The response to my free UX webinars was phenomenal, and I received many questions from you. One of the things that I’ve heard repeatedly was: ‘How to grow/stay happy at the beginning of my UX career?’. Here’s the first tip I can give you.
Starting my first big IT job was not easy. I worked as a web designer for a big UK-based broadband company. I remember thinking: ‘Am I good enough for this job? Can I progress? Am I always going to be a web designer? What if I don’t know something that I am supposed to know? Will there be consequences? I’d better not say anything …’ So, my first strategy of dealing with my own lack of confidence was to keep my mouth shut. In my head, I thought that if I stayed quiet, others would see me as an obedient worker who knows his place. And that skills will come in time, anyway, and fill the gaps in my knowledge.
It doesn’t work like this.
How wrong was I. I started losing my ground quickly. The complexity of my job — new systems, new ideas — was growing every day. I remember sitting on the tram home one day, thinking: ‘I am fucked. It’s just too much. I feel like an idiot!’. It must have shown, as the next day my boss, Ben, invited me for a chat. I panicked, but went along, expecting the worst. Ben said to me:
‘You need to start asking questions, dude.’
That was a surprise. ‘But… Is this not going to make me look like an idiot who doesn’t know anything?’
Ben replied: ‘You are not supposed to know everything. You are a web designer with relatively little experience, starting in a big company. Everything here is new. How can we help you and make you into a great employee and a professional, if you aren’t asking us questions? Ask away whenever something isn’t clear. We’ll clarify it and make sure you know it next time. And remember, we were all juniors once!’
This was almost an epiphany. I immediately started asking questions. I found that this brought me much closer to my colleagues. They started respecting me and listening to my advice. As it turned out, they were asking questions, too, but I just wasn’t listening! They also did not know everything. And that was great. We’ve managed to turn our combined knowledge into some great things. You can do that, too. Asking questions is vital for a UX designer. How would you grow otherwise?
What to do to boost your morale and learn UX faster?
- Instead of being quiet, ask questions whenever you are unsure of things. No one expects mastery from you when you’re a junior. All your colleagues want you to learn.
- Offer your help to others. There is always someone there who knows even less than you do, always. A colleague might be an expert in one domain but knows little to nothing about another. Strangely enough, this will also help you buying attention from senior stakeholders, as they will see more intrigued and interested personnel around. UX influence by proxy! Ha.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’, but do follow with ‘but I can find out’. Be hungry for knowledge and show it.
- Give yourself some credit. Most of us carry the burden of imposter syndrome. We believe we don’t know much and are under a constant threat of being called a cheat. You know what? Everyone has felt like this in their life. To address this, start recognising little things that you did well. And run a diary, in which you will write about your professional progress (more on that in one of the future articles). Review it every now and then. It’ll help.
As a UX and a working professional, you can achieve a lot when you start asking questions. When you’re lost, sitting quietly will only make things worse. Open up — learn from others and share your knowledge with them.
Join the next free UX webinar — UX and Design
It’ll rock, I promise. We’ll discuss how UX designers build good, working interfaces. To be able to watch it (and ask questions live), please subscribe to my newsletter. I will email you the webinar link closer to 19th of May.UX and Design — Free webinar