We’re not going to sugarcoat it…the market for a junior UX design job is ROUGH! Between stiff competition and unrealistic experience requirements for entry-level gigs, saying that landing your first junior designer job will be difficult is like saying water is wet.
But, that’s not to say there’s NO hope. Many budding designers have landed junior positions after finishing college or a Bootcamp.
And no, we’re not talking about the guy on LinkedIn that did it by pulling himself up by his “bootstraps.” Don’t listen to him when he tells you to send thousands of unsolicited emails or show up at the office uninvited (P.S. DEFINITELY don’t do that).
The good news is that while the pool of new designers is saturated, the demand for UX designers is still high. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the UX design field would grow by 27%. And that number is still increasing in 2023.
On top of the high demand, UX design jobs usually come with job security and solid starting salaries. Entry-level gigs can start anywhere around $65,000 a year, with more senior positions entering the six-figure territory.
It’s easy to see why UX newbies want a slice of that pie. But how do you get your foot in the door in such a competitive market when most entry-level jobs require 3-5 years of experience?
Luckily, our design team has plenty of experience in the job market. And now, we’re sharing our tips on landing a junior UX design job with you!
How To Land Your First Junior UX Design Job:
- Choose your “niche”
- Create a sample project
- Take a volunteer job
- Cruise freelance job boards
- Practice different design software
- Find an internship/mentor
- Build your professional network
- Master common interview questions
Choose Your “Niche”
We’re not just talking about choosing a specific industry to specialize in (although learning the ins and outs of B2B, healthcare, or e-commerce is never a bad idea).
The saying “It takes a village” definitely applies to UX design. A fully realized, user-friendly digital product involves multiple creative, strategic minds: UX designers, researchers, marketing specialists, and so on.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the fields you can specialize in under the UX design umbrella:
If you’re a numbers person, then UX research may be right up your alley.
Outside of interviewing users, customers, and stakeholders, UX research requires a lot of data gathering and analysis. Your metrics and user feedback will show clients exactly what they need to do to give their users the best experience possible.
Branding and Marketing:
You’re probably familiar with these terms, but identities and campaigns built around robust user research take them to the next level.
Helping companies understand their core audience and what inspires them to act gives layers and complexity to their marketing efforts. This UX-focused strategy for branding and sales adds a much-needed personal touch to something that’s primarily profit-driven.
A UX designer takes complicated digital product ideas and makes them make sense. This means constructing an information architecture that flows logically and a navigational experience that eliminates friction in achieving a user’s goals.
Nailing down the product story is paramount, but who makes that design “pop” in the eyes of the user?
UI designers take the branding defined by internal creative teams and work it into the design to amp up the visuals. The goal is to create a unique look and feel that represents the company and supports the user through conversion.
Creating an easy-to-use product with an inspired visual design is only half the battle. The product has to work the way it was intended with quick loading speeds, functioning buttons and links, and smooth interactions and animations.
Developers are the final puzzle piece that brings the product to life. They’re the ones who create the codes that link everything together and make sure every component functions as it should.
In short, a game-changing digital product is NOTHING without a web development team putting all the nuts and bolts in place.
And Much, Much More!:
This isn’t the definitive list, of course. As the UX design industry grows, so will the need for experts in engineering, writing, interaction design, video production, editing, QA, and much, much more!
So if you want to get involved in the user experience field but aren’t sure if design is right for you, keep your eyes peeled. You never know just how many ways you can get involved.
Create a Sample Project
We’ve all seen a post on LinkedIn for an entry-level position where you could get some great hands-on experience and really flex your design chops. The only problem is that they’re asking for a Master's degree in UX/UI design with 7-10 years of experience designing websites for Fortune 500 companies.
(We’re exaggerating for dramatic effect, but you get the picture.)
It’s extremely discouraging when the majority of open positions have the same experience requirements. How do you get involved when seemingly no one wants to take a chance on a hungry newcomer?
Truthfully, the quality of your portfolio matters more than any educational qualifications. But it doesn’t have to be full of client projects. Recruiters just want to evaluate your design chops and awareness of UX best practices.
If you don’t have any official client projects, you can always start by redesigning a digital product of your choice!
Look at a digital product from a brand you know and like. It could be a clothing store you frequently shop at, an app you use daily, an online banking portal, etc. What would you do differently?
- “What draws me to this product specifically?”
- “Why do I use this product every day?”
- “What problems do I run into when using this product?”
- “What are the users' goals for this product?”
- “How can I improve the experience of using this product?”
“What draws me to this product specifically?”
“What problems do I run into when using this product?”
“What are the users' goals for this product?”
“How can I improve the experience of using this product?”
Once you thoughtfully answer these questions and conduct some solo research, you can create your version and make suggestions to improve the user experience.
The best thing about a sample project is that you don’t have to get approval from the client every step of the way. It’s your vision, through and through.
Take a Volunteer Job
Alternatively, if you don’t want to create a website or app that won’t go live, you could always offer your expertise on a volunteer job.
This is a great option if you have a friend or family member with a small business or a personal website. You get the hands-on experience creating a product for a client while supporting a friend in their business ventures!
The added benefit of creating a product for someone you know is that you already understand the brand’s story and their business goals. If their users or customers are also in your personal circle or local community, then you have extra insight into their lifestyles and behaviors.
If you go down this route, take some before and after pictures to show how you improved the design. You’ll also want to take note of some performance metrics. Did the new design help increase sales or account creation? Did it decrease conversion drop-offs? You’ll want to showcase measurable success in creating or redesigning digital products.
Cruise Freelance Job Boards
Once you have a few design examples under your belt, freelance job boards like Dribbble, Behance, and Upwork are a great way to find paying clients and build your professional network.
Most of the listings on job boards are temporary, meaning the company needs to bring on an extra person to fill a gap on their team or take care of a one-off project.
These aren’t going to be the cushy $60k salaried positions we mentioned earlier. However, these short freelance jobs are a great way to pad out your portfolio with the real client work recruiters want.
In the worst-case scenario, you get to work on a client project and get to know some people in the industry. In the best case, the client is SO impressed with your work that they want to bring you on full-time!
Practice Different Design Software
About 42% of recruiters agree that the knowledge of UX tools is a major factor in their hiring decisions.
Let’s put it this way: If a company primarily designs products on Figma, they’re more likely to hire you if you have a working knowledge of Figma. If you’ve already mastered Adobe, find employers that mostly design using Adobe.
Try to learn your way around as many design tools as you can while looking for a job and building your portfolio. You can also work on a sample project using a design system for the first time so you can figure out where all the tools, plugins, and keyboard shortcuts are.
Test out a few different tools and software to see which one you feel the most comfortable using. Plus, it’s more work you can add to your portfolio later on!
Find an Internship/Mentor
If the company you’re applying to wants you to have work experience in a specific industry or agency setting, then an internship may be your best bet.
Think of an internship as a rehearsal for your junior UX design job. You’ll probably have to interview with and present your portfolio to a recruiter, but they won’t expect you to have 3-5 years of experience and proven success metrics under your belt.
The whole point of an internship is to learn from the big dogs (or apes, in our case). You get to see a day in the life of a UX designer and understand how your priorities shift throughout the project first-hand.
For example, at an agency, you could build wireframes for an app at the beginning of the day and conduct user interviews for a new SaaS system at the end. Or you could incorporate client feedback to finalize a product and hand it off to the dev team.
At an internship, you’ll learn to be adaptable and flexible to meet the needs of users, stakeholders, and your other team members. You’ll also understand what it’s like to work within timeline and budget constraints to meet deadlines.
When you finish your shadowing period, you’ll have some work experience to list on your resume (as well as some paying clients). And who knows, just like with freelance projects, you could impress them so much that you might score your first salaried gig! Or just get some good references for your resume.
Build Your Professional Network
We’ve dunked on LinkedIn a little bit in this article, but we don’t hate it at all! It’s a pretty neat platform for showing off your work, finding jobs, and getting to know people in the UX field.
Your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t be a place to flex or brag about your work ethic. Instead, use it to give potential employers a glimpse into your professional life. Post about your work experience (projects, clients, success stories, skills, the works).
You can also join groups for user experience professionals to share your work and digitally mingle with UX designers. Comment on posts, share your insights about best practices, offer feedback, and send a few personalized connection requests while you’re at it.
And, of course, there are job opportunities. On the date of writing this blog (05/16/23), there are 6,000+ open positions for junior UX designers on LinkedIn. That’s not even touching other platforms like Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter!
You can narrow down your choices by preferences like location, remote, etc. When you find a job you’d be a perfect fit for, start sending in your applications! Attach your resume and portfolio pieces so recruiters can quickly evaluate your skills and qualifications.
Master Common Interview Questions
Congrats! You landed your first interview for a junior UX design job! Pat yourself on the back.
When it comes to prepping for interviews, it helps to practice with a friend or family member to shake off some pre-meeting jitters. But will they ask you the right questions to help you ace your interview?
It’s hard to know exactly what they will ask you, especially if you’re interviewing for a position in a specific industry. We’re not psychic apes, but we can predict some basic questions they might ask you.
Common Interview Questions:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- Translation: “Do you have the experience needed for this position?”
- “What is UX design?”
- Translation: “Do you understand the value of UX design?”
- “What is the difference between UX and UI?”
- Translation: “Do you know that these terms aren’t interchangeable?”
- “What are some of your favorite digital products?”
- Translation: “Do you understand what makes a good user experience?”
- “What is your process for creating a UX design?”
- Translation: “Do you have an organized, strategic approach to projects?”
- “Tell me about a time you got some negative feedback on a project.”
- Translation: “Can you take criticism and learn from your mistakes?”
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses as a UX designer?”
- Translation: “Will you be successful in this role? How will you continue improving?”
- “How would you improve the UX of (product name)?”
- Translation: “Have you researched the company? Are you thinking ahead?”
- “Do you have any questions for us?”
- Translation: “How interested are you? Do you want to learn more?”
They may have some more questions, but it’s on you to do your due diligence and research the company. Come armed with the knowledge you need to ace your interview.
And above all, BREATHE! You got this!
Start Your UX Career Off Right
Looking for a junior UX design job is stressful no matter what. Between the competitive market and outlandish experience requirements, it all feels like a little much.
It’s important to remember that recruiters are looking for someone teachable, not someone they’ll have to hand-hold every step of the way. If you come in with some successful project experience, awareness of best practices, and knowledge of design systems, you’ll be a much more attractive candidate.
Finding the right junior UX design job takes time and effort. But with a few solid portfolio pieces and client names for your resume, you can show potential employers that you have the right stuff to make their projects successful.
Think you’ve got what it takes to make it in the jungle? We’re always on the hunt for UX designers to join our shrewdness of apes.
Check out our open positions and apply now!