Here are three short principles that helped me get quickly promoted as a UX Designer into a design leadership role.
Getting promoted as a UX Designer in a design agency with 20 UX designers can be much different than in a small startup. UX maturity of the organization plays a role as well.
These three principles worked for me and will help you regardless of what organization or UX maturity level you are currently working with.
Don’t commit to a title or company. Commit to your values and goals instead.
Think the title “Head of UX” would look great on your LinkedIn Profile? True, it does, but – What if you don’t like managing people?
Understanding your own career aspirations and desired growth path is the first step. If you love designing end-to-end prototypes and want to deepen your impact and expertise as an individual contributor, that’s great!
The worst thing you can do is aim for a role because of the fancy title that doesn’t align with your values.
Do you enjoy coaching people, or do you prefer the ownership of working on your designs? Once you can picture what you want, you will automatically act differently and talk differently about it.
Setting concrete goals is a highly effective prioritization tool. E.g., if you want to become a Design Manager, knowing every trick of Figma won’t get you there.
Align your career goals with your core values first.
Don’t Do Just Your Job.
Just doing just your job well means that you are achieving performance for your given role, but the truth is that your performance matters only 10% to your career success. Yes, it shocked me too!
The most important thing you need to work on is your exposure – Try to get recognized by people two or three times higher than your boss. Speak up in all-hands meetings with high-level leadership attendance. Make the C-level talk about you at board meetings. Get constructive attention.
How to get constructive attention? The next tip is for you.
Become an intrapreneur. Start your projects
Don’t be the one who waits for a great opportunity to come to them. Take action, and create your own opportunities to add value.
Is there a problem you see in your organization, and do you have an idea for solving it? Do you have a clear vision of how design could help your business and your customers?
Don’t ask for permission from your boss “I have this idea, and I want to …”. Instead, get started and then present the results to your boss. It is always easier to agree with something when it’s tangible.
My pet project is the UX Guild. I enabled a group of UX enthusiasts in my organization as UX knowledge loudspeakers to increase UX maturity.
You will build a personal brand as a leader and change agent by doing all these things, no matter your organization or seniority. Be known as the one with good ideas and an entrepreneurial mindset.
What can you do today?
- Write down the core values and goals that are not negotiable for you. Then look at what potential career paths align with them.
- Expose yourself at work and outside of work. Do anything that challenges your confidence. Are you afraid of asking the CEO a good question in an all-hands? Do it!
- Start a project that helps your business and aligns with your skills. For example, start a video course, write a newsletter, create a guild.
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