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Everything You Need To Know About The UX Design Job Market in 2020

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COVID wasn’t the only thing that happened in 2020. This year also marked drastic career growths, transitions and for many unfortunate people, job loss as well. With various industries taking unexpected hits and laying off people by the hundreds, it’s time to look back on how the UX Design industry did amidst the pandemic as the year is coming to a close.

In this article, I cover all these questions and more from my conversations with the leaders who are part of this ecosystem that are helping organisations lean into change in a digital economy. If you’re a creative professional, you will leave this article with actionable tips that will save you the embarrassment from applying the wrong career strategy in your first job in tech.

I’ve been busy with shooting webinars and running workshops online ever since COVID. I recognize that not everyone has the time to go through these one hour webinars or two hour workshops that I conduct even though they’re free. So, I have decided to continue doing this short format articles.

What I have really appreciated since Phase 2 was being able to start meeting people again. You never really know the value of something until it gets taken away from you. I have once again started to actually go out and have in-person meetings. I’m sure many of you have been suffering from zoom fatigue in the earlier part of this year and hope that has been solved with Phase 2 and Phase 3 opening up shortly!

One of the conversations I have had is with Lisa Campbell, the APAC director of Cogs Agency, who is a very, very wise person and very experienced in what she does. I asked her about the state of user experience design industry in Singapore since as a coach and trainer in UX, I do have people who have been asking me these types of questions.

I would like to share her answers with you since you’re tuning into this blog post at this moment. Questions with regards to salary, the size of the job market, how people should position themselves – I asked them all.

3 Questions on the UX Job Market in Asia

Q1. Has the salary decreased for junior designers?”

Her definition for junior designers referred to anyone with lesser than five years of relevant experience. Her answer to this question was:

A1: No, the salaries for junior UX designers or junior design researchers are still the same. Before COVID, and now, right during this pandemic season. It is still the same right now, because it’s a very competitive industry.

Q2. Has the market shrunk? Because I see companies downsizing and letting people go as well as people losing jobs.

A2. As a whole, the market hasn’t really shrunk much. As long as you have the right skills and the right experience, you’re still a very hireable candidate.

And I’ve seen this to be true as well. I’ve been speaking with different design leaders, including the design director at AirAsia. He mentioned that the AirAsia business has indeed started to shrink, since the aviation industry is generally not doing too well during this pandemic as shown in the news as well.

However, the other sides of their business – their logistics, business, and shipping businesses – and got really, really busy. So some industries are thriving, some are kind of stagnating or taking a break and pausing. And out of the thriving industries, evidently the digital tech industry which includes the user experience design industry to still doing great. This is proven by not just the third-party news stories, but directly from a Director of a recruitment firm.

My next question to her was something with regards to her sentiment with all the talent that’s around, including talent from the boot camps, and universities.

Q3. What is the one thing that you wish, graduates would do more?

A3. The general advice that we give to people who come and show us their portfolio, is to ask them to specialise.

So this echoes the same advice that I give during our portfolio reviews (scroll down on this page to see our recordings of our past portfolio reviews with UX Designer leaders from Grab, Canon Australia, Shopify and more) during our free webinars every Wednesday evening. It also echoes my advice I give to all my students in our 4-Month UX Career Accelerator.

There’s something I always tell every student taking their first career counselling call with me where they decide whether to sign up or not. This first thing I say is,

“We do things quite differently, we want people to specialise.”

The reason why we don’t want to create generalists is because people have different strengths, right? And I believe people should play to their strengths and not try and be a jack of all trades. So that’s one of the key things that I communicate across.

The follow-up question from you if I were to tell you the above might probably be, “What do I specialise in?” What should you specialise in if you’re interested to be part of this growing industry that seems kind of recession-proof, with salaries that are still competitive and the market being relatively pretty big.

3 Types of UX Specialisations

1. Research

So there’s generally three areas to specialise in. The first area is research, where you can specialise to be a design researcher or a UX researcher. That’s a great entry level position. Some people ask me, “What do I need to do? What kind of skills do I need to acquire?”

I work closely with the Skills Future framework. I think it’s a great resource and I encourage people to go take a look at their website and see what’s going on. It’s kind of complicated. And if you have problems navigating it, I’ll help you by leaving some instructions below this article.

2. Visual Design

The second area to specialise in is visual design. So if you are someone who:

  • used to be a communication designer or a graphic designer
  • cares about pixels and details

I think this is definitely something that you should consider specialising in. This means you’re able to make your existing experience relevant and bring your strength forward such that you don’t start from scratch.

3. Strategy

The third thing you can specialise in is what I call strategy. So strategy is, when:

  • you’re in charge of information architecture
  • you’re considering content strategy
  • you’re thinking about how the product should work
  • your responsibility is on how things should work flow together
  • you get involved in a bit of the business side of things as well

So that itself is an area of specialisation and it can potentially lead to a lot of facilitation work as well. So these are the general three areas to specialise in.

Bootcamps and Online Short Courses?

Can a bootcamp prepare you for all these three areas?

Absolutely not.

The bootcamp usually prepares you for the general UX design processes.

Can doing online courses help you specialise in any of this one areas?

Absolutely not.

Because online courses can only allow you to understand the theory. You don’t actually practice it. So if you go into an interview and meet me, I’m going to ask you very specific questions on how many research techniques have you done in a with a real client before? You’re going to find it very hard to answer that question if you’ve actually never done it before.

How we do it differently at CuriousCore

So that’s why I design my programs to always make sure that my students are solving real problems (each student works on a real client project each month during the course) in class. Do consider specializing, if you haven’t, and consider writing that in your CV and your portfolio. Here’s 2 action points you can take away from this article:

  • Create case studies and evidences to prove that you actually understand and you can back up the claim that you make of you being a specialist in one of these three areas.
  • Read as much as possible about one of these three areas.

If you still need help, you can come talk to me. I spoke to a very generous design leader who used to work in Pinterest and Yahoo recently. One of his great advice that he shared was,

“Value the relationships that you build with people”

I think, as designers and professionals, one of the things that we don’t do enough is talk about our work and take time to get to know people in the industry. That’s something that’s quite sad. People do not spend time getting to know their peers and understand the work of others. This can be even as simple as engaging people on Twitter or reaching out to people on LinkedIn to ask for advice.

This is something that he has encouraged my students from the 4-Month UX Course to do and one of the key things that helped him have a very successful career in one of the top tech companies here. So, that’s a that’s all the advice I want to give in general. If you have any suggestions for questions that I should be asking people since I’m talking to different professionals, please leave a comment and let me know. Keep a lookout for future articles!

How to navigate the Skills Future Framework site

  • Load the website:
  • Click the bottom right red button labelled: Enter here
  • Click the bottom light grey button labelled: Sector Information
  • On the left-hand navigation panel, click “Desired Attributes” and “Skills in Demand” to keep track of whether you are in line with what is in demand in the design industry today.

Here’s a snippet of how our 4-Month UX Career Accelerator is designed based on this Skills Future framework to best equip our students with the skills most in demand in the UX Job industry today: