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Eight Points to help Aspiring Designers find Career Focus

This post is the first in a series about transitioning from school or another occupation into a UX career.

As an aspiring UX designer, it’s not easy to know where to start. Job titles are all over the place. Am I a “UX Designer”, a “Creative UI/UX Professional”, or an “Information Architect”? Some descriptions focus on specific subspecialties within UX while others call for generalists that can work in different parts of the process.

Luckily, as a new UX designer, you aren’t expected to know what you might someday specialize in yet. All you need to do is know what skills you are bringing to the table and how they'll fill the needs of the position.

Where to begin?

One way to help narrow your focus and develop your pitch to prospective employers is to analyze the UX work you've done.

Questions to help you narrow it all down

“When you know you’re good at something, you speak from a position of authority and clarity.”

Nick Schaden, On Designer Self-Awareness

1. Name of the project

List all the projects you’ve worked on that required some amount of UX, whether a little or a lot. It doesn’t matter if it was in school, at an internship, or personal; they all count! Also state if you worked in a team or if it was a solo project.

2. Software used

List any app you used to complete this project. Though secondary to your soft skills, this list shows that you know how to use the proper tools to get the job done.

3. Your role

If you worked alone, write out every task you performed to complete the project. If you were part of a team, identify your main role and any tasks you assisted with. Don't forget to mention roles that you were elected for or naturally took on. For example, maybe you you were the team lead or gave the team presentation.

4. Skills used

Your soft skills are going to set you apart from the crowd. Think about ways you used communication, teamwork, and problem solving during the project.

5. What you enjoy doing

Maybe it was figuring out ways to solve complex interactions or conducting a heuristic review. Was there something that got you out of your comfort zone that you ended up really liking? Note that! The things listed here should be what you’d love to do on the job.

6. What you dislike doing

Knowing your dislikes will help you weed out the positions that seem less interesting. Perhaps you didn’t like presenting in front of the class or you didn’t care for creating visual designs in Sketch. Whatever it may be, write it down.

7. Tasks that you’d love to participate in more

Any part of the project that you wish you were more involved in should be recognized. Keep this list in mind so you can seek out opportunities that’ll allow you to sharpen these skills.

8. Portfolio-worthiness

This will help you keep track of the projects you want to focus on when it comes time to put together your UX portfolio.

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Once you’ve completed this exercise, you should be able to identify:

  • Where your main interests lie

  • Your strengths and weaknesses

  • What skills you feel confident about

If this exercise has revealed that you’re not where you want to be, that’s ok! Treat this as a roadmap to help you beef up your skillset. Either way, it’s a win because now you are a little more self aware, which is a quality every UX professional should have.

Next up: Defining organizations. Which one suits you best?