10 best pieces of UX career advice offered by pros [#uxchat roundup]

UX career advice

Photo credit: Michael Brace via flickr

UX careers don’t benefit from a curse/blessing enjoyed by many other vocations – the “this is how it’s done” convention.

There are many (many) roads UX professionals can take… and while they all lead to Rome, they can also be unpredictable. Medicine, for example, has benefited from centuries of trial and error, making the path to success rigid and defined.

During our latest #uxchat, we thought we’d help spread the wisdom UX practitioners have acquired so far. We asked two questions: 

  1. What’s the best work and career advice you’ve ever been given?
  2. What’s the best work and career advice you wish you’d been given (but weren’t)?

Maybe one day, the challenge will be devising ways of breaking tried-and-true career tactics – rather than wondering what works to begin with.

If you’d like to join our next #uxchat – a 1-hour session, every Thursday, where pros discuss a problematic or interesting UX topic on Twitter – follow the WhatUsersDo page. You can follow the rabbit hole for each tweet by clicking on it and reading the entire thread.

1. What’s the best work and career advice you’ve ever been given?

Adam Engstrom, a social psychology and UX aficionado, thinks you should be making friends in all places.

Adam’s reasoning reminds me of an article about how people used to break into mass media advertising, when the field was still new.

Up-and-comers would start out in the mailroom and by the time they started working on ads, they’d have gained an encyclopaedic understanding of the business, its people and capabilities.

They’d be aware of what and who was needed to get things done – and what was (realistically, honestly) the best possible thing to do, in a given situation.

An understanding of the different pieces that make a business tick – and what each wants from a UX professional – would be an asset to veterans and newbies alike.

Robert van der Elst, a front end developer and UI designer, reckons experience is the best teacher.

“Grok” is a wonderful verb which means “to understand or feel something intuitively” – as opposed to detached, intellectual comprehension.

I believe this is the difference between learning by doing (which helps you grok new lessons), and learning by studying (which helps you comprehend new lessons).

Both are important, of course… just don’t forget to grok, after you comprehend.

Joe Pendlebury, a UX and eCommerce mastermind, channels Jay Z by reminding you to harness your desire for success.

If students of solipsism and psychological egoism are to be believed, nothing supersedes the individual’s self-interest. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if the drive to enhance one’s self empowers us to do a better job of helping others.

Paul Randall, a sage of UX architecture, urges us to adopt the curiosity of children.

In fact, one of our mantras at WhatUsersDo goes something like, “‘Why’ is the most important question.” Without knowing why, the creative, problem-solving process cannot truly begin.

Olly Van Gaal, a football coach (and possible secret offspring of Louis Van Gaal), shares a simple (yet often forgotten) truth.

If you’re stuck doing something you’re not enjoying, keep making changes until you find your joie de vivre.

2. What’s the best work and career advice you wish you’d been given (but weren’t)?

Jennifer Ross, a UX consultant, wishes someone had told her that while love may not cost a thing, UX skills certainly should.

Anyone who values your skills enough to need them, should value them enough to pay you.

Tom Starley, a  UX-focussed CRO consultant, wishes he’d been warned about how the lens of perception can distort reality.

In short, don’t add your baggage. Observe occurrences as objectively and dispassionately as an outsider would. This quality is particularly valuable when it comes to getting maximum value from UX testing.

Nadia Aleksieva, a UXer and geek, would’ve appreciated encouragement to reach for the stars… even if her arms weren’t quite long enough.

It’s hard to disagree with Nadia here… (Donald Trump *cough* *cough*). This advice also goes nicely with Robert’s approach of learning by doing, while on the job.

Go for it, ladies that UX!

Tom Starley II thinks problem-solving should start small and manageable, before growing in ambition.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – it makes sense to fix issues within user journeys one step at a time too.

Elizabeth Chesters and Nadia Aleksieva, wish they hadn’t been pigeonholed when they decided to pursue tech careers.

Unless you live in the Matrix, remember there’s more to the world than code.

Enjoyed reading this article? Follow us on Twitter and join in during our next #uxchat – maybe we’ll feature your gorgeous mug and cutting commentary in the roundup.

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Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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