Academy Xi Blog

How to kickstart a career in UX Design

By Academy Xi

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In an open letter to UX Design graduates, Academy Xi Designer in Residence Jacalin Ding gives practical tips and tricks on how to gain a foothold in one of Australia’s most exciting industries.

Dear UX Design graduates, 

Firstly, well done! You should be very proud of yourselves for going through such an extensive learning experience. The product world is brand new to you and everything you’ve learnt is about to be put into practice.

The UX Design industry is exciting and forever evolving. It can feel like a black hole of mystery. Where do you go from here? 

As you prepare yourself for a wild ride into the employment market, the future might seem daunting. To help you prepare for what’s to come, I’ve put together a beginner’s guide that includes some simple steps to follow as you look to make a fast start as a UX Designer.

Take some time to self-reflect

Before you rush off to LinkedIn and apply for every job you see, just hold your horses. Sit down, close your eyes, and really think about how you feel about your whole journey.

If you answer these questions, you’ll get a better feel for what type of role and environment suits you:

  • Are you drawn to a particular part of the design process? Maybe you most enjoyed strategy, research, or hands-on practice.
  • Reflect on how and when you do your best work. Is it through collaboration, or facilitation? 
  • What transferable skills do you offer? Never underestimate the power of your past experiences. Even if you haven’t worked in a creative field before, your transferable skills will be the cherry on the top of your newly-acquired design skills. These elements combined make you unique as a designer.
  • What product problems are you passionate about? Are there any companies out there whose work you admire? This can help narrow down the type of companies you’d like to work for.

Write all your answers down on paper and revise them frequently. Self-reflection is an important activity for any designer at any level.

Understand the battlefield

Now you’ve completed some self-reflection, it’s time to add a little extra flavour to your professional profile. You need to make you and your work really stand out.

There are tons of fresh UX bootcamp graduates constantly flowing into the employment market. What makes you special? 

Add extra feathers to your cap by:

  • Perfecting your soft skills: Communication, communication, communication. I can’t stress how important this is. Practise telling your story, both in writing and verbally.
  • Showcasing your UI skills: The portfolios that stand out are the ones that are well crafted with an understanding of UI design. UX Designers need to work with UI Designers, so showcase your understanding of UI and patterns. You need to demonstrate that you are not only a problem solver, but also a content designer.
  • Working with engineers: Go to hackathons, find opportunities to collaborate with engineers and learn the process they follow. Designers and engineers almost always work together in any product team. Learn how to make design compromises for feasibility, and how to package up your work for hand-off.

Don’t stop at case studies

Maybe take a little break after you’ve completed your bootcamp, but then get started with your first self-directed project. Remember, this is your first opportunity to drive on your own! It’s time to sharpen up all the tools you’ve learned. 

This time, you don’t have to go through every single step in the double diamond process. Instead, be strategic and rational about each decision you make. 

Designers who create their own projects are clearly passionate about what they do. Passion is the ingredient that sets you apart from the crowd. 

Here are a few tips for your first self-directed project: 

  • Tackle realistic, bite-sized projects.
  • Start getting to grips with industry-standard research tools. You could try using Maze, Dovetail and SUS score.
  • Hone your practical skills. Practise Figma auto layouts, create shortcuts, organise files and prepare documentation for engineers. There are plenty of YouTube videos that give you step-by-step tutorials for all of these skills.

Jazz up your LinkedIn

For those who have been spending their lives scrolling on TikTok and Instagram, it’s time to shift gears and focus on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the place where most professional opportunities live these days.

  1. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is looking its best. List and explain your digital skill-sets, get recommendations from previous colleagues, and carefully check for spelling and grammatical errors.

  2. Follow businesses you’d like to work with, as well as their employees and recruiters. This will help you get a vibe on the company culture. Try to network slowly and avoid bluntly asking for jobs.

  3. Increase your visibility by posting insights and writing articles. The key is to share your thoughts, promote your work and get your name out there. It can seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry – just hit that publish button!

Build a stand-out portfolio

This is the most important part. It’s time to make sure your portfolio is sleek. Keep it simple and weave your personality into it (don’t neglect the ‘About Me’ page!). If you’re not an engineer, you can use easy-to-build platforms like Squarespace and Wix. Design your portfolio like you would a product: conceptualise, draft, write and edit before building it.

Truthfully, most of the graduate case studies I’ve seen are not even going to make it onto a shortlist. I’ll write another article about how to craft a decent case study in the coming weeks. For now, here’s a high-level guide:

  • Make sure you clearly define the problem and your measure for success (i.e. increase click rate by 5%). A problem well-defined is a problem half solved. Use success metrics as the north star to guide your testing.
  • Feature your finished mock-ups at the top. Give viewers a wow factor and a reason to carry on reading
  • Each case study should be scannable. Most people speed read, so avoid long paragraphs, highlight data points and use bullet points and visuals. Ask yourself, if someone is scrolling through the case study quickly, is the story captivating and easily digestible?
  • Back up your validation with both quantitative and qualitative data (i.e. 80% of users tested completed the task successfully, followed by a quote).
  • You don’t have to show every single step. You also don’t have to follow the double diamond method. Instead, create a story that highlights which insights informed your decision making. Remember to refer back to your goal, share any pitfalls you encountered and how you moved beyond them.

Seek opportunities everywhere

Before you secure a job offer, put yourself out there with internships and volunteer work. LinkedIn is not the only destination to make that happen.


  • Contact companies you’d like to be a part of and ask for intern opportunities. Do your research, get familiar with what they do and write them a sincere cover letter pitching yourself.
  • is a site where you can find current intern opportunities. However, be aware that many of these are based in the US.
  • Think grassroots and get creative. If a restaurant in your neighbourhood has a terrible website, offer to do a redesign. Perhaps have a mentor work alongside you so you can get advice when needed.


Approach charities you want to get involved with and make contact with their employees on LinkedIn.

You can also offer to help start-ups. The good thing about start-ups is that you get to work with stakeholders directly. You can find start-ups by searching Facebook groups. I recommend you approach start-ups with existing designers or a Product Manager in place, since the projects are more likely to be properly organised.

If you’re going to work for free, make sure it’s worth your time. Know exactly what you want to get out of volunteering from the get-go.

Be around like-minded people

As well as LinkedIn networking, try meeting other UX Designers in person. Nothing beats real face-to-face conversations with likeminded people. Find out if there’s a meet-up opportunity near you.

In Australia, there are heaps of networking opportunities:

Plus, you can get mentored by experienced design leaders via platforms like

Anyway, that’s a wrap! I hope all these tips and tricks are useful to you as you start your job search. Keep in mind that it’s totally normal to hit roadblocks and face rejection. It’s all part of the journey to success. If you’ve got the passion, trust me, the opportunities will follow!

I wish you all the best, and look forward to seeing you and your work in the industry soon.

Jacalin Ding


Jacalin Ding / Strategic Product Design Lead. Consultant, Mentor, Speaker and Designer in Residence at Academy Xi.

Connect with Jacalin on Linkedin.
Jacalin’s other channel links:

Academy Xi Blog

You’re qualified for more jobs than you think

By Saga Briggs

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“If an opportunity comes your way, you’re ready for it.”

Here we are: experienced, passionate, skilled, searching for work that feels meaningful. And yet the work we want to do is floating around somewhere in the distance, just out of sight. With seventy percent of us experiencing imposter syndrome at some point in our careers, we either don’t know what we want to do and so fall back on what’s comfortable, or we know what we want to do and don’t feel qualified to do it. We’ve got to get over this feeling that we’re not enough, starting with the notion that we must be a perfect match for a job on paper.

Let’s make a pact right now: we’re going to put less energy into finding the “appropriate” job match and more energy into selling ourselves creatively.


Staying open to possibilities

First thing for us to keep in mind: we’re qualified for far more types of jobs than we can even imagine. So many job roles exist now that didn’t exist five or ten years ago, such as UX writer and Chief Skills & Learning Officer, and more will continue to crop up.

On the website, you can search for on-site or remote jobs in over 50 categories, from Advertising & PR to Software Development to News & Journalism. There are even freelance opportunities in categories you’d never expect, such as Transcription and Retail.

Make a mental note to stay open-minded and track these types of jobs down.

On the other hand, sometimes the insecurity comes from realising you might need a bit of professional development (e.g. learning a new software program) before feeling comfortable in a new role. Don’t let that slow you down either.

If a job description sounds eighty percent like you, but lists a few preferred qualifications you don’t have, apply anyway. The keyword here is “preferred.” Employers often create idealistic lists of requirements to weed out less confident applicants. You can always research, supplement your work with an online course here and there, and learn on the job. Trust yourself to grow into the role and pick up the extra skills you need along the way.

Plus, you already have transferable and additive skills. Transferable skills are skills you picked up from a previous job which may have been in a different industry but still apply to a new job role. One example would be the management experience you’d take from a Social Media Manager role to a Product Manager role. Additive skills are special skills you can bring to the new role that others can’t. Maybe the network or following you grew as a Social Media Manager would help you stand out from other Product Management candidates who aren’t as well-connected.

Note, too, that informal experience counts for a lot. Even if you haven’t been paid to do something you spend a lot of time on, like travel blogging or coaching, you still know how to do it and probably should be paid for it. Take stock of all the skills you have developed that could be valuable to a company in ways they might not expect. Employers are increasingly looking for candidates with different backgrounds who can bring interdisciplinary chops to the table.

Finally, intention and passion are the most valuable skills you can cultivate.

Danielle LaPorte, CEO of a seven-figure lifestyle brand and a former Washington DC-based think tank director who consulted with the Pentagon (and who, incidentally, never went to uni), once said: “Your passion is your qualification. It’s your leading qualification.”

Hardly anyone has taken a predictable, linear path to the place they’re at now. Sometimes opportunities fall into our laps; other times we find creative ways to make things happen for ourselves. Below are the stories of four professionals who took interesting, unexpected routes to get to where they are now.


Surprising career pivots

Linguist to UX Writer

Kati Hoeschen, UX Writer at Nordstrom in Seattle, USA

“Like most UX writers, my background was a winding road of wordy interests—Italian language, linguistics, translation—until I found technical writing and help content. I loved the challenge and valued of good help content, but I was frustrated at the missed opportunities in the product itself. I was so happy to find out about product content strategy and UX writing because it’s the chance to help the user on the first go. I think my first product team got tired of hearing me ask, ‘What if we update the tool so the user doesn’t need this help content?’ And since I’ve had a seat at the table, it’s been my mission to be a part of the content strategy and UX writing communities.

For content writers transitioning into UX writing, I’d recommend that these writers consider context first and always. Content creators can get snagged by thinking that content is modular, but that’s not usually true. Instead, I understand the user flow first, and then identify the user and business needs in that context.

Credentials are helpful, but I don’t think they’re necessary. I never worked as a UX designer or copywriter. If you’re transitioning into UX writing, I’d recommend reading up on the fundamentals of UX and studying UX writing as deeply as possible. Torrey Podmajersky’s new book, Strategic Writing for UX, is a great read for that. You should also focus on assembling a portfolio that highlights your UX thought process.

UX writing portfolios generally live on a website or are shared with a PDF. Don’t spend tons of time or money on a sexy website—instead invest your time in laying out your process and ideas in a clear and logical way.”

Psychologist to UX Researcher

Ananda Nadya, UX Researcher at Tokopedia in Jakarta, Indonesia

“Near my end of study time in university, I had an identity crisis where I knew that I wouldn’t fit the popular jobs that were commonly available for a psychology graduate (i.e. HR, psychologist or statistician). 

I originally wanted to become a psychologist, but it’s an occupation that takes time and resources, as psychologists in Indonesia need to have at least a master’s degree to practice. So I decided to do something more pragmatic, that could provide good ROI for me and my parents.

I still checked the popular opportunities for psychology students, such as HR. I tried it and found that I disliked it. I even tried another job in the Public Relations, but sadly, it didn’t fit me either.

My first encounter with UX happened thanks a random meeting with my friend, who was in the computer science faculty. They were looking for a psychology graduate to work on some IT problems that would need a human-centric approach.

I didn’t know what career to pursue, so I felt like I had nothing to lose. I gave it a try, without really knowing what the role was all about.

It turned out the IT company that my friend referred me into, was a venture company that was looking for UX research intern. The role wasn’t common in Indonesia in 2017. I got accepted because I had done a freelance project, helping my mentor on his thesis regarding the use of applications.

I had no formal skills in UX, but I had informal experience, due to the random work I’d done as a university student, helping out friends and mentors finding participants for their thesis.

When I got in the office, I didn’t know much at first. I didn’t understand what a UX researcher does. Fortunately, the workplace environment was very nice. They offered me a proper on-boarding, with a series of workshops and presentations from experts during the course of one week.

My supervisor also encouraged me to read several must-read books regarding product development and UX, such as Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me ThinkHooked by Nir Eyal, and Inspired. Moreover, she always ask me and the rest of the interns to attend free startup events with her, to hear experts’ opinions.

From there, it became a habit for me to go to free events, as there are fortunately quite a lot here in Jakarta, Indonesia, to find inspiration from experts and to network.

From these new encounters, I received good recommendations for books, seminars and classes. I began taking classes, seminars or workshops to sharpen my skills in UX.

I then created a solid Linkedin profile and tried to befriend many UX experts through LinkedIn. Once they accepted me as their connections, my feed became filled with UX-related content, teaching me about the latest trends happening in Indonesia and around the world.

I started to repost articles on trending UX topics. I put down my thoughts and opinions, and waited to see if anybody responded. Which did happen! By publishing articles, I made more network connections and gained more recognition. 

So I would say that after all, changing jobs was not so scary. You just have to know where to look for opportunities, where to learn, and more importantly, how to sell your profile – which is a mix of knowledge, eagerness to learn, and talking to the right people.”


Slam poet to voice user interface writer

Matthue Roth, UX & VUI Writer at Google in New York

“I think I was doing UX writing before I realised it was UX writing. I was a novelist who’d been asked to write for a video game. The game’s directors said they wanted a literary tone, and I realized about 5 steps in that what the game needed was to be tighter, not wordier.

After that, I worked on more games with the same team. I really learned to appreciate the sparseness of language, and how the fewer words we use, the greater the impact. Writing spoken language was even more powerful. When I wrote spoken strings for the Google Assistant, we were acutely aware of word density—every syllable was another fraction of a second that we had to hold our users’ attention, that they might lose their internet connection, or zone out, or change their minds.

Each UX writing job is reskilling, in a way—you’re creating a new connection between the technology and the user, and you have to start from scratch each time. So I don’t think I’ve ever consciously had to stop and reskill, but at the same time, I think I’m constantly reskilling.”


Musician to Service Designer

Richard Easton, Service Designer at Telstra in Melbourne, Australia

“Initially I was a musician, so my focus was sounds (and words). When I decided to get ‘a real job’ all I could see was middle management or manual labour (both of which I had done plenty of). Then a friend suggested I try a professional writing course to harness my talent, so I followed an online course in Melbourne. That led me to copywriting and it felt like a good fit.

I think it’s super important to stay as close to what interests you as possible, even if it feels like a wandering trajectory. I liked being a copywriter but I was always arriving at the end of the design process: “Hey mate, we need some words here that describe what the customer has to do next.” And I used to think, “They should have been told earlier, or they shouldn’t need to do all these steps.”

After a few years of that I became frustrated that people weren’t designing things properly, so I started asking more questions, questions many people don’t like hearing, like “Have you spoken to any customers about this?” and “Maybe you need to wait a few months before releasing this product.”

With some mentoring, I started running workshops so I could understand what was inhibiting good design and good customer experiences. I leveraged design tools from designers and read online articles about design thinking. Apparently, I had become a Service Designer.

Ironically, I sometimes use the working backwards method and write a future-state email or press release to understand how to best start the design process. So, the skills you pick up along the way always come back. My advice to anyone evaluating their career is to embrace a wandering trajectory but stay close to what makes you feel right.”


We don’t need more formal education; we need more self-reflection and creativity. Let’s stop pining after our dream positions and starting doing them now, before we feel completely ready. As the inspiring transformational coach Jazmin Medrano once said, “If an opportunity comes your way, you’re ready for it.”

Author: Saga Briggs.
Saga Briggs is a journalist covering trends in learning, creativity, intelligence, and educational technology. Follow her @SagaMilena