The Newcomer’s Guide to UX Research Careers with Victoria Vela

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December 1, 2022

This is Victoria Vela.

We had a chance to talk to her recently.

A newcomer to UX Research, her peers around the world are full of praise for her.

We’ll get to the reason behind all this goodwill soon, but first…

What has been Victoria’s story so far?

Careers, like life, can have many chapters.

Victoria started hers teaching music based on scientific research methods. She did this for 15 years. That was the first chapter of her career.

But she came to an inflection point at some point in her journey—teaching was no longer surprising and challenging in the same ways that it had been.

The very real financial constraints that affect arts teachers also played on her mind.

Victoria decided to take on a new leaf, and very quickly her career explorations led her to UX.

In this conversation with Victoria we explored:

  • The journey to breaking into UX: it’s not all sunshine and rainbows
  • How to get creative with recruiting when all else doesn’t work
  • What hiring managers can do better to support junior UXers breaking into the field
  • Some incredible UX resources to help you upskill and / or land your next job
Victoria in her first avatar: With her piano students at Carnegie Hall

Obstacles for a newcomer to UX Research

You’d think that companies would rush to hire someone who has

  • Studied psychology
  • Developed a new teaching framework
  • Started a business doing UX work

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

As someone who is new to UX Research, Victoria is facing the struggles of new researchers firsthand. If you’re trying to break into the field, you may be experiencing some of these things too—you are not alone.

Doing everything right in vain

You check all the boxes, you do the bootcamps, you make the portfolios and the resumes, you do everything right!

Yet the results don’t show up. It can be a frustrating experience to have everything in line and still struggle to find good opportunities.

During her first few months, Victoria’s process of job hunting was broken into two steps:

  1. apply for open positions
  2. wait for a response

In theory, this should be enough. In practice, it did not work.

The closest this method led Victoria to a job was a screening call.

As Victoria puts it, the process of breaking into UX Research can be discouraging at times, especially when you put in a lot of work without any tangible benefits.

This is not just a problem for Victoria. As the field of UX Research gets more lucrative, an increasingly large number of people stand to face these same challenges.

To all of you struggling with these challenges today, hang in there—Victoria discovered creative ways to overcome these challenges, and we’re here to help you do the same.

There are a lot of people looking to get into UXR.

Recruiters might not be doing the best job either.

If you’re a hiring manager, what can you do better to support young talent?

From the point of view of an applicant, these are a few tips to help recruiters and hiring managers improve the recruitment experience.

1. Remain open minded

User Research involves a set of skills individuals often pick up in related fields. As a teacher and music researcher, Victoria has developed deep empathy, problem identification skills and communication skills. When a student struggles to perform, she often has to apply a similar “research” process where she identifies potential challenges and experiments with them to overcome the same.

Being open-minded about the holistic skills a person brings to the field may help hiring managers bring in exceptional talent they would’ve otherwise overlooked. Imagine Victoria being a UXR at an EdTech company—her skills interacting with young people could be more important than the ability to run a card sort perfectly.

2. Communicate better

As sad as it might be to receive a rejection, it still trumps over not hearing from the recruiters at all! While it’s not a perfect solution, something as simple as an automated rejection email would help here.

3. Provide feedback

This is impractical for recruiters handling a thousand applications, of course. Recruiters can still provide some feedback - at least to those who make it to later stages of the hiring process. Constructive criticism is always helpful.

A caveat here is that Victoria can speak from her experience and these views will evolve with her career.

Speaking of her career, Victoria has been punching back against these obstacles in her way!

She’s thinking outside the box.

If you’re struggling to get an interview, what can you do differently? 

While the standard method of applying for jobs was failing her, Victoria decided to get creative.

She started writing on LinkedIn to build out her presence and network, but this time around, the goal was to have fun on the platform more than anything else.

Today Victoria gets upwards of 1,000 reactions on a single post and a lot more inbound interest from recruiters. Imagine that—she went from applying to jobs, to having the jobs come to her!

Victoria has two tips here so you can reap the same benefits.

Firstly, start posting things you find interesting without a lot of expectations. It’s when you start having fun and being genuine that things start working out for you.

Then, start connecting with interesting people who are a little ahead of you. The UX Community is extremely supportive - don’t be afraid to ask for help!

But if you do find it difficult to ask strangers for help, Victoria has a pro tip—give before you ask. She’s done that in the form of her Research Resources Repository.

Don't Miss: UX Research Repositories - A Definitive Guide

UX Research Resource Repository

Victoria started a cool repository for anyone trying to break into UX Research.

It is full of resources on learning UXR, getting your first job, growing your career, and everything else a newcomer to UXR might need. It even contains some of Looppanel’s resources; a proof of its high quality 😬.

Remember the goodwill we mentioned at the start?

This is what it was for!

Here are some of the things you can learn from this resource:

If you have additional resources you’d like to contribute to this repository, feel free to suggest a resource!

Don't Miss: Top 6 Free UX Research Courses [2023]

In Conclusion

It was a pleasure to hear from Victoria. UX Research continues to attract interesting people from varied backgrounds and this diversity makes the place awesome :)

If you are just starting your UX Research journey, make sure you’re in touch with Victoria - the resources and the memes are both crucial!

Also, here are a few Looppanel resources to help you along the way:

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to reach out to us!

We’d love to hear from you :)



Tags

Victoria Vela
Careers
UXR Career
Job Market
UX Designer
UX Writer
UX Analyst
UX Researcher
Professional Development
Research Career
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