The number of UX Researchers is growing rapidly. This means that there are now more young employees than experienced employees in the field. Because there are fewer seniors UX researchers, it is challenging for the young UX researcher to pave the way for research within a company. Besides, there is a considerable amount of employees within companies who do not know anything about the importance of UX research yet. This enlarges the responsibilities of young UX researchers: to be a UX Research Evangelist.
So what problems do young UX researchers encounter during their daily job? How do they handle these problems? And how can we help the young UX Researchers? Inge and Anne from Online Department did the research. In this article, we describe our findings. And we share some tips and tricks for the young UX Researcher based on our own ‘experience’ as young UX researchers.
The challenge of being a young researcher
To figure out what young UX researchers experience within their organisations, we hosted a Meetup together with Happy Labs in The Hague; ‘Life as a young UX Researcher’. During this meetup, 20 young UX Researchers between the age of 20-30 came together to share their experiences & challenges. The Meetup started with the following question: ‘What problems do you experience at work as a young UX Researcher?’.
The answers to this question resulted in a wall of sticky notes:
The subject that came up most was: convincing and transferring the importance of UX Research internally and externally. It turns out to be exciting or challenging if you work as a young researcher with people who have been working somewhere for years and you still have to convince them. You often show up somewhere new and tell people they have to change their way of working. Persuasiveness is an essential quality of a researcher because you have to convince others of the importance of research and your research findings. But at a young age, this can be quite difficult, as is apparent from the conversations during the meetup. Things such as age, experience and status play a key role here.
“I find it hard to say what other people have to do because I am not sure if I am saying the right thing.”participant
During the Meetup, there appeared to be a difference in young UX researchers at an agency versus a corporate. Within most agencies, the value of UX Research is often clear and encouraged. Within a corporate, it heavily depends on the level of maturity of the company. Besides this, at a corporate level, more people are coming and going with different backgrounds, so there are always new people to convince.
“The fact that they look to the senior in the room after you say something…”participant
After this exercise, we shared our own stories, learnings and failures and shared three situations with the participants, which are based on a real-life situation. We asked the researchers what they would’ve done in these situations. There it was interesting to see that a large part of the mentioned problems was experienced not only by the young but also by the more experienced researchers.
It might be, however, that young people feel less equipped to handle these problems. Convincing soft skills are essential, and that might be harder for a young UX researcher. We noticed that young researchers do know why research is so important but being able to articulate well is something they have to learn by doing.
Young UX Researchers deal with the feeling that they are not taken seriously because of the lack of experience in the field.
4 tips for young UX Researchers:
- Try to find someone, a senior, who can mentor you and share their experiences with you. Learn from them and let them challenge you. They often already found a way to deal with the things you are dealing with now.
- Try to involve and connect with people you have to work with, in an upcoming project. Be one step ahead and invite them for a short meeting or lunch. In this way, they get to know you a bit more and might understand where you are coming from, and you get to know them before entering meetings and projects.
- Immerse yourself in the power of influence as this is an essential characteristic for young UX researchers. The book of Cialdini’s can also be applied to your own working life.
- And last but not least: Don’t be insecure about your skills, you probably know more than you think. Age is just a number. It is more important how eager you are to learn. Sharing our mistakes resulted in an excellent atmosphere to share experiences. A negative experience is not the end of the world, and you can see it as a chance to learn. Try to see it like that.
PS: This meetup will be repeated after 6 months to evaluate how everyone is doing and because of the enormous need to talk about this subject. The next meetup is also interesting for people who did not attend the first one. The exact date will be announced on the ‘UX Research Zuid’ Meetup page.
About the author
Inge van Dam
UX Researcher at Online Department
Inge works as a UX researcher at Online Department. 4 years ago she started as an intern and never left. Online Department is a UX agency with a strong focus on UX research. Inge conducts researches applying various methodologies for a great variety of clients. Inge is also Community Manager at UX People, a knowledge and career platform for UX professionals. She organizes and facilitates events and workshops for beginning UX Designers and Researchers.
UX Researcher & Trainer at Online Department