How did you break into your career? Maybe you followed a traditional path by going to college and majoring in what you wanted to do for a living. Or maybe you studied something similar to your current field and applied your skills to the position.
There’s no set guidebook for getting to where you want to be in your career. The colleague sitting next to you might have taken a very different path than you did. But that doesn’t make either of you right or wrong. It’s more about the journey than the destination.
And if you’ve decided your destination is UX research, there are plenty of ways to make a career out of it. You can conduct experiments on just about anything, which means there are opportunities for you to prove yourself and show you’re serious about a career in the field. But if you’re not exactly sure how to get into UX research, here are five tips to file away for your pursuit.
It’s unlikely you could just show up at a company and get hired for a UX research position. You need to get a foundation in UX research before making the leap. If your current job doesn’t involve research, try finding volunteer opportunities to gain experience.
See if there’s a startup company hub and offer to assist organizations there. Many small businesses may not have the resources for a full-time researcher — this is another great way to get freelance experience and make connections. You can build your resume and get your name out there among companies that might ask for your services in the future.
In a job interview, hiring managers want to hear about your experience and what makes you a good fit for the job you’re applying to. If you’re unable to talk about any hands-on UX research experience, it will be harder to sell yourself to the company.
Learn the lingo
Here’s another thing you need to work on if you want to get into UX research — understanding the language. Every field has its own unique vocabulary. It’s important to make sure you know the different terminology used in UX research planning and practice. This means taking courses, listening to podcasts, or reading articles by those currently in the field.
Shifting into a new profession is a scary thing, and the more you can fill your knowledge gaps and talk like someone in the field, the more confident you’ll be. Plus, others will take notice and see that you’re serious about your work. Consider taking a UX research course to give yourself a leg up on the competition and ensure that you can speak intelligently when you get in the room with other researchers.
Breaking into a new profession isn’t easy. There are barriers you might have to overcome. Think about the things you can do that will make someone want to hire you. Look at previous research studies from companies you might want to work for, and see if there’s anything you might have done differently.
And here’s another idea: Do exercises that are based in UX research but might not be directly rooted in the practice. Any examples you can show hiring managers or people looking for researchers will give you a leg up.
Remember that it’s perfectly fine to be aggressive and pitch yourself — projecting confidence will have the same effect on others. Plus, casting a wide net means more people will know who you are and what you’re aiming for — a full-time position in UX research.
Don’t be afraid to go for it
This scenario happens too often: A job posting lists a certain amount of required experience, and that’s enough to deter someone who might be right for the job but short on experience from applying. Don’t fall into this trap! If you’ve done the homework and know your stuff, give these postings a shot. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
And if you don’t have direct UX research experience, you can always get creative. Construct hypothetical cases and explain how you would approach your research in these cases.
Hiring managers like go-getters — if you prove that you’re serious about the position and that you understand what the company does, you’re going to stand out. There are other ways to prove your worth if you don’t have the amount of experience listed in the job posting.
Know the tools and how to use them
If you’re unsure how to get into UX research, it helps to poke around in the different software and platforms that companies specializing in UX research use on a daily basis. Even if you have a deep knowledge base, you might still find yourself with a steep learning curve in any UX research applications designed to put this knowledge into practice.
Play around with platforms like JotForm, which has a number of different templates and operational shortcuts that can help you understand how UX research is stored and how companies interpret it. JotForm has capabilities for all different types of UX research, and you’ll impress hiring managers when you get in front of them if you have this kind of baseline knowledge.
Make a good impression
Deciding to break into a new career can be scary. But when it comes to getting into UX research, if your heart’s in it, there are plenty of ways to set yourself apart.
Cast your net as wide as possible, and make a list of all the things you can do to get experience and make yourself a more attractive job candidate. That way, when it comes to an interview, you can enter the room calm, collected, and armed with the knowledge you’ll need to knock the socks off of anyone on the other side.