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Acing your new UX Research Job - A definitive guide [2024]
Home > Blog >
Acing your new UX Research Job - A definitive guide [2024]

Acing your new UX Research Job - A definitive guide [2024]

Satvik Soni
January 2, 2024
Acing new UXR job

Starting a new job is tough!
You want to learn everything you can.
You want to do your best work right away.
You want to impress your manager (let’s be honest here).

Your first experience at the workplace should not feel like riding a unicycle while performing magic tricks (perfect analogy, we know!).

As funny as it would be to watch someone fall from their unicycle, we are here to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

A 30-60-90 day plan can help here.

What is a 30-60-90 day plan?

A 30-60-90 day plan is a handy roadmap for when you start a new role.
It outlines specific goals and tasks to be accomplished within the first 30, 60, and 90 days.

The plan helps in a few ways.

  • It helps you prioritize tasks during those first few overwhelming weeks.
  • Above all, it lets you restrict yourself and say NO to the tasks that you plan to take up later. Without a plan, you don’t have a valid reason to refuse any task that comes your way.
  • It demonstrates initiative. Impress that manager!
  • It helps communicate clear expectations from your work. You and your manager can track your progress using the plan.
  • This also provides you and your manager with a clear way to evaluate your performance at the end of each month.

The new organization you join might just offer a 30-60-90 day plan as part of your onboarding documents.

If they don’t, you should develop one on your own.
This article will help with just that!

Phase 1: Fuelling up

The first 30 days of acing  new UXR job

The first 30 days of your plan should be spent on 1) absorbing knowledge and 2) sliding into professional DMs.

Meet the team

The most urgent step to take during the first week is meeting your coworkers.
You will, hopefully, work with them for a few years. Forming a good professional bond with them would make those years more fruitful.

This is easier when your office is in-person, since you can just walk over to the people you want to talk to. If you are working remotely, make an effort to schedule 1-on-1s with the team. Doing this is even more important for remote workers since it’s possible to go entire weeks without talking to some team members. Not a great way to build those bonds.

Go say hi to:

  • Your manager (duh)
  • Other UXers in the team (UX is a team sport)
  • The product folks (you NEED them to listen to you)
  • The sales and customer service folks (they’ll be of immense help when you recruit users for studies)
  • The content writer (I spend my days at my dark desk waiting for human contact.)

Meet the stakeholders

Within the first 30 days, you should also build great relationships with the stakeholders you will conduct research for.

Find the answers to a few key questions here:

  • Who are your stakeholders? Is it just the CEO and your manager? Is it the product lead? Is it the content writer?
  • What are their expectations from the research team?
  • Do they have any prior experience working with researchers? Will they be easy to collaborate with?
  • How can they help speed up your work? How can they act as blockers?
  • How is the team currently handling the stakeholders? Is it the best possible way?

Once you know who your stakeholders are, schedule 1-on-1s with them as well.
It is super funny to talk about how stakeholders are holding researchers back, but it would be better if that didn’t happen to you.
Tragedy is only funny from a distance.

Learn about the organization

When setting out to learn about the organization, you should work on three questions.

  • What will benefit the organization’s bottom line?
  • How much research would be just enough research?
  • Does the organization listen to research input?

Here, you should pay close attention to advice from Joe Natoli.

The rest of your organization has no real reason to pay attention to your research.

The only way you can make them care is showing that the research can help reach their key goals faster. Unless your organization is a non-profit, their key goal will always be to increase revenue.

Learn about their current UX research practice

Once you’ve understood the organization, it would help to observe their current UXR work and answer these questions:

  • What do they already know about the user?
  • What are the key challenges faced by UXRs?
  • What tooling do they use?
  • Why aren’t they using Looppanel? What’s wrong with them? 🤔

At this step, ask as many questions as you can.

Putting in the effort to learn their current practice will help you adjust your working style to suit the demands of your new role. As your workload ramps up in the upcoming months, you will not get another opportunity to observe the team from a distance.

Make the best you can of the first few weeks.

At this step you should also be brimming with ideas for reforming the way they do their research.
A tactical tip here would be to hold back these suggestions during this phase.
As the smart people from Farnam Street would say, you have not yet put in the work required to have an opinion. Spend more time learning from the team first. Spend more time in Phase 2!

Phase 2: The runway

The next 30 day phase of your new UXR journey should be focused on getting more hands-on experience with the team.

Congratulations on making it to day 31!
Congratulations on this month’s salary as well 🤑.

The next 30 day phase of your new UXR journey should be focused on getting more hands-on experience with the team. Going in the trenches. Getting your hands dirty.

Ramp up your workload

The second month should see you getting more involved with daily operations.

If your team already has a few research projects going on, it’s time to start contributing to one of them.

Many organizations will just assign you to a project.
If you have the freedom to choose, however, you can be strategic about it.

Pick the projects that meet the following criteria

  • High visibility. Non-UXRs in the org should see the value your findings are able to drive. 
  • High impact. The project should move the needle on something the org actually cares about. 

If your team does not have ongoing projects, or if you are the first researcher at the organization, it is even more crucial to pick your battles wisely.

Learn from the team at Pandadoc here. When they were struggling to start a research practice at their org, they earned their buy-in by tactfully conducting high impact, highly visible research.

This impact and visibility helped them find early “champions” of their work (even one is enough).

Cultivate your champion

Your “champion” is someone senior to you who understands the value of your work (and UXR in general).

  • They will get you into the right meetings.
  • They will help you manage the other stakeholders.
  • They will clear organizational roadblocks.
  • They will help you win better budgets.

A single person will probably not be enough for this, but even a single champion is a terrific start.

If your team has a well-oiled UXR practice, your champion will probably just be your manager.

For teams just starting out on their practice, your champions can often be found in senior product managers, your CTO, or the head of product or design. If there was someone that championed the need to hire you, they may be a good person to start with.

Learn about your industry

If you put in the work during your first month, you probably know your team and your organization really well by now. The next logical step is to expand your knowledge into the industry.

Learning about the broader industry will help you understand the context of your research work even better.

  • Sign up for the best newsletters
  • Read relevant industry reports and white papers
  • Connect with others in the industry

Figure out the cadence of your new life

This one’s a little practical advice on the personal side of things.
With a new job, your life will not look the same as it did two months ago. Use this time to figure out how your new life will work.

  • If you had to move to a new city, is your living situation in order now?
  • What is your daily commute? Can it be shortened?
  • How will you maintain a work-life balance?
  • If you are working from home, do you need anything to improve your setup? Could be a nice chair, a table, better broadband, etc. Can these be reimbursed?

Settling down will help you avoid unnecessary friction and ensure that you aren’t trying to just survive each week. Your work will suffer as a consequence of an erratic life.

Phase 3: Takeoff!

Take charge after 2 months of work

After 2 months of work, you are ready to start speaking up and taking charge!

At this stage, you should also start setting milestones for your work and communicating them with your manager. This shows initiative and is also a great way to communicate your expectations with each other.

Here’s everything else you need to do.

Set yourself up for success

Now that you have the basics locked in, you should have an idea of the things you should do to boost your career trajectory.

  • Get the tools you need to improve your research work (did someone say free trial?).
  • Build strong relationships with the champions you’ve identified.
  • Make full use of the company’s learning resources and budgets.

In addition to doing things that improve your chances of success, you should also find ways around potential blockers.

  • Are your tools right for the job? Can a sweeeeeet AI research assistant help you work better?
  • Are there any roadblocks caused by managerial/interpersonal issues? Can healthier communication solve these?
  • Are there any roadblocks in your personal life that could be preventing you from doing your best work? Can therapy, exercise, or a short break solve these?

Strike out on your own

If possible, you can now come up with your own research project and take a leading role in it.
This might not be possible for a variety of reasons ranging from corporate structure to lack of time, but it’s still highly recommended.

In case you do start your own project, keep in mind that it should be:

  1. Highly visible
  2. Highly impactful

Evangelize UX Research

Reach out to the stakeholders and coworkers you still haven’t talked to.
UX is a team sport
and UXers aren’t the only ones on this team.
The more you evangelize the importance and impact of UX Research, the stronger this team will grow!

Ideally, you wouldn’t even need champions — everyone would get the importance of UXR and readily clear roadblocks (or at least not present any new ones). That isn’t the case, but you can always strive towards it through your evangelization efforts. Find ways to share your findings and insights with team members that are low effort for them to consume. You might want to:

  • Share short and easily understandable reports with the organization.
  • Share clips of your users rage clicking on that new screen (as we know, seeing is believing).
  • Jump in on all-hands meetings periodically to update everyone on what you have learned about the user.

Everyone in the organization can benefit from research, many of them just don’t know it yet.
It is your job to help them improve their work using your findings.

Share your ideas now!

Remember when we warned you against being too quick to share your ideas on improving the organization’s research practice? Now is the perfect time to do that.

With another month’s worth of context under your belt, you should be in a better position to defend your ideas and see the flaws in them.

You might have been right from the start or you might have found out why the ideas were impractical. Regardless, the suggestions you have now should be rooted in a better understanding of your team, your organization, and your industry.

Bonus: Some common mistakes to avoid

  • Do not take up too much work right from the beginning. You should use the leeway you have to learn about the organization and the industry instead of jumping into work. Take the time to build some context before you are neck deep in projects!
  • Do not hold back your feedback. Especially after the first two phases, you should make sure you’re voicing your concerns and suggestions. Here is a great article on providing feedback when you are not in charge.
  • Do not be dismissive towards stakeholders. Building bridges is the most important part of your job. If no one in the organization feels particularly friendly towards you, your research will live and die in a vacuum.
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