There’s a lot of demand for UI/UX designers at the moment. And you’ll see job descriptions looking for skills in certain areas like graphic design, human centred design, wire framing etc and knowledge of programs like Sketch, Photoshop, Illustrator, InVision, Balsamiq (the list goes on… and on.. and on). And of course, you’ll need to be “a good team player” with “excellent communications skills” and be able to “work from your own initiative”. These terms have become stale and lost meaning for a lot of applicants. They don’t really give you an idea if you’re a good personality fit for the role. Finding the right personality fit, is often more valuable than the right skill set especially working in a multidisciplinary team. And if the fit is right, it’s better for the employee, employer and their clients. Here’s a few things I’ve found that are more valuable than knowing 100 Adobe programs inside out, and my take on what’s meant by those terms you see appearing in job descriptions again and again.
“Excellent communication skills”
This isn’t all about presentations and emails. Being able to communicate with your own team is vital. You need to be able to talk about your own work, and the work of others. Let's break this down:
Having pride in your work. Doing the research and applying it well. You’ve seen similar products, you know what works and doesn’t. You know what people using their preferred OS like and don’t like. Don’t be afraid to discuss your decisions and thought process. You’re being paid for these opinions, not just for the goods.
Asking for help
You won’t get it right first time all the time. Sometimes the best thing to do is put your hand up and say “I need some help with this”. At Tapadoo, our design team does daily stand-ups, this gives us the opportunity to show and speak about our work (this is a good excerise in itself), and get help on anything we’re feeling stuck on. It also helps to avoid someone going down the wrong path for too long.
Sticking your nose in
Being a designer usually means working on multiple projects, that may have been touched by many hands (especially on long running projects). If something doesn’t look, feel, or work as you expect it to, you’ve got to call it out. This isn’t a dig at your colleagues, people can get distracted by other more important tasks on a project, but a job half done is a job not done. Don’t ignore the cracks, the team has done the hard work, now make it shine.
“Be a team player”
By virtue of being on a team doesn't make you a team player. Take an active interest in the shared success of the team project. But what does being a "team player" really mean?
We all do bad work sometimes, in my experience it’s usually the first, what I’d call a “personal version” when you start a project. You know the one, the one you don’t want anyone to see because they’ll think you’re terrible at your job. You need to get it out of your system, that’s just part of the process. But hopefully with a good team around you, that gives you honest and useful feedback, the “bad” work doesn’t get into the open. You need to get this feedback to produce good work. You also need to give good feedback to be useful to the other team members. It’s the responsibility of the whole team maintain the quality of work being put out.
Picking up the slack
Volunteering to do the donkey work. There’s always certain repetitive not very creative tasks that need to be done to close a project out, and that need to be done again when a project is updated. It may not be your project, but you know what the task entails. The designer who worked on that project may be busy, or unavailable, put your hand up to help, even if it’s not officially your responsibility. You’ll be glad for the return favour one day. An approaching project deadline can be busy for many team members, including yourself. Work with your team, care about all the parts coming together, not just your own tasks. Help with testing, support in any way you can, check in on your team mates to make sure they’re not stuck.
Don’t take it personally
You’ve got the degree. You’ve got the experience. Your opinion is valuable. BUT, and there is a but. You’re not always right. Even though you think what you’ve done is great, it still might not be the right solution for the time, cost and effort constraints involved. It’s important to be able to detach yourself emotionally and analyse and embrace feedback. Take some time to think about what the real points being made are. Chances are, no one is telling you your work is bad, they simply see it from another point of view. If you’re able to do this, you’ll learn other peoples strengths and you can draw on their experience and knowledge when you are designing your next product, which in turn makes your work better.
“Work from your own initiative”
I think this is often confused with “can work on my own and keep myself busy”. Herein lies the opportunity to make yourself stand out. And it all comes down to...
All of the points above really come down to one thing; Motivation. Being motivated to improve yourself and improve what’s around you. Saying that you’re motivated is one thing. Proving it is another. Seek feedback often, take it on board, and demonstrate how you’re now applying this and what effect its had. You’ll already know where your weaknesses lie. If you’re seen to be looking for feedback to improve yourself, if you’re coming up with ideas on how to improve other aspects of working or the company, this shows that you’re interested in your progression and the success of the company. The next step is proving that you walk the talk.
Feature Illustration by Sona Harrison