Getting started

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

Colton Schweitzer
October 14, 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 vault

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Back to vault

14

What is UX?

2
Getting started

Why is UX important?

3
Getting started

What is the UX process?

4
Getting started

What is design thinking?

5
Getting started

What do UX designers do?

6
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

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UX portfolio