UX Writing AMA (Ask Me Anything) Part 1: Breaking into the Field

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I love giving back. 

The world is better when we pay knowledge forward. As I’ve progressed in my UX writing journey, I’ve felt a deep responsibility to share what I’ve learned since I entered the field in 2018. 

Often, I post thoughts on LinkedIn

In fall 2021, I completed a 13-part Ask Me Anything series there. I’ve collected questions and answers from the project about breaking into UX writing and content design.

Stay curious, and give back when you can. We can all do something to make the world a little smaller.

Part 1: One thing I wish I knew before starting in UX writing

Question: What’s one thing you wish you’d known before starting your first UX writing/content strategy job?

Andrew: Great question!

It’s hard to limit this to one answer. … But as I think about this more, I return to how managers and environments influence so much of our development and day-to-day happiness.

A while back, I addressed the importance of great managers and healthy environments. As part of that post, I wrote this:

“When searching for a position, find a manager who’s empathetic, inspirational, and experienced. Study what they do and say. Take qualities you admire and apply them to your work.

“Healthy environments allow this to happen.

“Avoid overly competitive situations. They lead to too much drama. You don’t need the added stress, especially as someone starting a new career.

“Be intentional about who mentors you and where you grow. These factors influence so much.

“The right choices will launch your career to places you never knew you could go.”

I still believe all that.

It’s important to have good managers and quality environments at any stage of a professional journey. But especially when changing careers, managers and environments shape so much.

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Part 2: Gaining experience as a UX writer

Question: I wish to transition into UX writing. But the thing I noticed is that recruiters prefer UX writers with a minimum of two years of experience. So how do I get the required experience to evolve into a UX writer?

Andrew: You’re not alone with this question, and the situation isn’t limited to UX writing.

I tried to change careers after my first of two journalism layoffs. I spent a year applying for writing-related jobs. Finally, I took another media role because I needed a full-time position ASAP. That time was demoralizing.

When you’re trying to transition into a new career, it’s hard to convince hiring managers to trust you. Sometimes, when discussing career changes, we gloss over how difficult it is to find someone who’s willing to offer a breakthrough opportunity. I wish we talked about that more.

Now for the good news: It’s possible to pivot!

There are a few parts that go into this. First, you must have related experience and work samples that suggest you can do the job.

When I interviewed for my first UX writing position, I didn’t have UX experience. But by then, I had worked as a journalist for nearly a decade. I had clips and stories to share about how skills gained in my previous positions would translate into the UX world.

If you can, complete a UX writing course that includes an assignment. You can also try to land freelance work. Get something to show. Keep learning.

Networking also helps. When I interviewed for my first UX writing job, I was a referral. I’m not sure I would have been hired without that. I doubt I would have heard about the position at all.

For would-be career changers, becoming a referral can improve your chances drastically. Again, it’s all about convincing hiring managers to trust you.

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Part 3: Nontraditional entrances into UX writing

Question: What advice would you give people who want to get into UX writing but have had no previous experience with writing/design/communications?

Andrew: First, there’s no single path into this field. If you like to think analytically, learn new things, and solve problems, UX writing could be a rewarding space for anyone with a nontraditional background.

That said, you have to love working with words. There’s no way around that. You’re a designer who works with words, after all.

In this job, you’ll think about some things that might seem crazy to anyone else. (Is “remove” the right word here, or would “delete” be more precise? When do we say “sorry” in our interface, if at all? Do we use sentence case or title case for headers?)

I came from journalism, and I lean on those skills in this role often. But for anyone without a writing/design/communications background, ask yourself if you enjoy thinking about design and solving problems with words.

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Part 4: Rebranding to break into UX writing

Question: A career changer here from education, now in sales as a bridge. Have trained in copywriting since 2014 and am in Joanna Wiebe’s Copyschool as well as UXWH’s Academy this current cohort. My question has to do with preparing a proper resume and also rebranding generally, finding my new voice. The goal for me is going in-house, company or agency, after the UXWA ends.

Andrew: You’re smart to think about rebranding yourself. I wish I would have learned this earlier: It’s valuable to frame your ambitions and accomplishments in the most effective way possible.

Think about your most impactful achievements. Tell the story of those experiences through data points and any cross-functional work that led to those results. Then craft a narrative about how those moments prepared you for breaking into UX writing.

In your resume and when interviewing, go beyond a general overview of your roles. Share how you made an impact in those positions, and stress skills that would translate into your life as a UX writer: research, effective communication, and instances of negotiation and/or compromise that helped get the job done.

(On my LinkedIn profile, I’ve created headers for recent positions that read, “Responsibilities” and “Impact,” and I list items under them.)

I’d also share the work you’re doing to learn about the industry. That’s great! It shows curiosity and ambition. It also doesn’t hurt to tell recruiters and hiring managers you’re curious and ambitious.

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Part 5: Finding a fit during the interview process

Question: What’s the best way to figure out if a company is unhealthy during the interview process? It can be hard to tell. Are there any specific questions to ask or red flags to watch out for?

Andrew: Such a good topic!

Asking about a company’s pace of life is one of my go-to questions. What you value may be different than what someone else prioritizes, so try to match your needs with what a prospective employer offers.

It’s also important to get a read on the hiring manager.

If you value work-life balance, will that person let you create boundaries? Will they be your ally when you need one? What’s their leadership style?

Ask those questions. After all, a manager shapes so much of how you view your job.

Granted, interviews only go so far. I’ve learned people can present the best or better versions of themselves and their situations. This is natural, especially if they like you as a candidate.

Because of that, it’s wise to look at Glassdoor reviews. If you know someone within the company who’s not part of the interview panel, you can reach out to get an unfiltered view of the situation.

In addition, if you need it, go beyond the 30 minutes or an hour you speak to someone. If you have more questions, ask to follow up by email. If they turn down the request, that’s likely a red flag.

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Further Reading

Everything You Need To Know About UX Content

How I Got Hired As A Full-Time UX Writer

Navigating Content Design Interviews with Andrew Astleford

3 things that helped me get a job in UX (and 3 that didn’t)

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