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How to Help Junior UX Designers Thrive

Dec 15, 2021

New courses like the Google Coursera Google UX Design Certificate course and boot camps like CareerFoundry create an influx of Junior UX Designers in the tech industry. Senior Designers and Design Management need to develop strategies to help this next generation of Junior UX Designers become successful. 

I’m a business book nerd, and I’ve learned a lot about people management from what I read in them, particularly The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Org Design for Design Orgs by Peter Merholz and Kristin Skinner. These books inspired me in these three ways to help Junior UX Designers thrive in any organization. 

1. Set Clear Expectations and Goals

My expectation of a Junior UX Designer is to develop their professional craft first before taking on high-impact and visibility jobs. There is no way to skip the line in the skill and competence department. Relevant professional learning projects should improve the craft and baseline skills in User Research, Prototyping, and Interaction Design.

Setting clear goals and managing expectations is not about holding someone with ambition back. It’s about focusing on skill development to become a more seasoned designer.  

2. Give Instant and Constant Feedback 

In general, leaving feedback only for yearly performance reviews is probably the worst form of feedback, especially for junior UX designers. The feedback loop between the manager and Junior UX Designer mustn’t be too long. It will make the development journey of the young Designer much more unpredictable, and Junior UX Designers might feel insecure about their professional development without timely responses to their work. 

I love this quote from The One Minute Manager:

“Help People Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right” 

Kenneth H. Blanchard

What does that mean? Catching people doing something right means managers mustn’t focus only on catching people doing something wrong. Instead, pointing out specifically good behavior or performance right when you see it will give clear but positive guidance of what your Junior Designer should do more of in their job. 

Like catching a Junior Designer doing something right, we need to re-direct instantly when the direction or outcome is wrong. 

The first sentence, Help People Reach Their Full Potential, focuses on giving critical feedback. Yet, it needs to come from a positive intention that supports the professional development of the Junior Designer.

We critique the behavior, but we support the person. We always need to reinforce that we believe in the Junior UX Designers’ abilities to solve professional challenges. That’s why we hired them. 

3. Create a growth plan 

Good Junior UX Designers are ambitious. They constantly want to learn new things, so creating a plan with learning goals is motivating. 

One famous framework for planning personal development goals is setting personal OKRs (Objectives & Key Results). Objectives and Key Results is a management framework invented by Andy Groves that links the individual tasks of teams and employees with corporate strategy, plans, and vision.

Plan your Junior UX Designers’ personal development OKRs in alignment with your team’s skills and the overall vision and strategy. For example, if your goal is to run more design workshops, developing your Designers in Design Sprints makes sense.

How to set your OKRs or for your team you can find in this excellent blog post from Mint.com.

Another excellent example for planning your Junior UX Designers’ skill development (or your own) is the UX Skills Matrix by Daniel Birch.

Daniel created The UX skills matrix to self-evaluate essential UX Design skills and understand his needs to improve. Help your Junior UX Designer self-evaluate their skills and help them understand their strengths and growth opportunities. 

I love The UX skills matrix to make personal development goals visible and transparent.

Conclusion 

  • Developing the professional craft should have the highest priority for a Junior UX Designer. Impact and high visibility projects can follow later.
  • The more frequent the feedback loop between manager and Junior UX Designer, the better you create continuous skill development. Write down the quote “Help People Reach Their Full Potential. Catch Them Doing Something Right”.
  • Motivate your Junior UX Designer with documented and agreed learning goals. Personal OKRs and the UX Skills Matrix are excellent tools for planning the professional development journey of your Junior UX Designer. 

 David Wenk
I’m sharing my thoughts and experiences about B2B Product Development, UX-Design and Innovation.

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