Take Me Seriously: Establishing Yourself as a UX Designer


World Usability Day comes once a year, and the one this past Thursday was one of my favorites.

Someone asked the panel such a good question, I wrote it down in my notebook:

My chicken scratch notes

You can also watch a Youtube video of the conference (I was behind the camera). I paraphrase the question below:

I’m breaking into the UX industry, and I’m doing a career change. What’s your advice for employers and stakeholders to take me more seriously?

I feel like I can do the work, but sometimes they’re just not going to give me a shot, versus someone who has 2 or more years of experience than me.

The person who asked the question is from a finance background, and I can relate.

The panel gave some really good insight, which I’ll outline below along with my own bit of advice.

Our 3 Panelists...
Our 3 Panelists…

Panel Speaker 1:
Kathryn Campbell, CEO of Primitive Spark

Kathryn recommended that to be taken seriously, practice showing what you’re capable of, instead of just talking about it. This means:

On that last note, Kathryn outlines that a basic UX story/process should sound like this:

“This is a problem and this is how I went about determining the right solution. This is what I did, and how I did it.”

I like this piece of advice because regardless of what job you’re pursuing, communication is key. People remember stories, and telling a good story about your work helps elevate you to a professional who knows what he’s talking about.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that you’re not only telling stories about your work, but about yourself.

I notice many UX Beginners preface their introductions with “Oh, I’m just breaking in to design… I don’t have much experience, but…” Or they might meekly refer to themselves on LinkedIn as “UX Student,” or “Recent Grad in UX.” Who the eff cares? If you’re doing the work that UX Designers do, and you want to become a UX Designer, just call yourself a UX Designer. Stop discounting yourself.

Panel Speaker 2:
David Lai, CEO of Hello Design

My advice is very simple, it’s just do one good thing. If you have one good piece of work, that’s really the starting point. I don’t need to see 20 things.

If you’re just getting into it, attitude is important. Try to express your willingness to learn and adapt. I’ve been doing this my whole life and I feel like I’m overwhelmed every day.

Do one good thing. I love this advice for it’s simplicity. Focus your efforts on creating something with depth and meaning, and it will stick better. Quality over quantity.

I’m a victim of not curating myself enough when it comes to my portfolio, and I recognize that having a few strong projects is better than watering it down with weaker examples.

Panel Speaker 3:
Jonathan Badeen, Co-Founder @ Tinder

Having experience on your resume… a lot of times it doesn’t explain everything. If you’ve worked on big companies on these big teams, I don’t know if you did any of that stuff. You could’ve been the one person who sucked. But if you have something that is YOURS, nobody else is responsible for it… I know you did that.

Jonathan follows up with David’s “one good thing” ethos and extends it to talk about the value of doing personal projects.

I can’t agree more. Have a side hustle. Personal projects are a great way to explore and apply what you’ve learned about design and UX how YOU want it, without the constraints of a supervisor, lack of budget, etc. Take advantage of the creative freedom and ownership you can have with personal projects.


Are you struggling to stand out in the job search process? Have you just graduated from a UX or design program but not sure how to close that gap between you and other UX professionals? Take a deep breath and take in the advice of three executives:

  • Learn to tell a story around your projects
  • Do one good thing
  • Take advantage of doing personal projects

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2 responses to “Take Me Seriously: Establishing Yourself as a UX Designer”

  1. Christine Brix Avatar
    Christine Brix

    Thank you for yet another informative and inspiring post :-)
    I was wondering… when making a UX portfolio, how much from the UX field and your UX work (resarch, userstories, analytics, prototyping and so on) should or would you include? I would love to see a few examples of good UX portfolios :-)

    1. These two blog posts should point you in the right direction:
      UX Portfolio Case Study: Zach Kuzmic
      UX Portfolio Case Study: Ed Lea

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