How I Fast-Tracked My Usability Career

There are many ways you can evaluate where you are in your usability career, and how to proceed from there. For me, self-reflection was a challenging but vital step. In order to figure out where you need to go, you have to figure out what skills you possess and what your objectives in your usability career are.

Here are 4 tips that helped me fast-track my own usability career.

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1. Build a culture of discovery

Discovery can mean a number things. It can be predicting and analyzing trends in technology or culture and leveraging that help your career opportunities. It can be introducing modern data discovery tools that promote self-service into organizations. Building predictive models can be very valuable for organizations that want to be more proactive in their decision-making.

More importantly, a culture of discovery allows you to broaden your perspectives and look outward for positive change, which leads to my next point.

Gartner describes the importance of usability as follows: Usability affects how customers perceive and respond to products, services and artifacts of all types, including websites and applications.

2. Diversify your skillsets

T skillsets are important for getting a foothold in a usability career. They are characterized by having a wide variety of general skills, and have a deep specialty in one thing. When visualized, it looks like a T.

Some skills that would make you more multi-faceted are writing, design and prototyping. This might include being able to operate programs like Photoshop, or other enterprise software. While these skills give you a chance to flex your skills when required, they also allow you to communicate with other specialists in the workplace more easily. Communication is one of the most important general skills you can attain because usability experts will often work in teams.

Specialists, while attractive to employers for their deep knowledge, lack flexibility and necessary experience in communicating ideas outside of their expertise. Discover if you have the penchant for specializing, or building up general skills and continue from there.

3. Become a mentor

One of the best ways to learn is through teaching others. Even if it isn’t a formal arrangement, it can still be a great way to expand your skills. Writing for blogs and posting on forums can improve your communication skills as well as sharpen your basic UX skills. Formal arrangements might include contract training work, part-time teaching or advisory positions.

This broadening of your skillset can be important experience, as it can lead to management, directing and other executive positions in the future. Teaching also gives you a perspective of how to communicate with the uninitiated, which may come up often when dealing with clients or other co-workers in technical support.

4. Be passionate in your work

There will be undoubtedly many people looking for the same positions as you. What will set you apart is the passion you put into your work. Don’t think of your work as simply a means to an end, or a series of static events. Think about it in a deeper sense. Think about why you are in the field. When you improve the usability of a product, it’s not just about the functional requirements and data fields. It’s also about offering a great customer experience and building a culture around it.

Passion is hard to measure, but easy to recognize. You can tell immediately if someone is passionate about something when you talk to them. Being passionate about your work also improves team building. Hiring managers will seek to build the best possible team, so those who demonstrate the desire make the transition much easier.

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Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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