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Dear future UX writer,
This article is a love letter to you and all the new UX writers that will come after me. You know who you are. Eight months ago, I was probably a lot like you. Mid-existential crisis, trying to figure out what my next career move would be. I was kinda lost, confused, and beaten down. I made some wrong moves, was more in debt than I cared to admit, and had to figure out once and for all what career path would get me ahead fast while playing to all my strengths and a lifetime’s worth of acquired skills. When I discovered UX writing, I knew it was love and I was SO in.
Half a year later, my life is completely different. I landed a lucrative contract position at H&R Block where I continue to learn and grow and I couldn’t be happier.
It was, in fact, almost six months to the day between the moment I decided I wanted to become a UX writer and the day I accepted an offer. Here are the actions that I took over the course of those 186 days to land my dream job, in an attempt at chronological order.
Note: experiences may and will vary. This isn’t meant to be so much as a roadmap but a loose guideline. Everyone has a different experience, and this is the one that worked for me! (Day numbers are pretty accurate to my own experience.)
Becoming a UX writer, Day 1: Enroll in a course
When I commit to something I go all in. And when it comes to my career, I knew enrolling in a boot camp was going to be the right move. There are a handful of them available in the UX writing field, but I eventually settled on the UX Writing Academy since it was the most immersive and offered the most real-world experience.
My goal was to become an expert in the field, and I knew the Academy would give me the edge I needed. The course ended up exceeding my expectations. All the UX work currently in my portfolio I owe to the course, but we’ll get to that part later.
Day 3: Engage in the community
There are a few great communities out there that are really active with folks in the field. They are great places to learn, get feedback, find support, and share the occasional meme. Here are the ones I’m engaged in:
- Microcopy & UX Writing Facebook group
- Women+ in UX Writing & Content Design Facebook group
- UX Writers & Content Designers LinkedIn group
Being engaged in these communities helped me make some connections early on. I even made a new friend who decided to sign up for the UX Writing Academy with me and we often checked in with one another on our progress and gave each other pep talks when assignments got tricky.
Once you’ve embedded yourself into some key communities, don’t just be a fly on the wall. Like, contribute, make friends! Genuine relationship building, I have found, is the key to not only creating opportunities for yourself but designing the infrastructure of a career, community, and colleagues that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.
Day 7: Set yourself a mantra
I had my first class one week after I enrolled in the UX Writing Academy, so I had 7 days to accumulate a boatload of anxiety over whether or not I was actually going to make this happen. Imposter syndrome is real! That little voice telling you you’re in over your head. My advice? Acknowledge it, keep walking, and set a mantra: a phrase to repeat to yourself over and over throughout the process to remind yourself you’re on the right path. Something like stay the course or I am enough.
It’s easy to get in our heads when we’re in unfamiliar territory. It can be exhilarating and terrifying. There’s always going to be someone who has more experience than you in a certain area, but there is only one YOU. You have a unique background that the right team is going to eventually think is the perfect fit for what they’re looking for. Confidence is going to take you far, so start practicing now and surround yourself with people who support you on your journey.
Day 10: Find a mentor
If you do end up enrolling in a program like the UX Writing Academy as I did, one of the major benefits is access to a mentor – someone in the UX writing field with a wealth of knowledge and experience who is committed to your professional success. Even if you aren’t enrolled in a program you can still find a mentor. You know those connections I mentioned earlier? The best way to get a mentor is to simply ask someone you admire to be yours. What do you have to lose?
My mentor relationship was HANDS DOWN the absolute best asset I had available to me throughout the process. She helped me with developing my skills, refining my resume and LinkedIn profile, sending me job leads, and general support and invaluable insight. I recommend doing what we did and set up a regular schedule for check-ins. My mentor and I had a standing weekly meeting for about four months. This was great during the most intensive part of the course while I was focused on pushing through assignments and working on my big project, but she went above and beyond the call of duty. No matter what your arrangement, it’s important to establish expectations early for what the relationship will look like, what you want to get out of it, and how you wish to communicate with one another.
Day 15: Learn the tools of the trade
Get started early with learning all the software that all the pros use in the field. Get familiar with them now and you can practice using them more as you develop your skills over the next few months. The biggies are:
- Google Docs
It should be noted that there are a lot of great and useful tools out there, but the list above is what I have found to be the most useful on a day-to-day basis as the foundation of the trade.
Day 56: Write on Medium
Some of the greatest advice I received early on from my mentor was to produce content in order to build myself a reputation and connect with the greater UX writing community. I published my first article on Medium on day 56 entitled UX writing: A field of career refugees. It was based on my observations of the field so far and why I decided to pursue a career in it. Within 24 hours I was approached by Bootcamp, a UX Collective publication, asking if I would be a contributor. Not too shabby for a total beginner, right?
Here are some tips on writing for Medium (or any other blog):
- Try to publish one article a month. It doesn’t need to be long. In fact, quick reads are often a bonus.
- Keep in mind you’re doing this to build your reputation, so your unique background and perspective are imperative to the storytelling. There’s a lot of beauty in the diversity of this field.
- Search for opportunities to put your skills to the test: For example, if you order something online, interact with websites, or start using a new app, pay attention to the copy and look for any opportunity to improve the UX. Document your thought process and write about it.
Day 58: Revamp your LinkedIn profile
Closer to day 1, I had already updated my LinkedIn that I was a student at the UX Writing Hub, but it wasn’t until day 58 that I got serious about making strategic tweaks to my profile.
Focus in particular on:
- Change your Title to something that indicates the job you want and which industries you are targeting. For example: Fintech, eCommerce, health, entertainment, etc.
- Update your status to #opentowork and use that hashtag in any posts you create. Change the badge around your profile to display the green ring as well.
- Create featured posts for any updates to your resume, portfolio, or articles you write
- Read more tips at 5 ways to revamp your LinkedIn profile for a career in UX writing
Day 70: Build a new resume
Becoming a UX writer isn’t about starting your career from scratch. It’s about harnessing all your past experiences, strengths, and skills and presenting them in a new way. Spend some time building a dynamite resume that highlights all of these and how they relates to what employers are looking for in a UX writer.
I was concerned at first about my lack of UX writing experience until I realized just how much of what I had already done was related in some way. I just had to reframe it and present it in a new way that gave me an edge.
Day 92: Build your online portfolio
By day 92, you should have a few assignments under your belt. Enough to create a killer portfolio showcasing your UX writing skills. It doesn’t need to be anything super fancy to start. My mentor told me to just use Miro to create it, but being that I have a background in web design I just couldn’t resist setting up my own website.
Some options for easy website builders are:
Day 95: Apply, apply, apply
Once you’re armed with a resume, portfolio, and an updated LinkedIn profile, you can hit the ground running with job applications. Use tools like Indeed and the job listings on LinkedIn to find open positions. Put yourself in front of recruiters – they want to help you succeed! (Also, vet them to make sure they’re legit. There are some scammers out there.)
Keep a record of your applications in a spreadsheet. Make note of the company, the date you applied, and any notes you may have along with a link to the job description. Keep it updated with the status of each for your records. Share the link with your mentor so they can keep tabs on your progress as well.
Be prepared for lots and lots of rejection. It’s just part of it. The most common thing I heard going through the interview process (and I DID get interviews) is that they really liked me, but I didn’t have the level of experience they were looking for. That will likely be the case for you as well. It’s okay. Something will come!
Day 155: Attend UX writing conferences and workshops
There are some great opportunities out there to build your knowledge in UX writing that you can’t get from anywhere else. Conferences and workshops (some free, some paid) allow you to stay up to date on what others in the industry are talking about in real-time. They allow you to build some of those valuable connections with people in the industry and inspire you in ways you won’t be prepared for.
A couple of conferences to look into are:
You never know where opportunities can come from. And one day you’ll be able to pay it forward and provide those opportunities to people!
All the days
Do your best work. Update your portfolio. Keep applying. Do some freelance work. Follow leads. Check LinkedIn for opportunities. Your new connections may post that they have heard of an open position or a freelance gig that might be a good fit.
In the end
The job that I wound up getting offered in the end and accepted came from a recruiter. The recruiting agency had originally contacted me about a completely different position which I didn’t get, but I was contacted by another recruiter who found my information in their system and found a position they thought I would be perfect for. They were right! It wound up working perfectly for me and I know it will for you too. Put in the work, the time, and the effort, and you’ll get there.