How to Get a Job in UX Research: Introduction

February 2016:  inspired by the late Scott Dinsmore’s incredible TED talk, How to find the work you love, I quit my job as a marketer to pursue new career in user experience (UX).

I didn’t know exactly how I’d get there, or where exactly I’d fit in within the UX universe. I did know I couldn’t help but observe, empathise and wanted to solve design problems users encountered.

Faced with a challenge where I was clearly out of my depth, I took a leaf from Scott’s speech. I started surrounding myself with like minded enthusiasts at any opportunity I could to consult their expertise.

Having interviewed over a dozen UX practitioners and after a considerable amount of fumbling with wireframing tools, I now know I want to pursue a role in UX research.  I have created a research-backed prototype that’s entering the usability testing stage. Things are progressing – slowly, but steadily.

This post (and more detailed interviews to come) is aimed to help other aspiring hopefuls who are interested in getting into UX from another industry, or as a graduate.

A mighty thank you to all the wonderfully talented professionals who have given their generous time, patience and practical support.

Read more:

  • How to Get a Job in UX Research: Michael Le
  • How to Get a Job in UX Research: Konstantin Samoylov


On Starting Your Portfolio

"Demonstrate enthusiasm through your portfolio! Create user journey storyboards, screenshots to bring your idea to life - use a pen on paper, prototyping software, whatever you're comfortable with and communicates clearly. Always rely on insights, not intuition."

Cat Nygaard, Design Manager/Operations at Spotify

On Perspective

"Be strategic - know what you want to get out of work experience and consider investing in education. You may work for the world's most influential company but you can't save the world every day. For UX research to have impact requires diligent groundwork and self motivation."

Cat Nygaard, Design Manager/Operations at Spotify

On the Importance of Prototyping

"If you don't prototype, show people and record what they do with it, you won't know whether your idea works. Don't be precious about your prototype's appearance. Don't create a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

"When having users test your prototype, listen to what isn't being said or done as well as what is. Don't say more than you need to. Remember to show it to people you don't know personally, as these are your end users - not your family or friends!"

Mark Jenkins, Senior UX Consultant and Designer

On Data Insights

"Don't underestimate data analysis experience as a USP in selling yourself into a UX role. As well as your own side projects, get work experience for real client examples to measure efficiency."

Sepas Seraj, Co Founder at Pixeled Eggs

On Keeping it Lean

"Just go for it - keep it simple. Research market fit, prototype it, test it, make it, test it again. Specialise in something. Education - go on an affordable UX course. If you can't afford one, pick up knowledge from industry experts in meet-ups."

Daniel Giscombe, Mobile UX Designer at Auto Trader

Konstantin Samoylov

'How to get a job in UX research' is a series of interviews I conducted with UX professionals for their advice on getting into the industry. In this post I spoke to Konstantin 'Kostya' Samoylov, a former Googler who's worked and taught user research in the UK and Russia for the last 15 years.

I connected with Kostya in February whilst searching LinkedIn for experts to take out for coffee. We met a few weeks later, near Google's London Victoria office, when he told me he'd just left his user researcher job (having conducted research for Google's Voice and Virtual Assistant) there to begin his own UX labs focused startup venture.

Here's what he had to say on taking the road less travelled in starting a UX research career.

Go where you're needed

"Choose to work for a product that needs constant redevelopment. There's a difference between working in UX in digital or marketing agencies, established companies, startups and part time workers. Consider applying as a UX workshop assistant as there's a demand for them as and when."

Understand your employers

"UX researcher positions are rarer than UX designers. Mostly because only either big or innovative companies think about research but everyone needs designers."

Avoid recruiters

"Applying to official positions can be tricky - if a company officially posted a position, that means they formally approved a head count within the organisation and have a list of requirements. Even if the person who needs your help wants to hire you, other people involved (like HR) can be a barrier because they focus on the formal side."

Temp your way

"I'd contact researchers (not HR) on LinkedIn and ask if they need a temp or intern. It's much easier for big companies to agree to a temp position for a project and then extend that to a full time position. If they don't need anyone now, ask if you can contact them again in a couple of months. In research it's common when nobody has a project to work on today and in a week people work 24 hours because they can't find someone who can help."

Do your own projects

"UX research is becoming very agile and requires both an open mind to think laterally and scientific knowledge to make sure the collected data is valid. Add to your CV more examples from your past experience and research keywords that are relevant. It's a good idea to create a product to be able to highlight the research stage. Just be bold, go and try any crazy research idea you can imagine."