Need advice for starting a career in UX/Interaction Design.

30 Sep 2010 - 3:02am
2 years ago
22 replies
3920 reads
CL
2010

Hello everyone,

I'm having a lot of trouble getting a job in UX/Interaction Design.

I've seen a lot of discussion with people in the same situation as me, but I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong or what I could improve on. (specifically in my case)

Here are the things I've been doing/done...

I've recently graduated with an HCI major at the University of Washington. I've taken as many classes I can with design, interaction design, user experience, etc.

I've done everything I can think of like picking up and reading books, reading blogs, going to UX/IA meetups in Seattle when I can, networking with professionals/informational interviews, learning and practicing design skills/learning the tools (photoshop, fireworks, flash, etc.)

I have my own portfolio (which I'm currently redesigning and updating at the moment)

I've had a few internships at Adobe, VMware, and ZAAZ doing this type of work (It's quite unfortunate that I can't put those on my portfolio because of NDA)

I'm currently working on some personal projects (one of them I'm creating an iPhone application with a friend)

I've been searching for over a year now and recently I had to take a job in IT because I couldn't find anything else.

I'm still not having any luck. Every single time I apply, I look at the products the company makes and do some redesigns or mockups on new ideas for the product.

The most common responses I get when I apply to jobs are "You don't have X years of experience" or "You don't have a background in Fine Arts or Design" or "You don't have a master's degree"

What am I doing wrong?

Chris L.

Comments

30 Sep 2010 - 6:20am
Natalia Rey
2010

I used to have the same problem.

I think the most company appreciate that they need a UX but they also believe that they need a designer too.

May be, you can put some colours in your projects to show these more attractive (explaining carefully you do not have focus in design) and then you can educate to your new boss (client) the importance to see these in wireframes first.

30 Sep 2010 - 7:45am
Dave Malouf
2005
My advice during this economic period is to go back to school and get a masters degree. Costly advice for sure. To all the undergrads or soon to be undergrads out there, I'm going to say something unpopular: A degree that focuses on research & critical validation will never be as valuable as a degree that first & foremost teaches you how to, why to make stuff. This isn't teaching tools, though that is a part of it, but it is teaching you the materiality & aesthetics of that material and how to be creative in that material. If your UG degree didn't teach you this you'll have to gi back & either teach yourself or go back to school (or other education methods) to learn this. - dave
30 Sep 2010 - 9:59am
Warren Croce
2008

Chris,

 

Keep focusing on what you're doing right; for example, networking, interning, side projects - these are all good things. Above all, be persistent. Here's a quote I (try to) live by: "Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
- President Calvin Coolidge

 

30 Sep 2010 - 10:33am
mdostert
2010

Hello,

You are not doing anything wrong. I am in the same boat. It is the economy and it is the fact the employers can ask for only those with five years experience, who have had specific titles, who know tools x. It is a drag.

Maureen

4 Oct 2010 - 3:05pm
lowbroweye
2010

"I've had a few internships at Adobe, VMware, and ZAAZ doing this type of work (It's quite unfortunate that I can't put those on my portfolio because of NDA)"


Can you ask your contacts in these companies for permission to include partially obfuscated subsets of your work on the portfolio? You could even pitch it to them as an opportunity for some stealth research & marketing if it hints at the production of something cool. Additionally, you could supply an NDA alongside your portfolio to your prospective employers. I got very accustomed to reviewing applicant portfolios in commercial confidence and then deleting them to comply with Data Protection Acts.


But yeah, it's a tough economy out there and UX is starting to be seen as an expensive luxury that needs the guaranteed results of provable experience or nothing.  Make your iPhone App awesome, though, and the opportunities will find you.



Good luck,Anthony.

On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 6:06 PM, mdostert <mdostert2002@yahoo.com> wrote:

Hello,

You are not doing anything wrong. I am in the same boat. It is the economy and it is the fact the employers can ask for only those with five years experience, who have had specific titles, who know tools x. It is a drag.

Maureen

(
4 Oct 2010 - 7:05pm
monkeyshine
2010

It's hard to really assess what you could do to improve without seeing your work. It seems like the Seattle market has many UX designer types so it's probably a little tougher here to find work than the East Coast. Boston, for example, can't find enough good UX people. You definitely have an advantage with another skill set (i.e., visual design seems to be a huge plus for many companies these days).
Have you applied to Amazon? I know there are several open reqs for UX designers throughout the company. I know Microsoft was also looking for some UX talent a while back. 
I have found that bigger companies, in particular, want to see how you think and if you fit their culture. If you can demonstrate how you think through a problem (especially a real world issue that a company hasn't quite solved) that will carry you a long way. You don't have experience on your side so show them that you are a brainy firecracker with hutzpah. :)
Good luck.
Deanna


On Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 3:49 PM, A Bowyer-Lowe <ynohtna@ynohtna.org> wrote:

"I've had a few internships at Adobe, VMware, and ZAAZ doing this type of work (It's quite unfortunate that I can't put those on my portfolio because of NDA)"

Can you ask your contacts in these companies for permission to include partially obfuscated subsets of your work on the portfolio? You could even pitch it to them as an opportunity for some stealth research & marketing if it hints at the production of something cool. Additionally, you could supply an NDA alongside your portfolio to your prospective employers. I got very accustomed to reviewing applicant portfolios in commercial confidence and then deleting them to comply with Data Protection Acts.

But yeah, it's a tough economy out there and UX is starting to be seen as an expensive luxury that needs the guaranteed results of provable experience or nothing.  Make your iPhone App awesome, though, and the opportunities will find you.

Good luck,Anthony.

On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 6:06 PM, mdostert <mdostert2002@yahoo.com [1]> wrote:

Hello,

You are not doing anything wrong. I am in the same boat. It is the economy and it is the fact the employers can ask for only those with five years experience, who have had specific titles, who know tools x. It is a drag.

Maureen

(

(((
30 Sep 2010 - 10:54am
nikaomatix
2010

Cities like SF bay area, LA, Denver, Chicago, and New York are the booming cities for UX/IA careers. You should consider doing a relocation position.

30 Sep 2010 - 10:57am
nikaomatix
2010

For companies that are looking for degrees, it's an easy disqualifier. Degrees don't really get you anywhere in this field, it's a piece of paper. Experience with local companies, going to conferences, self training, and constantly reading up on current literature in the UX field will do you justice.

30 Sep 2010 - 11:22am
ffakerson
2010

I started my career in NYC as a copywriter 10 years ago. That evolved into content developer which evolved into information architect which evolved into interaction designer. I definitely would not have gotten a job as an interaction designer fresh out of school. It was years of on the job training, experience and luck. I guess my advice would be to see if you can evolve the work you are doing in IT into something that utilizes your passion for UX.  Keep working on your iPhone app with your buddy. Do something new. The top jobs twenty years don’t exist at all now.

Also remember that you aren’t alone in your struggle. I am blessed that I have had no trouble finding good UX position in New York (knock on wood) but my wife and I just had a baby and would like to eventually move out of the city. Despite the fact that I have years of experience doing good UX work for high profile clients and products, I can’t find a job outside of the major markets. One of the big problems I’ve seen is that the definition of a "Interaction Designer" is different depending on where you are located. I see job openings for “Interaction Designer” or a “User Experience Designer” at places between the coasts but the job descriptions are really a combination of 3 different positions -- an ID, a front end programmer, and a graphic designer. It’s much more convenient to pay one salary instead of three and the term “Interaction Designer” seems to have been embraced as a way to do that.

4 Oct 2010 - 5:13pm
DerrekRobertson
2010

Fellow Huskey Chris,

That indeed is a frustrating situation. All I can say is love what you do. Take pride in your work and people will take notice, hopefully sooner than later.

What is your app? : )

I share your pain, if you would like to commiserate, here is My Month Long Interview With A Big NYC Digital Agency That Failed Miserably.

5 Oct 2010 - 2:10am
muppetaphrodite
2009

Hello Chris,

It honestly sounds like you're a few steps ahead of several applicants - I wonder if your resume isn't presenting you in the best light. What state is your portfolio in at the moment? I understand the NDA problem, but I've also found that a complete absence of portfolio is an immediate disqualification in this climate. Academic or personal examples are fine; the best thing you can do is show evidence of good process rather than a handful of finished screenshots.

There is certainly hope for those with only Bachelors' degrees; I am in the same boat (CS/HCI BS from CMU) and after a spell have found happy success at Microsoft. Research positions are more likely to require advanced degrees, of course. If "interaction design" jobs are not available, consider similar analogs in other adjacent industries (I did a 4-year stint in video game production, for example.) Also, are you in contact with any of the local contract agencies? We have a huge need for contract folks and it's a great way to get your foot in the door. Aquent, Filter, etc - look into some of these if you haven't yet.

In your *specific case*, I encourage you to take a look at an opening on my team at Microsoft: https://careers.microsoft.com/JobDetails.aspx?ss=&pg=0&so=&rw=1&jid=26804&jlang=EN
It is indeed yet another position that requests 5 years of experience, but think of it this way: why would a company post for entry level jobs when they might snag a more experienced person by chance if their listing was more tailored to experience? I have seen more than one case where folks are hired in under the level posted (you're unlikely to get anywhere near entry level from a Senior posting, but this gap isn't unheard of.)  Plus we work specifically on IT products, so your background with both design for VMware and your direct work in IT (in addition to being local) would make a compelling case. I can't guarantee anything, but you'd also have nothing to lose by applying.

You can reach me at @muppetaphrodite on Twitter if you want to ask questions about the job or want to pursue applying.

Best of luck to all in similar situations!
--Cheryl

5 Oct 2010 - 4:59pm
Thomas Petersen
2008

Stop reading about UX, start doing it.

Learn to design and program.

And most importantly do stuff, test stuff. Lots of stuff.

Start your own project, make your own experiences.

If anything will be needed in the future it will be the craftsmen.

5 Oct 2010 - 7:06pm
CL
2010

Thank you everyone...

I really appreciate all the feedback!

I'm doing my best right now and I'll keep working on my personal projects.

Chris L.

6 Oct 2010 - 2:05pm
Michelle Bacigalupi
2009

I do think reading about design thinking and interacting with others that have been doing  this awhile will also move you forward. I don't agree that only crafts people, those that know how to prototype, will be the ones needed in the future.
Cheers,
Michelle

On Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 9:00 AM, CL <tetchan@gmail.com> wrote:

Thank you everyone...

I really appreciate all the feedback!

I'm doing my best right now and I'll keep working on my personal projects.

Chris L.

(
6 Oct 2010 - 5:05pm
DerrekRobertson
2010

Hi Chris, :D

Yes, good, but what's your app?

Derrek Neonsunburst

On Wed, 06 Oct 2010 12:40:25 -0500, CL wrote: > Thank you everyone... > > I really appreciate all the feedback! > > I'm doing my best right now and I'll keep working on my personal projects. > > Chris L. > >

6 Oct 2010 - 5:22pm
Thomas Petersen
2008

Michelle

Can you elaborate on what you mean?

UX/Interaction design is a craft before anything else. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't read, but since Chris has been doing quite a lot of that, it seems to be time to get down and dirty.

Otherwise you will just end up being someone who know about the field but don't know how to do it.

18 May 2011 - 6:06pm
whoischrislam
2010

I hate to bring this thread back to life again, but an update.

I'm currently now doing the evening masters program in Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington.

I've been following all your advice on improving my skills and I have been doing that. I managed to get yet another internship for UX, but it seems still almost impossible to get a job when I talk to recruiters. I've been constantly working on my skills and I've been constantly networking, but NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE. There's always all this talk about lots of jobs in UX and I see all these postings but it doesn't seem like anyone cares about people who are trying to start their career in UX.

My point is I'm working as hard as I can and it doesn't feel like anyone is giving me a ghost of a chance. I know you have to start somewhere and I'm just TRYING to get that start, so what else do I do now?

Is there any kind of thought towards entry level/junior/associate designers at all when thinking about new job postings? I know this is the "UX gap" but is anyone actually DOING SOMETHING about it?

I'm feel like I'm doing everything I can do but the what's hindering me is things that are out of my control. Any thoughts?

As you can tell, I'm very frustrated and I'm losing hope but I feel like I can't give up because I invested the past two years of my life and I care too much about this. I'm sorry if I sound so bitter, but I've tried and I'm going to keep trying.

If you're curious about my portfolio, here's the link... http://www.whoischrislam.com

Chris Lam

19 May 2011 - 9:59pm
Noemi
2007

Hi Chris,

I have only had agency-side experience both in the States and New Zealand so I can only speak from this perspective.  

If I were you, the logical 'in' for me would be go in as a Project Manager/Producer.  A lot of times smaller or lean agencies rely on PM's to do some of the logical thinking when there is a lack of IA/Ux person available for the work.  This, of course, won't allow you to bite into the big, juicy projects you'd like, but it's definitely a start and a way into the big bad world of UX. 

Also, I have heard that BLITZ in Los Angeles is starting up an intership programme.  So this might be an option for you.

Hope this offers some food for thought!

Cheers,

Noemi
www.noemi.co.nz

 

 

27 May 2011 - 3:59pm
GeoffWill
2010

Chris

If you have not done so already make sure that you are writing an electronically scannable resume. Humans do not look at resumes initially. The scannable resume is designed to be read by an SQL statement, based on the requirements for the position, in the applicant tracking system. Unless you get through this cut you will never talk to a human. Check out the web site ehow for advice on writing a scannable resume. The key feature is to make sure your resume scores high with the stack ranking algorithm. Each of the key words in the job description should be represented as many times as possible without simply repeating them out of context. Last year PSSIGCHI has a career meeting where two HR types explained this in detail.

No software system cares about giving you a chance. No human hiring manager cares about giving you a chance. They want the most qualified person they can get. If that person isn't you, then you need to raise, and possible better present, your qualifications.

Make sure you are on linked in and have your web site as well with a portfolio of documents. If necessary choose a realistic problem and create the documents you need. Look for software entrepreneurs group on linked in and offer your services for a reasonable fee. See if you can get some additional experience that way.

Your teachers should be trying to connect with people in industry to find you projects where you can get real world experience.

Good hunting

geoff

-----Original Message----- From: whoischrislam Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2011 4:36 AM To: gwbando@msn.com Subject: Re: [IxDA] Need advice for starting a career in UX/Interaction Design.

I hate to bring this thread back to life again, but an update.

I'm currently now doing the evening masters program in Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington.

I've been following all your advice on improving my skills and I have been doing that. I managed to get yet another internship for UX, but it seems still almost impossible to get a job when I talk to recruiters. I've been constantly working on my skills and I've been constantly networking, but NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE. There's always all this talk about lots of jobs in UX and I see all these postings but it doesn't seem like anyone cares about people who are trying to start their career in UX.

My point is I'm working as hard as I can and it doesn't feel like anyone is giving me a ghost of a chance. I know you have to start somewhere and I'm just TRYING to get that start, so what else do I do now?

Is there any kind of thought towards entry level/junior/associate designers at all when thinking about new job postings? I know this is the "UX gap" but is anyone actually DOING SOMETHING about it?

I'm feel like I'm doing everything I can do but the what's hindering me is things that are out of my control. Any thoughts?

As you can tell, I'm very frustrated and I'm losing hope but I feel like I can't give up because I invested the past two years of my life and I care too much about this. I'm sorry if I sound so bitter, but I've tried and I'm going to keep trying.

If you're curious about my portfolio, here's the link... http://www.whoischrislam.com

Chris Lam

21 May 2011 - 3:22am
EmilySun
2010

Hi Chris,

Sorry to hear about your frustrations. I started out similarly to you, and found my way in the industry after I was offered a job during an internship. I'm guessing there aren't any job openings at the companies you interned with, but that would be the first place I'd look for work since they already are familiar with your talents, personality, and fit on the team. It sounds like you're doing everything right- going to meetups and mingling with people, getting your masters, learning about the field. Are you tied down to Washington, or are you open to moving to a new place? The companies you've done internships with are great, but if getting a job is your top priority, then working at a small start-up may be an easier way to turn an internship into a job offer. Best of luck!

-Emily

27 May 2011 - 3:59pm
chrischandler
2008

Hi Chris,

Those sound like answers you would get from a recruiter or an HR person, not from a working professional.

My advice -- go personal.

Go to the meetups/groups (ALL OF THEM!) and meet working UX practitioners and managers.

Ask the nice ones for an interview.

If they don't have a job opening, ask if they would consider looking over your material or helping you practice interviewing. Get some feedback on your work and your style. Get comfortable and confident in what you can do and have done instead of worrying about what you haven't. In fact, now that you've asked one question in this forum, why not ask if anyone here would be willing to give you feedback??

You might even ask the organizers of your local group if you could help set up a "new to the profession" meeting.

Don't get discouraged and don't give up. If you have the passion and love for this profession, good things will happen.

-cc

20 Aug 2011 - 7:44pm
calliope
2011

chris, I empathise a lot as I am in the similar position. For about a year I haven't been able to hold on to a job, London is big people are not going to train us, they don't have time, you need to be excellent in people skills as well.

I recently read a book "putting your mindset to work" by James Reed. 

Another thing to thing about is a U turn. 

If they don't employ you, employ yourself, freelance

 

  • freelance with friends,
  • freelance online,
  • stop wasting energy looking for them,
  • waste energy freelancing.

 

 Meanwhile looking for a job I look back and consider that it was freelacing that kept my sanity, my dignity and assisted me in working in a complete project, with company jobs I was given fragmented bits of work. 

Today I am facing another dilemma... with all this experience vs. education

 

  1. is it worth going for a masters in HCI in 2011?
  2. Is designing prototypes and wireframes and conducting comperative analyses and interviews, creative in any way?
  3. Why would I exchange a world in Multimedia, a colourful world in a black and white?

 

So here is a question for you: How creative do you feel as a UX designer?

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