Becoming a UX Designer


This article is for people who want to switch their career to UX Design. They might work full-time or not have a job and they want to know how to get in to this profession. 5 years ago I transitioned from a software engineer to a UX designer. I talked with many fellow career changers and I am sharing with you what I learned on the way.

Research around you

Stories about UX from San Francisco can sound very cool. You might imagine that in your country design profession works the same way as there. Unfortunately, often this isn’t the case. Here in Switzerland most of the companies are still trying to find out what is the role of a UX designer.

So if you don’t live in San Francisco and you want to find a job in your country, it is helpful to learn more about the companies who employ UX professionals. Apart from seeing a job post it helps to ask other questions like:

Find ways to get hired

Now you know more about the state of UX in your country. It is time to think how you want to get hired, because who wants to hire somebody without work experience and formal design education? Often it seems that nobody. After completing an online course and preparing a portfolio, you still get rejected. But how is it possible that so many people (like myself) managed to switch? The following strategies worked for others:

Do freelancing

Finding a freelancing job in your area might be the easiest way to get started with UX. Be aware that it will consume your free time. It is important to have real stakeholders and results that you can add to your resume. Just few examples of such projects from me and my friends:

For these projects I used my engineering background, but it can be done with Wordpress, Shopify or Webflow. I never found anything on nor There were too many people offering services for very low prices for people with more experience.

Join a startup

Usually startups don’t have big budget to pay a senior designer, or any designer. That’s why they often hire passionate people like you! This option is for people who are willing to accept the startup lifestyle, lower salary and gain professional UX design experience in return. Talk to the founders about the importance of UX and you might be hired even before the job is posted.

Transition your role inside your company

In a big corporation you often meet people who transitioned from one role to other. For example a developer became a project manager, requirement engineer or UX designer. When you are on a project where UX is needed, it is easy to take up more and more tasks, talk to your line managers and slowly change your role.

Obviously, it is for people who are working on a digital product or service. In my case, I worked as a consultant with an in-house UX team. They knew how I work and how motivated I am. Once they had the budget to grow, I was an easy hire.

Get a degree in design

Going back to school and get a masters in design should guarantee you to get hired. This will take few years and it might not be an option for all as we need continuous cash flow. Actually, in my social circles I don’t know anyone who chose this way.

As a full-time employee, we learn about UX from books and trainings. But if your goal is to get a job with certifications alone, you will find it very difficult. Many hiring teams believe in the value of a real degree and a real work experience. Therefore projects and a nice UX portfolio is important.

Applying for positions

Imagine the following: for 1 UX design position at a big corporation a hiring team receives over 100 applications (if not more). This has few implications for you:

Prepare your CV

When I hire, I check the designer’s resume and I don’t expect an over designed page, where design is getting in the way of understanding the document. I look for her or his work experience relevant to the role, education and companies they worked in.

Prepare your portfolio

For my UX portfolio I used nngroup’s detailed article. I always recommend it to others and so far I received only positive feedback. As I mentioned above, it is important to keep it relevant to the role, short and scannable.

Giving interviews

Some people give interviews without preparation. It might work, but you are a designer and you love research, iterations and testing. It is a good idea to know what you want to say about your background and job experience. In addition to that, I usually research the following:

With interviewing, like with public speaking, you get better with practice. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get honest feedback on how you did, but an invitation to the next round or a job offer is a sign you were great.

Next steps after you are hired

Once you get your first UX job, your story is just starting. Now you are part of a movement towards better human experiences, so don’t let the company convince you otherwise. UX is a very young profession and you might face resistance. You cannot simple tell others that they are all wrong and UX is the God. On the other hand, why should you waste your talent and time in a very conservative company? To survive, consider the following:

Good luck!