Pivoting to UX Research – Tips for Starting a New Job in UX
In 2021, I began thinking about pivoting my career into UX. I found many articles and videos on how to build UX portfolios, navigate UX career options, and build up the relevant skillset.
Having now been in the UX role for a couple of months, I decided to reflect on what was most helpful in my first few weeks as a UX researcher.
In this article, you can discover what I found challenging, what I learned, and what advice I would give to the 2021 version of me.
Here are my top tips on moving into a UX role in 2022.
Ask lots of questions
Starting a new job in any new industry is daunting. Asking questions is the best way to navigate your way through the first few weeks and months.
Remember, no question is too small, and there is no such thing as a silly question. There is a lot to learn at the beginning of your contract. You need to understand the scope of your role, how people work together, and the most effective way to communicate with your peers. Be curious. Be inquisitive. Keep asking.
Make a note of your questions and set up a short introduction meeting with each of your colleagues. This gives you a chance to get to know everyone. You will also gain a better understanding of their role, responsibilities on the project, and what they expect from you.
Here are some of the questions I asked during my first week on the client team:
- Who is on the project team? What are their responsibilities?
- What did the team achieve on this project before I joined?
- Is there a senior UX research advisor I can get in touch with?
- What is the main communication platform?
- Are there any communication groups (Slack/MS Teams) specifically focused on UX research?
- How does our work impact the work of other teams?
At LION+MASON, I’m fortunate to work with supportive, patient colleagues. They were happy to answer my questions about the role and client project.
During my first few days, they allowed me plenty of opportunities to ask questions, enabling me to get up to speed with the project work.
Observe how your colleagues work together
When joining a team, there will already be established norms for collaboration and communication. Observe your teammates to understand how they collaborate, and what their main communication channels are.
It can take time to be granted access to certain platforms, for example, Jira or Confluence. Be patient, but do everything you need to ensure your system access is set up promptly.
When working in hybrid mode, you will need to have access to all relevant information and be invited to important team meetings. Your attendance at these meetings will allow you to present the research angle and share feedback from users with the team. It will also help you establish visibility and transparency of your role.
Starting a new UX role is exciting – with so many different disciplines within the field, there is always plenty to learn! If you’re working as a UX researcher, be curious about other UX disciplines too.
You’re probably not the only UX professional on the team, so expanding your knowledge of other disciplines will help you to work with your colleagues more effectively, whether they’re UX designers, content designers, writers, or strategists.
Learning about the roles and scope of work of your teammates doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Work smarter, not harder. Learn from conversations with your teammates. Ask your designer what tools they use. What is their process for creating new designs? What design principles or guidelines do they follow?
When speaking to the front-end developer, ask how they work with back-end engineers. What languages and libraries do they use on the project? Can they clarify any technical acronyms you’re unsure of? Every team member is an expert in their own domain, so they will each be able to share something new with you.
While learning from others is important, you must also dedicate time to learning on your own. Keep abreast of your own domain, to make sure you’re on top of research. This will allow you to share your expertise and knowledge with others.
Subscribe to research articles, read newsletters, or listen to podcasts – whatever method you find easiest. I subscribed to weekly articles from ADPList and UX Collective, and started to regularly listen to NN/g UX Podcast, The Understanding Users podcast and Awkward Silences podcast. I also kept in touch with my UX mentors, which gave me the opportunity to ask questions of more experienced researchers.
Reading about UX topics and becoming more established in the wider UX community meant I was able to hit the ground running in my first few weeks.
Be realistic in terms of what you can achieve during your first month. It is important to bring value to the team, but don’t be tempted to over commit.
Take time to become familiar with the project. Think slow, not fast. Think strategically about your long term involvement in the project. What steps can you take now to make things run smoothly in the future?
Your top priority is to build working relationships with your colleagues and teammates. Put in the groundwork now, and you will be able to rely on these relationships in the future.
Approach your new role mindfully. Take things step-by-step, focussing on your daily tasks. You don’t have to do everything at once. The bigger picture will emerge naturally as you become familiar with the product and start to understand the involvement of key stakeholders.