Make sure you actually want the design job you think you want

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What do I tell people who tell me they dream of being a UX writer someday? (You’d be surprised how often I hear it.)

Well, here’s what I just told someone who wrote to me:

My tippy-top advice when someone tells me they want to be a UX writer someday is to make damn sure that that’s actually the case. UX content is a big world, and being a UX writer on a design team is only one of dozens of roles you can fill. Stay curious, stay open, and don’t get fixated on the job title. That’s the road to misery.

So yes, be cautious, and make sure it’s a job you really want. How do you find out, then if you actually want the job you think you want? I know of at least three popular ways:

  1. Interview for the job you think you want, or one like it. — Going through the application process, even if only partway, can be incredibly revealing. You might learn very quickly that that job category — that particular common role, like UX writer or design manager — just isn’t for you. It’s much better to learn this early on rather than after a year or two of “preparing” and “studying” for a job you’ve never so much as applied for. (You don’t have to get the job, or even get an interview, to learn this, necessarily. I’m suggesting merely going all the way through applying for it, at least once, before you decide it’s the job for you.)
  2. Interview people about it. — Please do not spend a year or two years trying to transition into a very specific design role without having talked to anyone who actually does that work.
  3. “Taste test” the work, via contracting or freelancing or volunteering. — This may not be accessible to you, but if you’re able, trying out something that resembles the work you want to do in an actual project capacity can also be very instructive.

As always, remember that jobs and roles are different things. Fixating on specific job titles is also a bad idea because getting alignment between all four of these things is really, really hard and rare:

  1. The title you want to have…
  2. doing the work you want to do…
  3. at a company you’re comfortable working for…
  4. with a team you enjoy being part of.

If you can “only” find those last three things? My God, buddy, take the job. Who gives a shit what the title is at that point?

Keep cuddling the muddle and you’ll find your own path in this field.