Flat cartoon vector illustration with fictional characters throwing a colleague in the air

How can you get to the next step in your UX career?

In April of 2020, the Austin based meetup group, UX in ATX hosted a paneled discussion with experts from the local design community. The topic was, ‘How to Get Your First, Second, or Third Job in UX.’

Check out the meetup recording below or read through highlights topics.

How does a UX design advance their career and get their first or even second job in UX? We brought together a panel of experts to talk about their experiences and share their wisdom.


  • John Reese: User Experience Leader
  • Tarissa Moss: Associate Creative Director
  • Alex Boase: Product Manager
  • Liz Arezina: UX Designer
  • Augie DelMonaco: UX Designer

What info besides case studies should we have on our portfolio?

1) Storytelling is a really important aspect in UX. Be sure to consider how are you telling the story.

2) A good about page, recruiters are looking for good culture fit. You should aim to cover the following:

  • How you got into design.
  • Why are you passionate about UX.
  • Why you decided to transition into UX.

It is important to give your about page some character.

The goal with your portfolio is to set yourself apart.

What does culture fit mean?

Learning if you are a good culture fit starts with researching the company. Spend time really getting to know them. Be sure you understand and identify with their values before going into an interview.

Interview questions help to gauge whether a candidate is a good culture fit for the company. For example, “Out of all of our values, what is your favorite one?” is often asked.

When you’re in the interview make sure that YOU vibe with THEM too… don’t just take a job to take a job.

How can I find a mentor? How important is this?

Smiling young woman talking with her colleague while having coffee at office. Business people having a casual talk during coffee break.

Attending networking events and conferences is usually very helpful. If you like someone, follow up with them afterward. You will go further in your career faster by finding a mentor. It’s ok to have more than one mentor!

Would you recommend getting a job in UX as a generalist or specializing?

It is common for startups to want a generalist. On the other hand, bigger companies want a specialist. With that said, in the beginning, being a generalist can help you get in the door. First, start by finding your strengths. Get into your groove. Then, you start to specialize as you progress in your career.

How can I be sure that my application is Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) friendly?

Job applicants having interview

Jobscan.co will scan your resume, the job posting, and will see what kind of APS system the hiring company is using. Jobscan explains which ATS system the company is using and how it will be interpreted. It’s a paid application, but you get a free trial. Once you scan a few resumes, you can get a better understanding of how to structure your resume. It’s worth it!

Try and find someone on LinkedIn that works for the company, use your connections. LinkedIn networking should be your full-time job!

What would have done differently at the beginning of your career?

I would’ve started networking a lot earlier. You don’t need all the bells and whistles. Your portfolio doesn’t have to be perfect. Just let people know that you’re early in the process and want to connect.

Hand writing IQ Know How and EQ Know You with marker on transparent wipe board isolated on white. Intelligence quotient and Emotional intelligence quotient concept.

Designers are passionate individuals. We need to learn how to read the room and how to determine the motivations of the people in the room. I wished I would have read Emotional Intelligence 2.0 sooner.

Don’t get into your own head…. it’s going to be unfamiliar but you got to fake it until you make it! Know that just because people are seasoned designers doesn’t mean they expect you to be too. Just remember, you are probably better then you think you are!

How have you overcome impostor syndrome?

I wrote out a list of design commandments. This list captured what I thought a good designer did. Then, I wrote out what I would like to achieve. Listing out these things makes them more tangible. You can create actionable items instead of comparing yourself to other people. If you can define for yourself and what your goals are, it gives you concrete goals to work towards.

Also, it is important to start reading earlier. Create a manifesto of wisdom to keep you going. Lastly, spend more time learning about soft skills and emotional intelligence.

What parts of a case study should be in a portfolio regardless of what job in UX you are going for?

Web designer planning website ux app development with marker pen on whiteboard
  • Demonstrate that you understand the goal of the project, the business needs, and constraints.
  • Demonstrate that you understand the customer or user. It’s always about them, their problems, and how you’re going to solve them.
  • Show how you collaborate. Describe how you worked with your teammates and identify your role.
  • Show your entire process. Tell a story. Don’t just show your mockups!
  • If you don’t have a project that had results, speaking to you Bootcamp grads, explain what would future steps.

Why do companies look for 3-5 years of experience and how do you get around that?

  • Your portfolio will speak for itself. It might be hard to get an interview, but telling your story is more important.
  • IGNORE!! Most of those are written by recruiters that don’t know what they’re doing.
  • If it’s a job you think you can do, always APPLY!
  • 3-5 years of experience is knowing how to appropriately react if your design isn’t chosen right away or how to handle clients if something doesn’t go your way. SELL YOUR SOFT SKILLS! That equates to “experience”.
  • Most companies don’t want to just hire senior levels! They want to hire beginning to mid-level so they can grow the employees over the years.

What would you consider a senior person?

Maturity level matters much more than years of experience. It matters how you collaborate, how to present to leaders and clients, and how professional you are. Learn about emotional intelligence.

Favorite books you’ve ever read that you related to your career?

Hardcover books close up, selective focus
  • Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
  • Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It by Mike Monteiro
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull
  • Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
  • Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
  • Sapiens (Telugu) by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Thinking Fast, and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns
  • UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons by Joel Marsh
  • Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro
  • Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

Want to grow your network? Join our Slack channel! UX in ATX: uxinatx.slack.com

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