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So you’ve landed your first job as a UX writer—congrats!
You worked hard and earned your first official title as a writer in tech. Maybe you’re a full-time employee or maybe you got hired as a contractor and hope to graduate to full-time employment one day. Either way, now that you’ve secured the gig you should be thinking about how you’re going to level up. How are you going to not just be good at your job, but build yourself a reputation so positive that they won’t want to risk losing you?
When I pivoted my career into UX writing, it took 6 months for me to get my first job. It was a 3-month contract with H&R Block and I was stoked. But once the celebration and relief wore off, I realized I had work to do in order to prove my worth and convince my team that I was worth their investment. I wanted to move to a full-time role and I wasn’t sure how to get there.
Well, after two months of putting in the work, they invited me to apply for a full-time position as a Senior Content Designer which I just accepted today! I went from student to senior in just 9 months. So as always, I’m here to pay forward what I’ve learned.
Here are some tips for making the most out of your new role and really knocking the socks off management and your team—they’ll wonder how they ever functioned without you.
Ask for feedback
Make your intentions clear from the start that you intend to move up. Tell your manager in your first or second one-on-one exactly what your goals are and ask what you can do to get there.
I’ve loved working with my team because they’re not shy about giving feedback. My managers and colleagues have been great about sharing where I have room for improvement, but they have also been incredibly supportive and validating of my skills and efforts. I wholeheartedly believe this is because I made an effort to connect with them from day one. We’re transparent and open with one another and it makes for a comfortable and productive work environment.
Speak up during meetings
Some of the best advice I ever heard was from Kaleo Wassman, lead singer of the band Pepper. “Don’t be afraid of your own voice,” he told a small group of us on a hiking retreat as we were singing around a campfire on Catalina Island. While he meant it literally, it really struck a chord with me (pun not intended but I’m going with it).
It’s okay to speak up, even when you’re new. Allow yourself to get excited about the work you’re doing and let everyone know. If you have a unique perspective, say something! It’s going to make an impression, and your managers will more than likely want someone around long-term who shows their enthusiasm for where they work and what they’re working on.
As a UX writer, you should be doing more than just writing and revising copy. Impress the execs by taking a larger, more holistic approach to the user journey. If you don’t already have a built-in responsibility to participate in the journey mapping and user flow mapping process of a feature, take the initiative and do it on your own without being asked. It will knock their socks off and show them you’re really thinking about the entirety of the user experience and not just laser-focused on the microcopy.
I’ll never forget the design critique session where I shared my discovery work for a feature I was working on guiding taxpayers through reporting their health insurance info. All the ooos and ahhhs you’d have thought I just performed a magic trick! Who knew that user flow mapping could be so awe-inspiring?
Research and dig in
Part of the holistic approach to UX writing and content design is conducting UX research. Regardless of whether you’re on a team that has access to dedicated UX researchers or not, you’ll probably still want to take some initiative to implement some UX research techniques. Even just doing some light conversation mining and incorporating those findings in your shared discovery document will not only make the work stronger but likely cause someone to call you out on it.
Our lead product manager just returned from maternity leave a few days ago. I do not know her yet, but I was in a meeting with her today where I was reviewing a feature I was working on with my design partner. After I answered a question that showed my working knowledge of the subject matter she said, “I’ve heard a lot about you, Melissa, and how much you dig!” I later found out that she told my manager how impressed she was by me and that they should bring me on full-time immediately.
Schedule workshopping sessions
Collaboration is Queen! Work closely with your designer, product partners, researchers, etc. Pull in whoever it takes to make the work stronger, answer your questions, validate that you’re moving in the right direction, or correct you if you’re off course. Taking the initiative to schedule those meetings and invite the right people without worrying that you’re wasting their time is part of what it takes to be comfortable in your UX shoes. And my friend, confidence is everything. Kick imposter syndrome to the curb and collaborate like a badass. You’re qualified to have a seat at the table.
Don’t stop learning
Share education resources with your team. Don’t be shy about asking if they can cover the cost of workshops, courses, or conferences. Don’t forget that they hired you because they’re investing in you. They want to see you learn and improve and will notice when they see you investing in your continued growth.
Good luck leveling up, friends! Remember: you are awesome and you deserve good things!
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