bootcamps: Pros & cons
13
Getting started
6 brutal truths aspiring UX designers don't want to hear
14
Getting started
Difference Between Graphic Designer vs UX Designer vs UI Designer
15
Getting started
Intro to research & understanding
101
Research & understanding
Finding a problem to solve
102
Research & understanding
SWOT analysis
103
Research & understanding
Competitive analysis
104
Research & understanding
Heuristic evaluation (usability evaluation)
105
Research & understanding
Task analysis
106
Research & understanding
Stakeholder interview
107
Research & understanding
Framing the problem
108
Research & understanding
Research plan
109
Research & understanding
Survey
110
Research & understanding
User interview
111
Research & understanding
Card sorting
112
Research & understanding
Customer journey map
113
Research & understanding
Empathy map
114
Research & understanding
Affinity diagram
115
Research & understanding
Personas
116
Research & understanding
Contextual inquiry
117
Research & understanding
Diary study
120
Research & understanding
Eye tracking
121
Research & understanding
Intro to IA
201
IA & wireframing
Layout + CRAP
203
IA & wireframing
Site map
204
IA & wireframing
Scenarios
205
IA & wireframing
Storyboards
206
IA & wireframing
Low vs high-fidelity
207
IA & wireframing
Sketching
208
IA & wireframing
Wireframes
209
IA & wireframing
User flows
210
IA & wireframing
Intro to usability testing
301
Prototyping & usability testing
Usability testing plan
302
Prototyping & usability testing
Prototypes
304
Prototyping & usability testing
Research report
305
Prototyping & usability testing
Typography basics
401
Visual design & handoff
Color basics
402
Visual design & handoff
Color accessibility
403
Visual design & handoff
Pixels vs points
404
Visual design & handoff
Layout + 8pt grid system
405
Visual design & handoff
Design system
406
Visual design & handoff
UX writing
408
Visual design & handoff
"Final" usability test
409
Visual design & handoff
UX portfolio basics
501
UX portfolio
Your portfolio is just another UX project
502
UX portfolio
Choosing a site builder for your UX portfolio
503
UX portfolio
UX portfolio inspiration
504
UX portfolio
5 tips for junior UXers asking for portfolio feedback
505
UX portfolio

Join hundreds of

designers learning UX

Take our free 7-day UX design course for graphic designers, complete your first UX project in just a few days, and see what you think.
😎 You're awesome! We'll send you an email with the next steps. 🎊
👻 It looks like there's a ghost in the machine. Please try again.