It’s an age-old conundrum: you need experience to land a UX design job, but it’s hard to build experience when you don’t have a design job. Read on to learn about how to get your foot in the door even if you don’t have a degree or UX design experience.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
If you’ve recently graduated with a design degree or have no formal design education, job hunting for UX/UI design roles might be a daunting process. But it doesn’t have to be. For nearly every requirement in a job listing—whether it’s a college education, years of experience, and time spent in other UX/UI design positions—there is a workaround if you understand the need behind the requirement.
For example, a design degree requirement helps recruiters identify those likely to have strong design skills, are familiar with graphic design tools, know the fundamentals of UX design, and have an understanding of design thinking—all of which can be self-taught or learned from an online UX design bootcamp.
Work experience requirements help recruiters identify candidates most likely to have completed projects end-to-end, have incorporated user research insights into their work, can design with empathy for the user, and can work well with others—all of which can be practiced and demonstrated through personal projects, capstone assignments, and online bootcamp exercises.
What ultimately matters to UX/UI design recruiters is that a candidate can prove their skills, knowledge, and passion for the craft, and, sometimes, taking an unconventional path can be just as effective as taking the path well worn.
UX/UI design offers rewarding, creative, and often high-paying careers, but the journey can be demanding, requiring a significant time commitment to learn the design skills needed to do the job.
It’s important to know why you want to pursue a career in UX/UI design and, if applicable, where or how you want to use that skillset to make a difference. Thinking about this can also help you decide whether you want to develop expertise in a certain domain, where you want to concentrate your project efforts, and the kinds of organizations you might want to work for.
There’s no getting around it—UX/UI design is a hands-on profession requiring UX design skills such as designing wireframes, mockups, prototypes, and sketches; conducting usability testing and engaging with user research; and proficiency with tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Adobe XD. The field of UX design also demands of its designers an understanding of user psychology, interactive design, problem-solving skills, strong communication, and an ability to collaborate.
Many of the above-mentioned skills can be self-taught, but online courses and bootcamps, such as Springboard’s Introduction to Design and the more in-depth UX/UI Design Bootcamp offer an effective and comprehensive way to ensure that you cover all your bases with the help of an industry mentor and careers counselors who are invested in your progress.
Online courses also offer certification in areas that can be difficult to learn on your own, such as design thinking, the UX design process, and industry best practices for user experience design and user interface design. Hands-on experience in the form of design sprints and capstone projects are often built into online courses, allowing students to develop real-world work experience that can help them land a job in UX design.
When hiring UX/UI designers, many recruiters want to know that the candidate is willing to go above and beyond simply possessing the technical skills required for the job. They also want to see curiosity, creativity, and an ability to think outside the box.
For example, when Google UX designer Lola Jiang first started job hunting, she interviewed for a role at Chinese tech company Zhihu where she was asked design questions about Apple’s iOS; the problem was she had exclusively used Android, and so couldn’t answer any of the questions. “After that interview...I realized that with all the innovations in our generation now, designers should not just focus [on] one brand’s interface design (E.g. Android or Apple),” Jiang said. “Instead, the skills and knowledge of a designer must be broad enough to satisfy distinctive design patterns.”
As with any design role, a strong portfolio with case studies is the key to showing a hiring manager what you’re capable of. You might want to upload your work to platforms such as Behance or Dribbble, publish your case studies to a personal blog, find opportunities to talk about how you’ve combined your technical and soft skills to successfully complete a project, and make both yourself and your work easily searchable and accessible.
Networking through a UX community is a great way to learn about job opportunities, get a sense of the job market, and ensure that you are top of mind when it comes time for companies to hire new talent. “Even now, the design community is still relatively small,” said Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s director of product design. “The fact that it’s so close and connected can work to your advantage.”
Many of the world’s biggest tech companies no longer require job candidates to hold a university degree, but they still expect candidates to be able to demonstrate that they have the technical skills, soft skills, and enthusiasm to fulfill the role. There are a few ways to prove to hiring managers that you have what it takes, even if your CV isn’t packed with experience.
If you’ve completed personal projects, volunteered UX design work for a nonprofit, done unsolicited redesigns, or worked on a project as part of a bootcamp or course, this all counts as hands-on experience that can demonstrate to potential employers that you have the UX design chops to get the job done.
This is also where online courses and bootcamps such as Springboard’s UI/UX Design Career Track and the Introduction to Design bootcamp can be especially helpful. One of the competitive differentiators of Springboard graduates is that they are given the opportunity to work on real-world projects for actual companies. This translates to tangible work experience that can be included in a CV or portfolio. This part of the program is called Industry Design Project (IDP) which provides real hands-on experience with a real company. This gives Springboard a competitive advantage in the world of online UX bootcamps.
Whether you take on a freelance project, accept a contract role, do an internship, or volunteer your design skills, every bit of work you do has portfolio potential, broadens your network, and builds valuable experience. UX/UI design courses like Springboard’s match every student with a dedicated careers coach who helps students navigate the workforce after they graduate, ensuring that every student has the best shot possible at building the portfolio needed to land their dream job.
“Sometimes, designers without traditional training possess an ingenuity that you don’t usually see,” said Zhuo, Facebook’s director of product design. “We’re really just looking for people who have that element of extreme proactivity. Even if they did go to a great school, they should have experience stretching themselves on projects both inside and outside of the classroom. Great candidates take the initiative to experiment, design, and build on their own.”
If what you lack in formal training and industry experience you make up for in personal projects and other relevant experience, be prepared to talk about it. Brush up on the kinds of UX/UI design job interview questions commonly asked of candidates; have your case studies ready; and be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of design processes, design thinking, and creative problem-solving.
While many newcomers to UX/UI design don’t have traditional experience working at a company in a design capacity, this doesn’t mean they have zero experience.
In fact, anyone who has completed an online bootcamp like Springboard’s UI/UX Design Career Track has worked on UI/UX design projects that have built experience and portfolio-worthy case studies. Below are some tips for making the most of limited experience on a résumé and portfolio.
Ready to switch careers to UI/UX Design?
Springboard offers a comprehensive UI/UX design bootcamp. No design background required—all you need is an eye for good visual design and the ability to empathize with your user. In the course, you’ll work on substantial design projects and complete a real-world externship with an industry client. After nine months, you’ll graduate with a UI/UX design mindset and a portfolio to show for it.
Check out Springboard's UI/UX Design Career Track to see if you qualify.
Not sure if UI/UX design is the right career for you?
Springboard now offers an Introduction to Design course. Learn what designers do on the job by working through a project with 1-on-1 mentorship from an industry expert. Topics covered include design tools, research, sketching, designing in high fidelity, and wireframing.
Check out Springboard’s Introduction to Design Course—enrollments are open to all!
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