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118 ways to get your first job in user experience research

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already binge-read 5,346 Medium articles, blog posts, webinars and books about how to get a job as a user experience researcher, on top of the informational interviews you’ve conducted with current researchers, and perhaps getting advice from a tarot card reading.

I’d like to help you out.

Well then, Amy, how do I get into UX research? This is an evergreen question. Luckily there is a lot of useful and accurate advice out there from all kinds of people who’ve successfully gotten a research job. This glut of information excites me as a user experience professional and career coach because it really does help with the lingering mystification and challenges. But there’s also a lot of garbage to sift through.

If one thing is true, it’s that there is no one correct path, no single approach, no exclusive background or educational requirement, to get your foot in the door.

I went through the same thing.

In 2011, I got my MA in applied anthropology and shortly thereafter, my first job as a consumer researcher at a large insurance firm. I joined a team with some UX researchers and pretty quickly I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in. But I had to figure out how to get there, and mostly on my own.


So after quitting my job and moving to Portland (where I needed to find a new job), I dove in head first. It took me nine damn months! But luckily I had solid research training and a bit of experience, but it still took a lot of work to make the shift. How? Through learning, practice, and skills-building.

First, I focused on self-directed learning – I consumed as much information as I could through books, webinars, conferences, etc. Unfortunately this was before podcasts were a mainstream thing. I figured out how to speak the language of user experience, design, and technology, and talk about myself in a clear, concise and relevant way. I also learned by doing – looking for every possible opportunity to get my hands dirty and build my skills. I learned through observing other practitioners. I networked like heck.

Naturally, I struggled with a lack of confidence, which seems to affect 99.9% of anyone else in this situation. But eventually you overcome this, because, well, you have to. After all, this is a new world. Most of this is new to you, so no wonder you’re kind of flailing around. Even when you get things figured out, you’ll still feel like you don’t know enough.

Over this period of 9 months, I cobbled together enough experience through short contracts and pro bono projects before I got my first official UX research job at a design agency. Getting my foot in the door was a big relief, but there was still a long way to go with honing my practice and becoming a UX professional and expert.

Simply put, I busted my ass. And so does everyone else who makes it through the finish line.

The 118 ways

In the hopes of making it easier for others, I put together this resource to get as many ideas as possible into one place. It’s a compendium of 118 tips and methods for efficiently, confidently and successfully making your way into UX research, based largely on my own journey as well as being on hiring panels, what I have seen work for my colleagues and coaching clients, and ideas from experts in the field (with links and citations).

They are categorized by theme:

  • Mindset & reflection

  • Self-directed learning

  • Gaining experience and building skills

  • Creating your career assets

  • Executing your job searching

  • Interviewing

  • Networking & community

You don’t have to do all of them, but definitely the majority of them, to one degree or another. You know yourself and your situation best, so do what works for you. But you don't want to half-ass it, and hopefully this guide can help accelerate your progress.

Keep in mind that some of these tips are just different means toward the same goal, like getting an advanced degree versus taking courses and workshops, or self-directed learning. You also don’t need to follow this exact order – in fact, you should create a strategy (a plan) for what to do and in what order, with some concurrent activities.

Check out the most up-to-date version of this list on Google Docs, where you can also save your own copy.

But wait, there’s more! Check out the bonus list of 10 ineffective tips for getting a UX research job at the bottom of the page.

Mindset and reflection

  1. It is a true fact (not fake news) that there is no one path into UX research, and that you can get into it from just about any background or discipline. What you bring to the table is super valuable and often unique! Keep this in mind.

  2. Think of the time and money you spend as an investment in your future. You may have to take part-time classes, quit your job, or spend tens of thousands of dollars, but it literally pays off. I invested $100K into my education and training (private school BA, public school applied MA, plus living expenses, while also working jobs), and I was able to pay off every last cent within five years of starting my career. Good compensation is a benefit of working in tech.

  3. Self-doubt is likely to pop up to some degree. It’s because you are new and you have to start somewhere. You’re not lying or faking it, you're not an impostor, but you’re doing what you need to do to get your foot in the door, and there is a lot to learn and overcome in the process. An effective way of thinking about this, which Debbie Levitt talks about here, is that you are new and working hard to make the transition, so of course you are uncomfortable. You’re still learning! You may feel like you don’t belong in this field, but that will go away as you gain experience, build your confidence, and figure out how to make the transition. Most people working in research today probably felt some kind of self-doubt when they entered the field, and even possibly for a while after that. I sure did! Again, you will never know everything. A growth mindset helps with this.

  4. Know that you are in a liminal state, as anthropologist Arnold van Gennep theorized a long ass time ago. A temporary state of “betwixt and between” defined by challenges, learning, and shifting identities. It can be uncomfortable sometimes, but that’s the only way you’ll get from A to B.

  5. Know why you are doing this – be confident that this is the right path for you to pursue. Determine if your personality, motivations, goals and interests align with what researchers do in their jobs.

  6. Adopt a growth mindset and always be learning, iterating and improving. You will have to learn a lot to make the transition successfully.

  7. Keep track of your progress and accomplishments, both big and small; acknowledge and celebrate progress and success. Share this with others!

  8. Write a blog or post on social media about your job search ups and downs, insights and advice for others. This is another way to build community and brand.

  9. Don’t take anything personally in your job search – like a quick rejection after applying, if you get ghosted, or if you don’t get the final offer. Always ask for feedback, though don’t expect it from most people.

  10. Don’t make assumptions about anything because it will just drive you crazy. If you do your final interview, and the recruiter hasn’t emailed you back after a few days, it doesn’t mean you didn’t get the job. Sometimes things take a while, people go on vacation, etc. ta

  11. Know that there are so many things that are out of your control and that you will never understand from behind the scenes – e.g., they might have already made their mind up on an internal candidate, but they had to post the job publicly (yes, that’s super shitty, but it happens).

  12. Create a learning, accountability, and support group of people who you know, like,as and trust, and who are in the same boat as you.

  13. Practice self-care because this is an emotionally involved process – take breaks, exercise, do what makes you feel good.

  14. Persevere. Commit. Develop strong emotional intelligence for this process and for your future existence within a team and company or with clients. This shit is hard. Know that with proactivity, knowledge, experience and practice, you will find a job and it will be the right job.

  15. Iterate on your process and approach as you learn and develop.

  16. Assess whether you’re ready to enter the world of UXR. If you aren’t, then you’re not going to feel very good about your job search or how you present yourself, and you may actually be winging it beyond an acceptable threshold, which will lead to poor results in finding a job. If you have the fundamental skills, enough transferable research experience, a solid understanding of research in the context of design, and you know enough to intelligently talk about UXR, then you’re probably ready.

Self-directed learning

  1. Figure out what you know and don’t know, and create a learning plan using books, podcasts, webinars, Youtube, etc. – there are lots of recommendations out there, but you can start with this comprehensive list from Lade Tawak. That said, don’t try to learn everything – figure out what is enough to get you from A to B, and start with what you are most interested in (pick 5 things instead of 50 things). You aren’t going to be expected to know every single thing. No one does. People know that you have a lot to learn as someone new in the field.

  2. Take courses in social science, business, and design.

  3. There are multiple ways to train, but an advanced degree in a social sciences and humanities disciplines (e.g., psychology, anthropology, sociology, economics, linguistics, history, economics, liberal arts, information sciences) or design/HCI, can hugely beneficial. Again, this is just one option for education. But an advanced degree can help you become an expert in the methods and theories of qualitative and/or quantitative research, design, and human behavior. A master’s is good enough for secondary education – you do not need a PhD - but if you have one, that’s great, too. You will also make more money with an advanced degree.

  4. Do your due diligence to understand what the discipline of UX research actually is, from the purpose of this work in the context of design and technology, along with the required responsibilities and skills (planning, recruiting, research design, methods, validity/rigor, data analysis and synthesis, reporting/deliverables, and making recommendations).

  5. Have a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of user experience design. Some of my favorite books on these topics are The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett, Alan Cooper’s About Face and The Inmates are Running the Asylum, three highly underrated and rarely discussed books that imho are way better than the cliche recommendation of The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. If I were hiring and knew you had read these, you would be on my short list.

  6. Understand key research approaches like foundational/generative/exploratory, evaluative and summative, what kind of questions they help answer, and the methodologies you would use to answer those questions. Some good resources for this are - Margaret Roller's Applied Qualitative Research, Sam Ladner's Practical Ethnography, Observing the User Experience by Goodman et al, Usability Testing Essentials by Barnum, and Interviewing Users by Steve Portigal.

  7. Learn about theories behind human behavior from the above disciplines, which makes you a better researcher and gives you a good foundation for explaining findings.

  8. Not only do you need to know how to do research, but you need to be able to talk about what it means and help people make decisions and solve problems. You can’t just make a list of what you saw and hand it over to people to figure that out.

  9. Decide if you want to be a qualitative specialist, quantitative specialist, or a mixed methods researcher, and tailor your learning and practice to these areas, but also understand what the other ones are for/what they do, and how you might interface with them.

  10. Know how to triangulate different types of data (e.g., survey data, interviews, analytics) to paint a more valid and accurate picture of what you're trying to learn about

  11. Identify gaps in your knowledge or areas you would like to further dig into and find relevant classes, training, workshops or certificate program. You can do this through learning about UX and also by evaluating job descriptions to see what they are looking for. Check out Curiosity Tank (Michele Ronsen), Nielsen Norman (note that certification is not required or expected as a general rule in this line of work), The UX Academy, Rosenfeld Media, and User Focus (David Travis). These are just a few examples I’m familiar with – there are plenty more out there to explore.

  12. Before you do classes or training, determine if the educator or program is reputable by evaluating credentials, expertise, experience, brand, measurable outcomes, etc.) Look for reviews on LinkedIn, Reddit and other sites. Talk to people who attended them to get their experience. There are soooooo many options out there with a wide range of approaches, quality, etc.

  13. Be very purposeful about how you are learning. Be thorough. Find robust programs, certificates or courses that will teach you what you need to know and also provide opportunities for practice. Bootcamps, short workshops and online courses may not be enough to learn what you need to know. Classes may be surface level and not go into the nitty gritty of methods or design fundamentals. Some people spend 2+ years in higher education learning about research methods, theory and approaches, so a smattering of high-level webinars is not enough, especially if you aren’t actually practicing what you learn.

  14. Learn the language of design so you can talk about the field and your work appropriately (e.g., interface, metric, mental model, accessibility, navigation, iterative, persona, etc.)

  15. Understand the basics of the technology you are likely to be working on – for example, hardware (e.g., wearables, mobile devices), software, and platforms/operating systems like Android, iOS, web, etc. You don’t need to know how to code.

  16. Product strategy. Content strategy. Accessibility. Business metrics. Brand awareness. Front end development. Agile. You don’t need to know or have done All The Things. As you gain experience, your knowledge and understanding of research, design, and tech will skyrocket! At minimum, try to know what various words and concepts mean and how they relate to research. That way if you get asked about it, you can speak to it at minimum. Or, you can simply say that you are familiar and want to learn more. And it’s ok to admit you don’t know about something!

  17. Have at least a basic idea of key UX roles (i.e., people who you will be working with) and what they do – e.g., product designer, front-end developer, product manager, content strategist, etc.

  18. Attend meetups, webinars and conferences – access to these has greatly expanded due to the shift to online interactions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  19. Talk with people of all levels of experience about their day-to-day roles, responsibilities and challenges. This includes people who are newer to the field.

  20. Some people have posted essays about their career journeys online, which are worth a read for understanding the steps and variations in people’s paths – check out these posts from Tatiana Vlahovic, Jen Romano Bergstrom and this one on my blog with short interviews with three practitioners.

  21. Find one or more mentors through your network or through free mentorship programs. Paul Derby has some great tips for how to approach this, including the recommendation of getting multiple casual mentors instead of just one formal one. There are benefits to having a handful of casual mentors you keep in touch with on occasion, versus just one person (which is okay too). Some free mentoring programs: ADP List, Hexagon (womxn & non-binary), and UX Coffee Hours.

  22. Seek out researchers who have been in their jobs for only a year or two, not just people who are highly experienced. Ask for informational interviews. They will have a fresh perspective on getting their first role, which is a good complement to the perspectives of more experienced people. They will likely be honored and delighted to help to contribute to the community and be seen as an expert.

  23. Read through design blogs from major tech companies for a variety of articles on process and collaboration to what it’s like to work there – e.g., Adobe xD, Airbnb, Google, Uber, Vox, Invision, and Spotify.

  24. If you are in academia as a student or professor, learn as much as you can about the differences between academic and non-academic work culture and environments so you can more easily make the shift, interview effectively, and avoid total culture shock.

  25. Through your learning, you will come across a variety of ways of doing research because of the diversity of researcher backgrounds and disciplines. While there are definitely important practices and processes, there really is no one right way of doing things. There is a lot of creativity involved, especially within everyday workplace constraints.

  26. Try not to be in learning mode forever. Take action as early and often as possible, to actually practice the things you are learning (this is the best way to grow your skills). Of course, you can supplement your job search with continued learning if you think there’s something that’s high priority to look into.

  27. Take a look at the websites and LinkedIn profiles of other researchers to get a sense of their journeys, experience, education, etc. This can give you an idea of the variety of paths, how to talk about your experience, etc.

Gaining experience and building skills

  1. Document what you have done in school and at work – responsibilities and accomplishments – and see what connections you can make to research skills and practices (even if it’s a few examples, it will come in handy).

  2. Identify your transferable skills – e.g., project management, budgeting, facilitating, investigations, program evaluation, etc. You will build on these and also use them as examples in interviews and career assets.

  3. Know yourself well. Inventory your hard skills and soft skills, no matter what they are. This is fodder for talking about yourself, identifying gaps, and connecting the dots to your future role.

  4. Forget the binary of “real world experience” and “other experience”. Your academic projects and non-UX roles are experience! Pro bono projects are experience. It’s just a matter of framing it in the context of applied UX research and design.

  5. Conduct a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – to identify gaps in experience and skills, so you can speak to competencies you have, gain ones you don’t, and understand priorities.

  6. Find an internship, apprenticeship or assistantship to get experience (and hopefully some mentoring). Keep in mind that some internships are for current students or recent graduates only. You may also consider pitching to an organization to get them to bring you on as an intern.

  7. Consider applying for roles in Research Operations to get your foot in the door (if you feel you aren’t qualified for a full-on research role), after which you could shift into a research role.

  8. Find classes/training/degree programs that provide opportunities to practice what you learn (versus lectures where you passively intake information).

  9. If you are currently employed in a non-research role, create opportunities to practice research.

  10. Shadow researchers in your workplace.

  11. Offer to do projects for small businesses, start-ups or friends/family who own businesses to practice the end-to-end process of research (ideally they will pay you at least a nominal amount) – this is good practice for pitching projects and communicating the value of research. If you can get paid, great.

  12. If you’re in school, inquire with the business, engineering and/or design departments about collaborations.

  13. Create your own projects by finding a product to evaluate or a question to explore, oriented toward solving a problem or improving an experience.

  14. Connect with other people who want experience (research, design, business, etc.) and design a team project.

  15. Get experience with project management and logistics because that’s a big part of the job of a researcher – e.g., recruiting participants, scheduling, budgets, etc.

  16. Volunteer for hackathons, non-profits, COVID-19 efforts, or other causes of interest.

Creating career assets

  1. Document your educational and professional journey so you know how to talk about yourself and your value, and what differentiates you from others (your professional brand). What is the storyline, the thread that ties it all together? Really think about what sets you apart and what gives you your unique perspective. Perhaps it's your educational background or prior professional history. This will be the foundation of your career asset content and interviewing.

  2. Have a strong set of core professional assets – resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter. Each of these serves a different purpose, but they work together.

  3. Design your assets using the concept of know, like and trust. You want to provide information that helps people get to know you, like what they see and trust you enough to view you as a viable candidate.

  4. As a new entrant, your resume will probably be no more than one page, including experience, education and skills. It might be two pages if you have relevant work or academic experience. You don’t need to have more than one resume if you are applying for the same type of roles, as long as your keyword coverage addresses variation in job descriptions. But it’s ok to customize them, e.g., if you want to emphasize experience for a healthcare job versus a gaming job.

  5. Emphasize specific and qualitatively/quantitatively measurable accomplishments and outcomes when possible. Impact comes in many flavors, from product changes and achieving business goals, to process improvements and positive effects on team culture. You don’t necessarily need quantified, tangible impact. Sometimes it’s not within our control.

  6. Avoid a traditional, lengthy academic curriculum vitae. Don’t use academic jargon.

  7. Resume real estate is limited, so focus on the important stuff (competencies, roles, responsibilities and accomplishments). What does my audience really need to know about me? What will get them interested? It’s nice to have a compelling and succinct professional statement/summary at the top to introduce yourself, but it’s not necessary

  8. Don’t be afraid of the ATS. It’s nothing other than a digital system that keeps track of applicants. It’s not an AI bot with evil red eyes that judges your resume and decides to virtually shred it and send you a rejection email. A person will virtually always look at your resume. There is nothing to “beat”.

  9. Visual design, layout and hierarchy are important for resumes. Use effective font size and style and headings to make resumes easily scannable by a recruiter (who will spend all of 10 seconds doing so). A bit of color is nice too. Graphics are not necessary. Bar charts and infographics are not a good way to communicate experience and skills. You can find templates on Google Suite, Microsoft and resume builder sites.

  10. Make the design of your career assets (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, website) visually consistent.

  11. Don’t cut corners with your cover letters – tailor them to each job description, don’t just use a generic template and replace the company name and role. This is a persuasive essay to communicate why you are the best candidate for the job, so you have to actually put some thought into it. I recommend submitting them even if they are not required, because it’s an additional way to get people interested in you.

  12. For LinkedIn specifically, make sure your profile is up-to-date and completely filled out. People will Google you and this is one of the first results that shows up. It also helps raise your profile up on LinkedIn searches by recruiters.

  13. Ask people you have worked with for written recommendations and skills endorsements for LinkedIn.

  14. I recommend a LinkedIn Premium trial (or subscription) for job seekers because you can see everyone who has looked at your profile (e.g., recruiters), get job application stats, and more visibility to recruiters. You also get access to LinkedIn Learning. If you know someone who works at LinkedIn, inquire with them about getting one of a handful of free Premium subscriptions they can give away each year.

  15. Create a portfolio for use in interview presentations (and on your website if possible). Yes, you do need one. And yes, it does need to have decent visual design because effective communication and storytelling with minimal text is an important skill, and this is how you show you have that skill. You can find free, well-designed templates on sites like SlidesGo, Canva and Google Suite.

  16. Have 3-5 solid case studies to choose from that showcase your best work. That’s all you need on your website or for your portfolio, and you only need 1-2 for a presentation (typically you only have about 40 minutes to present, so you’ll likely only get through one large project or two smaller projects). You can change them up based on which ones are most relevant and which showcase your experience.

  17. There are tons of articles online that talk about the framework for case studies (I posted a few at the bottom). The goal is to tell a story of the process and outcomes while showcasing your skills, approach, decision process, and how you think about your work. And, do you sound like you know what you are talking about?

  18. You do not need a website, but having one adds to your credibility, and makes it easier for people to find you, get to know you, and decide if they want to talk to you.

  19. Look at how other researchers talk about themselves to get ideas. It’s ok to seek out inspiration!

Executing a job search

  1. Be proactive, not passive/reactive. You are the one who creates your future opportunities. Jobs will not just come to you if you haven’t set a foundation and strategy for yourself and aren’t taking action. What do you want to do, and how are you going to do it? Along what kind of timeline?

  2. Don’t apply for every job you come across – this would be like swiping yes on every profile on a dating app. Rather than treating it like a numbers game (trying to date everyone or apply for All The Jobs), be picky and go for jobs that really resonate with you to put your time and energy into. Which ones are you most excited about? Which ones have the most potential? Which ones are aligned with your overall career goals?

  3. If you have non-UX experience in a particular domain, e.g., healthcare or education, consider seeking out jobs within those fields. Your background will help differentiate you from others and be a value-add to your job.

  4. Apply only to jobs you’re qualified for – it is easy for a recruiter to quickly see that you don’t qualify and put your application in the no pile. Don’t waste your time.

  5. If you are in school, are getting a certificate, or have a job, begin planning and preparing for your job search. Don’t wait until you are done to start thinking about this.

  6. Be able to clearly explain how your non-UX education or experience is relevant to the jobs you are applying to.

  7. Create saved searches with email notifications for jobs of interest, using filters and keywords for location, level, company, etc. You can do this on LinkedIn and other sites.

  8. I am pretty certain that most jobs that are publicly posted can be found on LinkedIn, but it may be worth checking other job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, etc. as well as research and design job boards like EPIC, local meetup groups (membership sometimes include access to a private list, like Portland’s CHIFOO), email listservs like Google Design & User Research, Slack channels, etc.

  9. Know the range of job titles to look for – UX researcher, user researcher, customer experience, design researcher, strategist, qualitative researcher, quantitative researcher, ethnographer, etc.

  10. Try searching job boards for specific skills or methodologies, which may surface roles with non-standard titles, or other types of roles where you can get UX experience.

  11. There is such a wide variety of job titles that it’s important to actually look at the requirements – e.g., some entry-level jobs don’t say “junior” in the title – to see if you are a good fit.

  12. Take any “years of experience” requirements with a grain of salt – focus more on what you have done, what your skills are, and how you can meet the needs of the role, and communicate this very clearly in your career assets.

  13. Connect with staffing agencies for contract work. There are some good ones out there. Watch out for recruiters who are shady, don’t understand what they are looking for, jerk you around, pressure you to take a job, or don’t pay enough.

  14. Hire a career coach (like me!) to help accelerate your job search progress.

  15. If you learn about a job from someone directly, follow-up to let them know that you applied. If you send someone a resume directly, make sure to also apply within the company’s system. But always use your social social capital wisely.

  16. Don’t assume you need to meet 100% of the requirements on a job description in order to be qualified. Not-so-fun fact: men tend to be less concerned about this, whereas women and people of color sometimes feel they need to be fully “qualified” because they have a knowledge or skills gap.

  17. Keep track of all aspects of your job search, including companies, referrals, interviews, contact info, links, general notes and status. Save all job descriptions in case they get taken down. This will help you stay organized and is a resource for identifying patterns and successes (e.g., number of interviews increases as you get better at pitching yourself, or after you complete your LinkedIn profile).

Communication & interviewing

  1. Be prepared for the typical interview process. First you will speak with a recruiter for an initial phone screen to see if you pass muster for key requirements and sound like you know what you’re talking about. Then you will likely talk to the hiring manager or a team member next, followed by a group of people and some additional one-on-ones with a variety of people (e.g., researchers and designers, and possibly product managers). Know what they care about and their main responsibilities, generally speaking. Be able to speak to ways in which you would work them.

  2. Research the company, product and team (find them on LinkedIn and learn about their backgrounds). Make sure you’ve checked out the product (if possible) in case you get asked about it or there’s a moment for you to bring it up, which will get you some points.

  3. You may be asked to complete a research activity as part of the process. For example, you may do a live mock interview or research planning exercise. Or you may be given a prompt about a research question or business/design problem and asked to create a study plan.

  4. Practice interviewing with others, or record yourself and watch the video.

  5. Practice answering behavioral questions (e.g., tell me about a time when…”) and the ever-important “tell me about yourself” question. Come up with examples you can discuss using the STAR method – Situation, Task, Action, Result.

  6. Practice answering questions about research – check out this list of questions asked during interviews with Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, as well as this compilation from interviews I did earlier in my career.

  7. Practice answering questions related to research design – e.g., sample size, methodology selection, generative versus evaluative research, usability tasks, collaborating with and educating stakeholders, etc.

  8. Exude passion and excitement when talking about your work and the opportunity to join the team/company.

  9. If you lack certain experience, communicate your potential and show how what you have done and what you know relates to the role.

  10. Showcase skills like communication, collaboration, problem solving, solutions-focused, conflict management, and leadership (preferably through examples rather than hypotheticals or generalizations). It’s better to show and not just tell.

  11. Have a few good questions in mind to ask the team – e.g., how do researchers collaborate with product teams? What will I be working on when I join? What are some challenges the team is currently facing and how do you think I might be able to help?

  12. Remember that you are interviewing them too! You don’t want to take just any job if the role or company really doesn’t suit you and your goals.

  13. Do a retrospective after each interview – think about what went well and what you can improve for next time; ask for feedback from recruiters and hiring managers.

  14. Send thank-you notes the day of your interviews, reiterating your interest in the role and why you’re the best candidate. Reference something you learned in the conversation, and ask a follow-up question if appropriate.

Networking and community

  1. Don’t think of networking in the traditional sense of awkwardly approaching random people and asking them for things – think of it as establishing genuine relationships through engagement and community participation, which will lead to opportunities in the future.

  2. Social connections are the most effective way of finding about and getting jobs before they are posted to the public. There are numerous places to do this – LinkedIn, Meetup groups, professional associations, webinars, conferences, and starting with your first-hand connections.

  3. Use LinkedIn to share your ideas, experiences, perspectives and resources – this attracts people to you and organically builds your network; also post comments on other people’s content, including industry leaders!

  4. You do not need to have the title of UX researcher to talk about research! Jump in and give it a shot.

  5. It’s easy to think of other people applying for jobs as your competitors – and they are in the sense that they, too, want a damn job. But consider them as your colleagues and community, people you can support and learn from and commiserate with. You may even consider creating a cohort that meets regularly to chat about career stuff, or a Slack group for sharing resources.

  6. Show gratitude to people who help you through reciprocity and gratitude, which builds goodwill and helps you stand out from the many others who aren’t considerate. Take the time to thank someone for their help, and keep them updated on your progress. Little things like this build relationships and create future, unpredictable opportunities. Don’t ask people for favors or referrals if you don’t know them or haven’t worked with/chatted with them.

  7. Don’t always expect a response from people you reach out to because people are busy, don’t check their messages, get too many inquiries, etc.

  8. Join one or more of the many UX research and design Slack communities, where jobs are often posted before they hit the public. Here’s a directory.

  9. Connect with alumni from your college/university – that connection may increase the likelihood of their willingness to take time to chat with you and help you further network.

Bonus! 10 ineffective ways to get a job in UX research

If you try any of these and they work, please let me know.

  1. Body swaps, deep fakes, cryogenic freezing

  2. Psychics, tarot, crystals, magnets, essential oils, tin foil hats, bleach injections, ear candling, ionized jewelry, hexagonal water or knocking on wood

  3. Matrix neck port

  4. Phishing, pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing

  5. Become a serial killer who captures UX researchers and makes a suit of their skin, then stand in front of a mirror and ask, “would you hire me? I’d hire me. I’d hire me hard. I’d hire me so hard.”

  6. 25 years at the Black Lodge

  7. Writing “ecneirepxe resu” in blood on a mirror while snowed inside a haunted mountain top hotel

  8. Networking on Grindr, OK Cupid, Ashley Madison, FetLife, etc.

  9. Mansplaininglearnin

  10. Excessive puns or sarcasm

Additional Resources

Breaking into UX Research: Ideas from our UX Community – Paul Derby Beta Grace: Interviewing for UX Research Positions – Grace Stoeckle What is a researcher? A personal manifesto – Amy Santee Applying for a UX Research Job – Laith Ulaby The (Non-Traditional) Way to Break Into UX Research – Emma McCabe Taking the Leap: How to get a research job out of grad school – Judd Antin The 4 biggest challenges to starting a career in UX – Sophia Prater So, you’re going to be a user researcher: top tips to get you going – Leisa Reichelt I want a UX job! How to make a career change into UX research – Lauryl Zenobi How to create a UX portfolio without UX experience | Inside Design Blog 45 UX Portfolio Tips | IxDA San Francisco How to ace a UX research portfolio presentation – Miles Hunter How to wow me with your UX portfolio – David Travis Storytelling for a UX research portfolio – Nikki Anderson Delta CX Youtube Videos on UX Careers – Debbie Levitt

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