Getting your first job as a content designer - part 1
LinkedIn listed content designer in its top 15 emerging jobs in the UK in 2020. But with any new or emerging role, there’s often no clear or well-worn path into the career. With more of these jobs being created all the time, what does it take to actually get one? I asked a few fellow content professionals the best way to go about getting that first job as a content designer.
Analyse your skill set
Most content designers told me that they’d moved sideways from a different role. Many started out in journalism, marketing, communications, publishing or editorial jobs.
A lot of the skills you gain in these professions are great building blocks for a content designer position. Demonstrating an ability in one or more of the following areas had helped people make the jump into content design:
- graphic design,
- image research,
- digital literacy,
- user research,
- content management,
- user experience (UX) design,
- data analysis,
- information architecture.
It’s also easy to worry that you don’t know how to use a certain type of software. With so many different tools on the market, and organisations regularly changing to different platforms, the programmes you can use are generally considered less important than the practice and ideas you can bring.
Do some research
It’s a good idea to make sure you understand the basics of content design and what a content designer role will involve. The UK’s Government Digital Service has a comprehensive description of content designer jobs, as an example.
There’s also a wealth of information out there on content and UX design, but here’s a short list of resources that make a good starting point for further research.
Content designers I spoke to also mentioned the importance of getting used to the language and practice of UX design. Talking to product managers, user researchers, designers and developers can be helpful in working out how things fit together, and allowing you to sound informed and confident.
Get some training
The single most helpful thing I did to get a job as a content designer was doing a course with Content Design London. The 2-day workshop gave me an invaluable grounding in content design principles and also the opportunity to meet other budding content designers. Future CDL courses are listed on Eventbrite.
If a paid-for course is not an option, Future Learn offers a great free online Introduction to Content Design. You can also find ways to improve specific skills, like taking a UX writing challenge, or getting familiar with accessibility or UX design in general.
Join a community
Conferences and meet-ups
Networking at conferences and meet-ups is a great way to make contacts in the content-design world. It’s not always comfortable to introduce yourself to complete strangers (virtually or otherwise), but I’ve found that a simple Linkedin request and ‘I loved your talk!’ is appreciated by speakers, and a great way to start making connections.
Conferences and meet-ups to look out for include:
Some events have ‘job boards’ where you can post your details if you’re looking for work, or connect with employers who are recruiting.
It can be intimidating to join in with online discussions when you feel a bit out of your depth. But there’s a lot to be gained by just ‘lurking’ until you find your feet. Twitter is a good place to find content professionals discussing ideas and current practice as well as sharing useful articles. And specific communities like the Content + UX Slack channel are great places to gather information and get help and opinions on content questions.
I’ve also recently taken part in CDL’s pilot Content club. This has been a fantastic way to connect with content designers and people keen to take on content design roles. The club has allowed us to connect, ask questions, practice skills like crits, and share experiences and doubts in an informal and supportive environment.
Part 2 coming next week!
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27 and 28 January 2021 (online. Sold out, waiting list open) 2-day content design course
02 March 2021 (online) 1-day Service Development and Research course
17 and 18 March 2021 (online) 2-day content design course
22 March 2021 (online) Building Successful Communities of Practice
23 and 24 March 2021 (online, Melbourne, Australia timing) 2-day content design course
07 April 2021 running for 14 weeks (online) Content Design London Academy
21 and 22 April 2021 (online) 2-day advanced content design course