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Things they don't teach you at school: a designer's first day at work

It’s no secret that the school can’t prepare us for everything we’ll face in the professional world - read on to discover some valuable lessons a UX/UI designer shared with her less experienced colleagues.

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This is not another version of “The things I wish I learned in school.” If you are just starting out your career as a UX/UI designer, you should read this. If you have been working in the field for years, read it nonetheless, as you may gain some new insights. 

Generally, as a designer, you have high expectations about the future of your career after graduating from design college. No matter how impressive your portfolio and degree may look like, you still aren't prepared for the real world of design. You have to learn and discover some things on your own. But you don't have to lose all your motivation or enthusiasm right at the start. Instead, you can keep reading this to help you adapt to a new chapter of your (soon to be great) UX/UI career.

So, let's dive into some crucial things you're not taught in college!

My heart breaks for you, bro

Finding the right problem to solve is the catch. The first time you see a problem in a project, you think you understand it, but you don't really (yet). The project requires hours and hours of study before you finally grasp the solution. Also, there is burnout - the ugly side of UX. Don’t feel too bad, it has happened to us all. Especially as a beginner, you'd like to show your employer and colleagues that you're passionate, agile, and committed to the job. Don’t make mistakes like me. 

First of all, take a break. This is one of the most helpful tips I have ever received. Breaks at workplace are meant to promote productivity. 

Repeat the whole UX process twice, three times, ten times. Use tools like personas, user journeys, and competitive analysis. Look at other successful projects from your colleagues (of course, with their permission). It helped me back in the days - and it still does.

Einstein said, “You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”.

Don't be shy

Ask as many questions as you need - questioning is a powerful tool. We aren't in a class where they expect you to know the answers. The situation is reversed here. Asking questions doesn't mean you don't know anything, it means you’re eager to learn more and improve. You can’t learn if you can’t admit you have something to learn. Ask a few people, not just one. 

In my case, I tried to find answers to my questions on my own so as not to bother colleagues. However, I ended up losing more time on Google and feeling even more confused. Your colleagues are the best experts, so make sure you ask them everything. Questioning is a potent tool that every designer should be able to use abundantly. This is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Keep a notebook or folder with all of their answers and feedback. This will come in handy in the future.

A is for excellence

And F for poor performance - at least it was that way in school. They seldom mention what they found good or bad in these grades. In the workplace, there are no grades. You get constructive feedback, either positive or negative. You’d be surprised at how important feedback is for your development, both professionally and personally. Learn to accept criticism. Look at it as an opportunity for progress, not as something bad.

Don’t take criticism too personally. It doesn’t apply to you as a person but as a designer. Above all, you know how much you are worth as a person. If you don’t get feedback, feel free to ask for it but don’t overdo it. Strive for balance, ask for constructive criticism and listen to the advice but for some things, you should judge for yourself. 

I know this feeling while they’re giving you feedback. Your cheeks are turning red and your mouth dry. You’re feeling uncomfortable. After negative comments about your work, you will ask yourself if you’re the right person for this job. Are you sure you can handle this job? You will analyze your skills. Hey! It’s only a bad day, not the end of the world. Take it easy. Sleep on it, go through everything again and apply the tips you got from your colleagues. Next time you will be better at accepting negative feedback. How else would you learn?

Additionally, you can provide others with your feedback as well. I learned that my feedback is as important as theirs. Your team leader will appreciate your input. You can tell him/her if something is missing. If you want more education in your field, make it known. If you’re not happy with something, tell him/her and offer a solution if you have it. Share ideas for improvement, too. 

Remember, you’re not just another brick in the wall.

I am Barrage

It helps if you understand your company culture better. Your onboarding buddy walked you around the company on your first day, introduced you to the hierarchy, and gave you an overview of various teams' daily operations and priorities. Don't think this onboarding is all about introducing you to the company and their work. Nowadays, you go to work every day, sit with colleagues in the same room, and hang out with them in the kitchen during lunch. You spend a lot of time in the company, but how well do you know your workplace?

It’s good to know the company and its brand. Try to understand the story of your company, the vision and the message the company sends. It may not seem that way, but your understanding of the company is reflected in your work for the company and in the projects you work on for clients. Your goal is to give the best possible impression of the company you work for. 

As Google says: “Company culture is the way people feel about the work they do, the values they believe in, where they see the company going and what they’re doing to get it there.” If you don't feel connected to the company you work for, it will result in reduced productivity and increased frustration, so let's avoid it. 

Just coming and doing your part of the job is not enough. Discover what your colleagues' roles are inside the company, and get to know them better. Stay in touch with the company's latest news and remain devoted to it. Share with your friends on social media the company’s successful projects or some nice words if you think the company deserves it. 

As an example, I got a pizza from my colleagues in another city where I work from home, in order to not miss out on the office pizza day. Of course I enthusiastically shared this wonderful gesture on Linkedin to show that #IAmBarrage for real.  

Acta, non verba.

Step by step, brick by brick

It’s great that we were taught thinking outside the box and some technical things, but the real school is out in the world. The key is to enjoy what you do and never give up. Yes, it takes time, experimentation, and failure to find one's path. Plan A might not work the first time, but it’s important to remain optimistic, there are plans B,C,D…  

Build yourself brick by brick. 

Your take on the subject

They say knowledge has power only if you pass it on - we hope our blog post gave you valuable insight.

If you want to share your opinion or learn more about how we approach design, feel free to contact us. We'd love to hear what you have to say!