Starting a career in UX: advice for graduates from a UX consultant
- Gabi Mitchem-Evans
I joined Nomensa back in January 2018 and am happy to announce that in February this year, I was promoted to UX consultant. Like most anniversaries and milestones, it left me feeling reflective about both my progress and the steps I took to get here. In this article, I'll describe what it's like to work as a UX consultant and share some advice on getting into the UX industry straight after graduating.
But let's begin at the beginning. I spent four years studying Industrial Design at Loughborough University. This equipped me with a range of design thinking and research skills, which I was keen to apply in a research-focused role that remained creative. I initially endeavoured to find a ‘design research’ or ‘UX Research’ position, but when I stumbled upon ‘UX consultant’ roles I quickly learned that these were perfect for the skills I wanted to employ and develop. Naturally when I saw a ‘graduate UX consultant’ role pop up at Nomensa, one of Europe's leading independent UX agencies, I was eager to apply!
So, after a few eventful years studying at Loughborough University, I packed my bags and moved to a new city to start my role as a graduate UX consultant in Nomensa’s Bristol office.
What’s it like working as a UX consultant?
My role is primarily to consult and advise clients on how to create the best user experience for their websites, services and digital products. I have worked on a variety of projects for a wide range of clients, including; Met Office, NHS Digital, Npower, Alzheimers Society and Historic Royal Palaces. Projects can vary from a few weeks to a few years, depending on the scope of what the work entails.
Project team setups also vary based on the scope of the project, but a typical internal project team might consist of practitioners (UXers, designers, copywriters, developers – as necessary for the project), a project manager and an account manager. As a UX consultant you will always be supported by a more senior UX consultant, as we believe in the power of two (although in recent times we've adopted a triad approach called the power of three). However, when we work closely with clients on a longer-term contract, we become closely integrated with them to form part of their internal teams.
How to get noticed in the industry
The UX industry is thriving, but the number of graduate and junior positions doesn't match up to the amount of people who are seeking these roles.
The vast industry interest has accumulated into a hugely active community of passionate UXers, with dedicated meet-ups, talks and conferences held across the world. Bristol and London in particular have great communities of UXers and people in tech to network with. But there are also regular meet-ups that happen in most UK cities now, which you can find from sites like MeetUp, including Ladies That UX Bristol, South West UX (SWUX) and User Centred Design (UCD).
Photo credit: @LadiesThatUXBRS
Where to start your UX career search
When searching for a UX job there is a multitude of job titles, descriptions and skills required so it can be difficult to know where to start. I've listed a few things that might be worth thinking about before you begin job applications.
Do you know what type of company you want to work for?
UX roles exist within agencies, in-house companies and start-up companies, but you will likely have very different experiences based on which you decide to work for. My experience of working in an agency has been exciting, as I get to work with a range of clients and work on fast-paced project turnarounds. In my job search the most important factor for me was being able to learn from a great team, and being in a UX agency means I am surrounded by 20+ UXers, which is great.
However, you might prefer to work in a bigger or smaller team, or work in a role where you lead more of the work, this is up to you! Taking on voluntary roles or internships could be a great way to learn what you are looking for if you're not sure.
Do you know what kinds of projects or topics you want to work on?
A very attractive element of agency work is that you get to work on different kinds of projects; varying from information architecture (IA) work, app and web design, research intensive work, service design and more, across commercial and government clients. Whereas if you'd like to work in a particular sector, or with a particular interest of yours (i.e. charity work), then maybe you would prefer to be in-house.
What kind of company culture appeals to you?
I found Twitter and LinkedIn to be great for helping soak up industry knowledge and company culture when I started my job search. Have a look at the prospective company's social media accounts and see if their culture seems to fit your personality and aspirations.
Follow and connect with industry professionals in your area - do they work somewhere that appeals to you?
This will help you learn what you do and don't want from your future role. Nomensa has a friendly and vibrant culture, which was another important factor for me. Our CHO’s (Chief Happiness Officers) organise regular events and treats such as cheese and wine nights, Easter egg hunts around the office, and we also have regular trips to King Street for after work drinks. You can find Nomensa on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to see for yourself!
When you've decided on these things, it's time to write a smashing cover letter and show a portfolio that evidences your capabilities. If you've done your research on the company and know that you'd be a great fit, then explain why in your cover letter. Nomensa welcome people from all backgrounds and walks of life, as we know that diverse teams make better products.
So, what's it like working at Nomensa?
One of the first projects I was involved in was for the Alzheimers Society Memory Walk website. They wanted us to pick apart existing user behaviour when registering to walk as a team and help them to increase and incentivise sign-up rates. This project involved undertaking competitor research, usability testing sessions and making recommendations based on the findings. Our work resulted in a £2.9m increase in donations and 14K more sign-ups. This is an example of a smaller project you might work on as a UX consultant.
More recently I worked with the Met Office digital team towards the launch of their new Beta website. This is a project Nomensa began over a year ago, where we firstly undertook Discovery and Alpha phases as part of an agile development team. The project involved working closely alongside their designers, developers, testers and product owners with regular visits to their Exeter HQ.
My role primarily concerned designing wireframes and providing recommendations for how and if content should be migrated to the Beta site. I undertook a number of research activities to ensure the new site was accessible and usable to all users, through stakeholder interviews, accessibility and usability testing sessions and guerrilla testing. This is an example of a long-term project that might span over a few years to deliver a statement of work and the work I completed for the Met Office's 'Specialist Forecast' sections is now live on their website.
Working at Nomensa means you are constantly surrounded by positive, bright and like-minded people who are genuinely interested in what's going on around them and excited about the work they’re doing. There is never a dull moment here, and although Nerf gun pellets shooting around the office is what immediately comes to mind, the large array of projects we have running in parallel also make things interesting. In my time here I have already had the pleasure of working with a wide range of Nomensan’s from across the business, including our other offices and departments.
Hopefully this blog post has helped demystify the UX world a little bit and gave you some tips for getting into the industry that you found helpful. Take a look at our current vacancies if you want to get involved.
You may also be interested in
Let's work together
We believe that creating groundbreaking experiences that make measurable differences in the way people live takes a special type of collaboration. Our team designs impactful experiences by leaning on the variety of capabilities and expertise within Nomensa to ensure our solution is bespoke to your needs. We believe collaboration is key, let’s work together.