Plan your UX career with personas, user journeys and user stories

As UX consultants we spend so much time thinking about other people (the users) that it can be hard to take a step back and look at ourselves and our own UX career. What kind of projects do we enjoy? What gives us job satisfaction? What type of environment do we thrive in?

You are the primary persona in your own career user journey

Although we use them to help design things for other people, our UX toolkit can actually be a powerful tool in helping us understand ourselves. Using personas we can build up a profile of what drives us and what holds us back. Using user journeys we can identify our potential UX career path and the key interactions we need to have along the way to fulfil it. To take it to it’s extreme we can even write user stories for ourselves as tasks that we need to accomplish along the way.

You can complete this exercise in less than 30 minutes and I hope it will help give you some direction on your chosen path.

Step 1 – You as a persona

Sometimes it is very hard to identify what exactly it is that makes you go into work each day and what stops you from doing a good job. Personas offer a structured way to help analyse what makes users tick. There’s no reason we can’t apply them to ourselves.


Mr MotivatorJust as you would analyse a target user for their motivations behind using something you design you can equally take a look at yourself and have a real think about why you like doing what you do.

It is important to understand what motivates you as otherwise you will have difficulty putting your UX career plan into action. Try asking your colleagues if you are having trouble with this step as you’d be surprised what observations they may have.

Some examples could be:

  • Money (don’t be ashamed about putting this if it is truely what motivates you)
  • Taking a complex problem and presenting it in an easy to use way
  • Creating a hypothesis and testing it correctly (e.g. through user testing)


What are your ultimate goals in your career? Try not just to think about a job title here, think about what that job title would enable you to do. Some possible examples:

  • To lead a team
  • To create something that is used by over 1 million users
  • To design an app that gets in the iTunes top 10

Pain points

Just as a user will have things that prove a stumbling block to them achieving their goals on your system, there will be things which hold you back from achieving your goals.

Lets take the leading a team example. Perhaps the thing stopping you achieving that goal is that you are the only UX consultant in your organisation or that you don’t have any management training.

We can use a user journey as a tool to explore how you might overcome this barrier.

Step 2 – plan your UX career with a user journey

So we’ve now identified what makes you tick, what you are ultimately trying to achieve and what’s stopping you getting there. The next step is to figure out at a high level how you might get around those pain points to achieve your goals.

Lets continue with our leading a team goal. We now have the following basic information:

Money To lead a team Organisation is too small

An example user journey could be:

User Journey Sketch

  1. Help win more UX work
  2. Deliver above expectations on each project
  3. Ask for a promotion to senior level at next annual review
  4. Convince the organisation to hire additional junior UX resource
  5. Mentor the new hire(s)
  6. Ask for additional line management responsibilities and to be sent on a course

As you can see we now have a very high level user journey exploring one aspect of our own persona overcoming a pain point, fulfilling their goal and also baring in mind a key motivating factor to do it.

As we all know, setting such high level objectives, whilst conceptually useful, doesn’t give you the nitty gritty detail of how you would actually achieve them. User stories help us figure out the detail we need to make them actionable.

Step 3 – your own user stories

User Stories on a TableIf you are unfamiliar with user stories I recommend you first read our beginner’s guide to user stories first. In brief, they are short sentences that define a functional requirement from a users perspective along with why they want to do it.

I will take the first step of our user journey as an example.

  1. Help win more UX work

A good goal, but how can we achieve it? We will dispense with the ‘As a user’ portion of the user story as this is all about you. Remember you should always include a motivation or reason for each task to fully internalise why you are doing it.

Some examples of how we could break this user journey step down into user stories:

  • I want to approach the new business director so that I can discuss ways I can add value to our pitches
  • I want to proactively explore new UX work opportunities with existing clients by arranging a meeting with their head of business development so that I can increase the amount of work for the UX department
  • I want to get quotes from potential partners for eye tracking so that we can provide competitive quotes for pitches

Our conceptual high level user journey step is now a series of actionable tasks which we can put into ‘development’ to advance ourselves further down our UX career path.

Images courtesy Dave Tettpkdon50