About a year ago, I made the transition from marketing to UX. I studied psychology and marketing in school and launched into a marketing career after graduating. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure it was the right career path for me. By lucky happenstance, I discovered user experience and immediately fell in love.
Although we use metrics and other bits of data in marketing to influence people, I often felt like I was playing a guessing game. Would this LinkedIn campaign perform well? Would this particular email resonate? I felt like my target audience was behind some sort of wall. I could occasionally glean something from past successes or recommended approaches, but I didn’t truly understand them. The idea of pursuing a career that was focused on the users and integrating their needs into a product was very intriguing.
But it was not an easy transition. From the time I discovered UX to finally landing my first role, it took about two and a half years. There were highs and lows, from completing different courses to almost giving up on the job search.
That’s right — I almost gave up. User experience can be a really tough field to break into. Which was especially disheartening because I kept hearing about how much the field was growing and the gap in talent to match that growth. After completing initial research on my own and completing a UX class with General Assembly, I eagerly scoured job boards to see what was available.
But I found two huge issues. The first was the quality of job postings. As I mentioned, and as you probably know, UX is a growing field. And while that means lots of opportunities, it also means companies may not totally understand what they are hiring for. The number of postings I saw that included everything from UI, to UX design, to UX research, to front-end development was terrifying. Sure, there are people that will have skills across the board, but it’s a very rare person who can do it all well.
Another issue was experience. A lot of companies just weren’t willing to take on a junior person. They wanted someone who could jump right in and hit the ground running.
I despaired for a bit, but then I changed my way of thinking and decided to take a slightly different route. At the time, I was working for a small non-profit. It was a great place to begin my career, but I started looking at marketing roles within larger companies that also had UX teams. I thought perhaps I could transition to UX once I proved myself.
So, I landed a job at a much larger company. Shortly after starting, however, my company was acquired and there were a lot of changes to manage. I felt myself pulling away from UX again in order to stay afloat. I lost my way for a bit.
After everything started to settle down (slightly), I felt myself drawn back towards it and I reached out to the UX team within my company. I was able to work on a mini research project, which invigorated me to pick my pursuit back up. I started attending local meetups again and also registered for the Nielsen Norman conference to attain a certification in UX Research.
At this point, I had been studying UX for over two years. There were times I felt like I might never make it and times where I had to solely focus on my marketing career. But even when I shoved it to the back of my mind, I never completely threw the idea away. As luck would have it, I met someone at the NNg conference who recommended me to her company’s hiring team. Her company was just starting to grow a user centered design team and they were more open to junior employees. They cared more about my desire to learn and passion for the field, instead of years of experience.
Everyone takes a different route or turn on their way to UX, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. Even if you lose the way for a bit, it’s possible to re-orient yourself and find the way there. Keep learning and meeting new people. There will be companies and job postings that aren’t right for you, but that doesn’t mean the job for you doesn’t exist. If or when you lose hope, keep walking.