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Career Change 2021 To UX Design – 4 Things To Look Out For

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“An effective coach is when he or she does not tell you exactly what to do, but they actually become your mirror by reflecting your questions hence stretching your capacity.

Changing jobs is never easy. If you’re still undecided on your career path such as a career switch to UX design, researching the jobs that are currently in high demand, hence identifying the sectors with the highest opportunities is a great place to start. So, which industry has a high supply of jobs and also offers a great salary? Sounds too good to be true isn’t it? But that’s the exact description of the User Experience (UX) industry today in 2020 and continues to be described as such in projections for 2021.

Evidence of the growing demand of UX jobs even during COVID, proving that acquiring UX skills is a pandemic-proof way of staying employable, is all over the internet. Jobs in UX Design and its variants (i.e. Human-centred Design, Product Design etc.) have been cited as one of the top 10 jobs in demand in 2020 and 2021 in various credible and impartial articles such as, CNBC, LinkedIn, and Adobe.

According to InVision’s 2019 Hiring Report, four in five (81%) product designers are contacted by recruiters on at least a monthly basis, while one in three (34%) are contacted by recruiters weekly.

Source: InVision

I had the opportunity to interview Atlas Lim, the Associate Creative Director of Publicis Sapient, one of the world’s leading experienced design agencies, regarding this topic of career change. One of the key things he mentioned was about coaching/ mentoring. He shared how he benefited from that, and now practices it too. Working with a good manager over a considerable period of time enables you to learn so much more at a much faster rate than if you were to break into a new industry all on your own.

A Good Coach

I believe the key thing in identifying an effective coach is when he or she does not tell you exactly what to do, but they actually become your mirror, and that they reflect questions. They facilitate a very structured process in order for you to grow from and get to the next level.

A Good Mentor

What about a good mentor? A good mentor shares his or her experience, so that you can model after that experience, and with that, you can emulate and be able to practice on the best.

So I’m going to share with you 4 things that you should look out for when choosing to invest in switching to a UX design career.

When you’re at a stage where you’re going to commit that time, you’re going to commit their money, and you’re going to commit energy into a career transition programme/bootcamp – consider these 4 things before anything else, not just the price, and not just the curriculum.

1. Model from the Best

If you’re modelling someone who has worked in the industry for a long time, someone who is considered one of the top in the industry, you’re naturally going to learn 50 – 70%, of what they know just by working with them. You might not learn everything in the first year, but over time, you’re going to learn quite a number of things. Hence, one of the most important things to understand is that you have to ask the institution or school that you’re applying for:

“Who is your instructor?”

Are they still practising as a designer? What level of seniority did they reach? Are they really that good at what they are doing?

That instructor is going to make or break your entire experience.

If you don’t have someone reliable, and they are not connected to the industry, you’re going to be having a poor experience, overall – just not benefiting and learning as much as you can, which would impact you greatly especially if you quit your current job to embark on this career change journey. That’s an important risk to consider. That’s the opportunity cost. And that’s something that you should really value over like the cost of the programme. So, that’s number one.

2. Understanding Biases

And the second thing is about understanding biases. Most programs only have one instructor. And most of the time you’re going to sign up for it without even being sure on who is going to be coaching or guiding you and whether they’re good at what they do. If you’re trusting a brand name blindly, that can be quite a big risk, right? So, make sure that you talk to different people who just recently graduated.

Make sure that you’re also doing your homework and asking if you can personally speak to the instructor before you blindly sign on the form and pay the deposit. Hence, it’s important to understand if the program has biases and to check on what efforts the company takes to eliminate these biases. So, that’s eliminating biases.

3. Choosing Context over Content

The third thing to really consider is the context. The course content itself is not the most important thing. When considering a UX course, a lot of people are going to look at the course content and compare various contents in the curriculum amongst different schools. They’ll wonder if the course curriculum covers all theoretical content comprehensively. However, that is not the most important thing.

Because, content is something you can read up and learn on your own. And that is something that you can train yourself to be good at. So, don’t start comparing schools based on their content. It is so much better if you just decide for yourself on who the world’s leading authority in UX research as well as in UX design. And just make sure that you’re reading the books that they write. You’re going to have a much better experience than comparing curriculums between schools on what the most appropriate course content offered should be.

You should look out for the context instead. What do I mean by context? Every single mid-career professional has their own strength and their own values that they bring into the process and the jobs. So, I don’t believe that a one-size-fits-all approach should be the way a UX course is taught to all of you. In fact I believe in specialisation. I believe in telling a story about what you did before and how that links to why you want to be a UX designer.

So, please do not follow the bootcamp model where everyone is being treated in the same manner, where they’re being given identical checklists and identical projects to work on. That is very challenging for you to get hired as a UX Designer if that’s the only thing you have in your portfolio. So, please do not practice that even though I know that is a very common practice in UX Bootcamps. So, that’s context.

4. Mindset

The last thing is on mindset. It’s really interesting to me how little emphasis is being placed in schools on teaching mindset. You shouldn’t just be educated to understand knowledge and acquire skills. Schools should go going beyond that. They should help you understand what the right way of working is and what the right practice is. And one of the key things I often notice in some of my students is that they tend to pursue perfection as a designer, rather than progression. And that’s precisely why mindset is an important aspect to learn in a UX course.

When you’re working for a tech company, you’re going to be asked to work in a very agile way. And “agile” is a mindset. It’s where you internalise it. It’s not something you say or repeat in an interview by saying agile means “ABCD”. It’s about a way of working. So, when we talk about mindset, and you’re taking the vanilla process of the entire UX design, where you do research, design and testing:
1. Do you know what situations need to have certain processes sped up?
2. As well as why you need to speed up said processes?
3. Which research methodologies are you going to choose?

How are you going to solve a problem? And for what kind of problems are you applying the right solutions? So, that is all down to mindset, it is all down to thinking.

That’s something that most courses do not grow and impart enough of. Hence, you should definitely ask how the course can help you build a mindset where you can thrive as a designer.

Our 4-Month UX Career Accelerator:

How we help you fulfil these 4 steps at CuriousCore:

Some of my first 4-month UX Career Accelerator students and I

1. Model The Way

You can read about my experience and expertise as a Design Educator here.

2. Understanding Biases

A) Eliminating Local Biases

One of the things that we do here at CuriousCore is that we eliminate local biases – meaning that we don’t just invite people from the Singapore industry. We invite people who work internationally so that our students in the 4-Month UX Career Accelerator can work internationally upon graduation if they choose to.

B) Multiple Guest Instructors

The second bias CuriousCore eliminates is instructor knowledge bias. I do not consider myself to be the only subject matter expert in everything related to UX and I don’t believe that is the truth! There’s still so much for me to learn. I pride myself in being a good custodian, facilitator and coach by being good at understanding the strategic elements of UX design. And, of course, the content and piecing everything together, helping everything make sense and telling a good story. So those things, I understand very well at a very deep level and I can advice people on that.

Other things, not so much! Which is why I bring in guest instructors to make sure they complement me in what I’m not strong at. Tell me a program that has an instructor reflecting to you and telling you “Hey, this is what I’m not good at. And this is what I’m good at.” So, I’m just sharing and making sure that if you’re signing up for our course, you know what I’m bringing to the table.

You can view our guest instructors profiles and their international backgrounds on our course page.

3. Choosing Context Over Content

At CuriousCore, we do not have a fixed course curriculum. What’s fixed is the process we take our students through. The content however, changes accordingly based on each student’s expertise and interest, hence prioritising the context.

All students will embark on real client projects in groups, 1 project each month for all the 4 months of the course. All students will also attend our 2-day Design Sprints for theoretical knowledge.

However, the type of support and content provided by the coaches differ based on what the student chooses to specialise in. After all, being a UX Designer differs greatly from being a UX Researcher or UX Writer, doesn’t it?

By the end of the 4 months, each student will be confident in applying for the position they have sharpened their skills in. This would have been chosen at the start of the course based on the skills they already had from previous work experience (regardless of what background they come from, we always find a way to identify transferable skills from various fields to the existing roles of UX). This ensures that their years of experience don’t go to waste.

You can find out more about these course features on our course page.

4. Mindset

I am a strong believer of educating my students on the right mindset and this is definitely incorporated in our course plan, under the feature of “Weekly Group Coaching Calls”:

• Weekly group coaching calls with the coach on the topics below:

– Interview Coaching: What to prepare for your interviews and how to present

– Web Presence: Getting noticed online (via LinkedIn and your website) o Monthly guest Senior Design Leader mentoring: The coach will get someone from the industry who is likely hiring or very experienced (12+ years) to chat with the coaching group and review your portfolios and progress

Mindset and skills revision: Learning and re-learning the core concepts to prepare you for a career in digital design.

In fact, I often share and post about the importance of mindset on my LinkedIn (feel free to connect!) and in our webinars with current UX practitioners. You can watch our past recorded webinars here on our Facebook page.