The Great Reimagination: 7 Reasons Why Workers Are Choosing UX Design As a Career
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.” — Steve Jobs
The Great Resignation has been one of the more popular narratives in recent months, with people quitting their jobs in record numbers (over 4.5 million people in the U.S. left their jobs in November 2021 alone). For many, the conversation is hyper-focused on the fact that so many people are quitting their jobs.
Ironically, there seems to be a limited amount of emphasis placed on what workers are walking towards — and what they hope to achieve in a different role or career.
Underneath this workplace shift lies a deeper search for meaning and purpose in life, and an honest assessment of what role work should play in our everyday lives.
This pursuit of meaning is the reason why many have started calling this radical realignment of values, instead, the Great Reimagination.
The Great Reimagination: What Are You Looking For In a Career?
Whether you’re in search of something that you really enjoy, makes you feel valued, or gives you the flexibility you need to live a well-rounded and fulfilling life, a career in design may well be a positive next step.
7 Reasons Behind the Move to UX Design
We had the opportunity to connect with professionals who are in the midst of a career shift into UX design, and asked them what motivated them to walk away from their previous line of work-and what they are hoping to achieve.
Here’s what they said:
1. Personal and professional growth (63%)
Personal and professional growth are moving targets.
On the one hand, it can refer to the fact that many workers reach the maximum growth potential in their careers, while knowing that they still have so much more talent and expertise to share.
“My job was overwhelming, demanding and did not give me much pay. I did not feel challenged at all! With UX, I am hoping to use my skills and have a lot more job mobility.”
But another aspect of personal growth is the search for alignment with personal values and interests. Some of this is an industry-wide issue, as one of our participants noted about their previous career in fashion design:
“I left my fashion design career in NYC because of ethical dilemmas. The industry does not reflect the need for more sustainable & ethical practices. I am hoping to use my design skills in a way that aligns better with my personal morals.”
For others, this search for meaning is more closely tied to their own personal interests and passions, and their desire to find a career that draws on their strengths:
“I have no passion for my current job or industry. It’s a wonderful company and it pays the bills, but I want to be challenged at work and I believe I can have both passion for my industry and a great work environment simultaneously!”
2. Higher Pay (44%)
There’s an ongoing, controversial dichotomy between increasing corporate profits and stagnant employee wages. Apart from the ethical and economic issues that arise from this imbalance, many of our participants shared that low wages not only impacted their financial future, but also the amount of time that they could devote to a life outside of work.
As one participant shared,
“It’s impossible to live off of an hourly minimum wage + tip jobs with no benefits in a city. I wanted a more stable schedule, financial security, and free time to pursue my interests.”
“My dream is to buy a house — can’t do that with my current career path!”
With a higher than average median salary and an even higher demand for talent, UX/UI design is a career field that has a reputation for fair compensation for your work. On average, new graduates (those who land entry level jobs) are looking at a salary range of $65,000- $75,000.
3. Burnout, Stress, and Mental Health (22%)
In a candid acknowledgement, Jarod Spataro, CVP for Microsoft 365 said, “ the data is clear: our people are struggling. And we need to find new ways to help them.”
Burnout, stress, and mental health are all struggles that we face in the best of times. But when unrealistic workplace demands are compounded with pandemic shutdowns and an increase in personal responsibilities like childcare and healthcare, many workers are realizing that the only end in sight might be the decision that leads to a new job altogether.
Two industries, in particular, are under fire for the increased levels of stress and responsibility directly related to the pandemic:
“I left my teaching job because I was underpaid, had no work-life balance, felt undervalued, and experienced high stress.”
“Healthcare was becoming immensely stressful and demanding as there was a shortage of workers. We had to work overtime, putting our mental and physical health at risk.”
But the burnout happens across industries, as workers realize that their workplace is (either intentionally or unintentionally) taking advantage of their time and talents, with no end in sight:
“Burnout, poverty wages for too much work, no change after giving feedback.”
While not every UX position is immune from issues like burnout and stress, many of the growing and thriving companies currently hiring UX/UI designers are already human-centric in their processes, and are well aware of the fact that, when employees flourish, the business does, too.
4. Work Culture (20%)
Work culture is a complex mix of elements like company policy, managerial skills, and team dynamics, and requires effort to grow and maintain. Finding a great work culture fit is a goldmine that can make even the most mundane work feel fulfilling and enjoyable.
“I just got tired of an industry that mistreats people and the feeling of being unfulfilled by what I was doing. I felt stuck and just didn’t love my job anymore.”
Unfortunately, UX design (like any field) does not automatically come with a healthy work culture. But many of our UX Academy students realize that their new career will come with a level of demand for their talent, making it much easier to hold out for a position that will allow them to thrive.
“The healthiness of my workplace environment plummeted as time went on, it was a small business where the owners could not keep up with the growing demand. It was a dead-end job that used none of the skills I’d gone to school for, so I decided to make a change and find a career that was actually rewarding while helping me add to my savings.”
5. Work-life Balance (18%)
Here’s a fun fact: the average person will spend over one third of their life at work. For those who have long commutes, regular overtime, or juggle multiple jobs, this number might be much higher. Many of our participants indicated that they simply want more time to be present with their families and to pursue hobbies apart from their 9 to 5.
“In my previous role, I wasn’t able to express the creativity that I was looking for. A career in design also allows me to work remotely and travel and take care of my family.”
There are a myriad of small reasons that contribute to an increased sense of work-life balance within the field of UX design. One reason might be the sheer variety of job roles in this industry: there are fast-paced roles with overtime, and there are slower moving positions with companies that emphasize the need for unplugged personal time.
“I want more money, more time off/flexibility, and I’m looking for more creativity in my work.”
Whatever your work style preferences are, you’re likely to find a job that suits you within the UX world.
6. Remote Work Opportunities (14%)
Remote work offers a tantalizing relief for those who are pursuing a healthier work-life balance and more flexibility in their daily routine. Thanks to the pandemic shutdowns, many workers have had a taste of this commute-less lifestyle, and aren’t willing to return to the traditional office setting.
UX/UI design continues to be a popular option for those who are looking for remote roles in conjunction with some (or all) of the above mentioned perks. Since very little in UX design is tied to a physical location (everything from your design tools to user testing processes can live online), there are many opportunities for hybrid or remote positions, for those who prefer to cut the commute.
“There were many factors that have contributed to my decision to pursue design. The tipping point for me was when my current employer discontinued a remote work schedule for my position.”
7. Benefits (7%)
For U.S. workers in particular, healthcare and other benefits do not come standard with full time employment. While some are able to pay out of pocket for these expenses, the pressure to receive full benefits as part of your compensation increases along with factors like age, decreasing health, and children.
One of our participants shared that they were currently pivoting into a UX/UI design career because:
“I want to work from home and have healthcare and benefits. My job right now can’t provide any of that.”
UX design on its own does not give workers access to healthcare and other benefits-in fact, there are many design positions that do not include anything beyond a paycheck. But, when compounded with the other benefits of a career in UX/UI design and the opportunity to find a company that does treat its workers fairly, the career shift makes total sense.
The Great Reimagination: In Pursuit of a Meaningful Career
The Great Resignation might be an enigma for many who stand outside, watching the departing back of an employee. But, as we listened to the students in UX Academy, it became clear that the essence remains the same: each person is looking for a better life, where the workday offers meaning and purpose.
Perhaps one respondent said it best when they wrote,
“There is no amount of money that pays enough for your misery in a field. Life is too short to not pursue your dreams and take one step closer to it.”
Become a UX Designer
What does a meaningful career look like for you? If you’re attracted to the creativity and human-centered philosophy of UX/UI design, we offer a variety of online courses designed to help you get started in this growing field today.