UX Help! Advice For Switching Careers into User Experience Design

Over the past two years, I've gotten a lot of emails from people that go something like this:

Hey John,

I stumbled on your site from [source]. I appreciate what you've done and how you share your process.

I am looking at starting a career in UX and I was wondering whether you might be able to give some advice. Here's my background:

[Background Story]


[Kind Career Switcher]

I've written similar responses to such kind career switchers that I thought it would be useful to publish one as a blog post so that other people might benefit. Here it goes:

Thanks so much for reaching out. Sorry its taken me a week to reply. I’ve been swamped!

Always happy sharing thoughts, but not sure how much my advice is worth. With a background in graphic design, you should have a pretty clear path into UX. Which course are you planning on doing? The quality of courses varies and depending on where you live, you might have a few options available to you.

I didn’t actually do a course on UX so I can’t provide first-hand experience, but I do know a lot of people who have done the courses. General Assembly's UX Immersive is widely accepted as being a good way to launch a career in UX. I met a girl in Brighton this weekend who was recruited by a top digital agency while enrolled in the GA UX Immersive in London. She's now working as a UX designer full-time and earning good money.

Get Started Practicing UX

I think its great that you want to get started on your journey before your course. I learned by doing and if you learn that way too it’s a great way to go about it. UX is a very ‘experience’ oriented discipline. You can learn all the theory you want but it comes down to your ability to apply that theory in practice.

There are a couple ways you can go about this:

  • Sell yourself to a client as a UX designer (this is what I always did. Getting paid to learn is awesome)
  • Pick a cause that you care about and volunteer your UX services
  • Decide to redesign a digital product on your own for fun
  • Find an open source project that needs UX work (there are loads of them)

Intensive Learning

No matter what path you choose, I highly recommend doing a bit of intensive learning before you embark on the project. Whether that be reading a book, attending a workshop or doing an online course, it’s crucial that you’ve got a mode of thinking at all times that says “How should I go about doing this?”

I learn by best reading. Basically my entire career path has gone something like this:

  • Want to learn about something
  • Read about it
  • Sell my services on a project where I get to practice what I learned in reading
  • Fulfill the project
  • Reflect on what I've learned
  • Decide what I want to learn next

Here are a handful of the UX books that I've read over the past three years:

Courses to Consider

You might find something like http://trydesignlab.com/ to be useful, or even https://www.ideou.com/. Also check out https://www.lumaworkplace.com/. You’ll find something that works for you…

Share What You Learn

This is a big thing that I learned in my time at Clearleft. Get a blog up and write a post every week during the project (or every day if you can muster it). Or decide to write a badass case study at the end. Take photos of every sketch that you do. Save it. Critique your work. Try to improve at every opportunity. This serves two purposes:

1) It helps you learn better and faster
2) It begins to build your authority as a designer

Believe in yourself! Have confidence. Go out there and design some meaningful experiences. Solve real problems for real people. Learn. Repeat...

If you found this post useful please let me know what you're up to! If you're feeling in a sharing mood, please give this a share on Twitter and mention me (@iamjohnellison) if you can. Best of luck.