Where should a junior UX designer work?

A window, covered in pink sticky notes. Credit: Talisha Payton

As soon as you walk into my apartment, you will see I have covered one of my windows in sticky notes. I’ll soon be applying for User Experience internships for the summer of 2017. 46 pink sticky notes cover the window.These are the companies around the country (maybe even one in Canada) that are offering UX internships that I am considering applying to. Initially, I found a lot more than 46 companies but based on some fundamental criteria I narrowed it down to those. I hope to find the following traits in my first job as a user experience professional.

The company shows a clear understanding of the difference between UI and UX.

I am not a visual designer. My strengths lie in performing solid research, digging to find underlying problems and generating logical solutions (layouts, features, interactions). You can be a great designer and never create a high fidelity design. If your job description for a UX designer mentions terms like “Photoshop” and “Illustrator” and ” Pixel Perfect”, it’s a red flag that your team may not understand that User Interface design is a subset of User Experience and what you are looking for is more of a visual designer.

Design decisions are founded in research and backed up with data.

Unfortunately, this is hard to discover through a company website or job description as most don’t mention this. However, how design decisions are made is something I’ll ask about in every interview. If the answer is anything along the lines of “whatever person X says goes” it’s a red flag. I’d probably probe further to find out what person X usually looks for. If words like “testing”, “data”, “analytics”, “research”, or at the very least “heuristics” are never mentioned, then this is likely not a place for me.

Projects start with clearly defining the problem.

Oh you have a cool idea! That’s nice! What problem will it address? Approximately how many people have this problem? No pie in the sky startups for me.

The company knows the value of UX research

Given this is my strong suit, my ideal company would have team members dedicated solely to performing research. This research and testing would happen before the project starts (defining the problem), during the project (testing our proposed solutions) and after (validating our designed solution is working).

The company and design team has an established UX team that has practiced the above values for some years and is enthusiastic about mentoring junior UX designers.

My first role in User Experience will teach me a lot. There will be a lot to learn and it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made in the process. I need to know that I can leverage the support and knowledge of a team that has a great amount of experience.

I’d rather not have to convince a company that even though some designers don’t have 7-10 years of experience that we can still add a ton of value. A new perspective and fresh set of eyes never hurt anyone. Also, it would be really discouraging to be thrown into a team only to realize there are no senior UX designers to show you the ropes or that they are less than enthusiastic about doing so.

The internship is a paid role.

This tells me that the company is serious about training future UX designers and that they expect work to be done on real projects.  Though these can be hard to find, this is definitely a must-have for me.

As an aspiring designer, I am always thinking about where I want to work for my first full time UX role. Frequently I tell myself that since I don’t have much experience, that I can’t afford to be picky. However, after reading many of the UX job postings out there, I think it will be in my best interest long term if I am at least a teeny bit picky, unless, I want to sell my soul, and give up my morals and basic user experience values.

Author: Talisha Payton

Putting together the puzzle pieces of websites by day, User Experience and Interaction Design Masters student by night. Aspiring UX Designer, Philly native, and former taco addict.