how do I become employable?

19 Oct 2010 - 4:13pm
3 years ago
7 replies
1153 reads
kbackstrand
2010

HI all:  I tried posting this question some time ago but got very few responses.  Hopefully this title is catchier!

I'm transitioning from many years of no career in particular, to a developing interest in Interaction Design and Information Architecture.  I'm currently pursing a masters in Library and Information Science. 

Most job postings I've read want at least 3-5 years of experience.  HOW DO I GET THAT??  How do I start to get the experience I need so that eventually I will be attractive to employers?

Comments

19 Oct 2010 - 4:52pm
bminihan
2007

Do you mean "no career in particular" as in, "i've never worked"?  Or as in "i've done a lot of things that don't pay a salary/i can't do anymore"?

The fastest way to get 3-5 years of experience in Interaction Design and Information Architecture is to:
1. Get a job doing *something like* the above
2. Perfect that until you can aim for something closer to the above
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for 3-5 years

I don't mean to be glib, but the longer you spend reading and not doing, the longer it'll take to get 3-5 years experience.  You can turn virtually any job that involves software (or your preferred medium) into one step closer to your intended goal.  You have to be interested and find value in the most menial of tasks, as long as you get to spend even five minutes a week doing something you love.  The more you excel at the menial, the more freedom you'll get to do what you want.  The more freedom you get, the closer you are to your dream job.

Also, the more you expose yourself to "menial tasks" the more likely you are to discover (surprisingly) that some of those tasks are actually quite interesting and challenging - perhaps even career-changing.

Best of luck,

Bryan

19 Oct 2010 - 5:05pm
diversionmedia
2010

I'm an employer who hires UX professionals.

When I ask for 3-5 years of experience, what I really want is someone who:

- works well under time pressure
- works well in a team
- manages "up" well (ie can deal with a boss)
- can talk to clients
- can synthesize multiple requirements quickly
- can cope with scope changes, project cancellations, budget squeeze, team members departing/arriving, and other sources of pain

The only way to acquire all these skills is to _do projects_. 

However they don't all need to be UX projects. If you've been a carpenter, short order cook, or theater designer you probably have a lot of them already.
Plus, of course, you need to demonstrate killer deliverables, mastery of several software programs, and familiarity with the development process. 
I'd also like to know that you've been on at least one successful software project through the full lifecycle (from whiteboard to launch).
All of the above is _much_ more important than an arbitrary number of years...

Hope this is helpful!

nb

19 Oct 2010 - 5:05pm
bminihan
2007

Do you mean "no career in particular" as in, "i've never worked"? Or
as in "i've done a lot of things that don't pay a salary/i can't do
anymore"?

The fastest way to get 3-5 years of experience in Interaction Design
and Information Architecture is to: 1. Get a job doing something like the above 2. Perfect that until you can aim for something closer to the above 3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for 3-5 years

I don't mean to be glib, but the longer you spend reading and not
doing, the longer it'll take to get 3-5 years experience. You can
turn virtually any job that involves software (or your preferred
medium) into one step closer to your intended goal. You have to be
interested and find value in the most menial of tasks, as long as you
get to spend even five minutes a week doing something you love. The
more you excel at the menial, the more freedom you'll get to do what
you want. The more freedom you get, the closer you are to your dream
job.

Also, the more you expose yourself to "menial tasks" the more likely
you are to discover (surprisingly) that some of those tasks are
actually quite interesting and challenging - perhaps even career- changing.

Best of luck,

Bryan Minihan

On Oct 19, 2010, at 5:34 PM, kbackstrand wrote:

> HI all: I tried posting this question some time ago but got very
> few responses. Hopefully this title is catchier! > > I'm transitioning from many years of no career in particular, to a
> developing interest in Interaction Design and Information
> Architecture. I'm currently pursing a masters in Library and
> Information Science. > > Most job postings I've read want at least 3-5 years of experience.
> HOW DO I GET THAT?? How do I start to get the experience I need so
> that eventually I will be attractive to employers? > >

19 Oct 2010 - 5:29pm
Josh B Williams
2010

I am rather Jr. myself having four years design experience with only one directly in Ixd. I am not an expert but here is what I have learned so far from working, interviewing, and doing freelance contracts. Employers really care about your portfolio, your process, and your collaboration.
 
They want to see that you have work that looks professional, and they don’t really care if it was a personal project or a paid job. They also want to look into your process, see your early iterations, sketches, prototypes, and final product. Make sure to document every step of your process well and this will really help when putting together a portfolio.  They also want to see where you had trouble, and how you overcame this.  This could be with a difficult client, or with a developer that doesn’t see eye to eye.  I feel they also want to hear examples of how you work with a team. How you work with other designers to solve problems, and how you work with developers for implementation.

I think SemanticWill had some nice ideas on creating a good portfolio.[1]

I think it is also important to always be working on a project. If you are passionate about an idea create some projects around it. Always do research to backup what you are doing, so when you talk about your work it comes from an informed decision.  Sketch more than you think you should, create some mockups, and build prototypes.

I think it is also important to work in your field even if it is some company no one has ever heard of, or an internship that pays nothing. If you really cant find anything try just calling some companies you really like in your area and ask for an informational interview. Learn about their company and what they are looking for. You also have the option as a student to do an unpaid internship for college credit. It may sound like a waste of time working for free, but the experience will lead to more jobs in the future.

-Josh B. W.

[1]http://www.ixda.org/node/25437

19 Oct 2010 - 7:03pm
gthomas10
2010

I agree with Josh.

Create compelling portfolio of work. Focus on process and your collaborative abilities.

Intern, Network, Volunteer

Check out http://volunteer.grassroots.org/
There are plenty of ways you can get involved.

19 Oct 2010 - 10:05pm
Wendy Fischer
2004

1) devote yourself to all things in interaction design and information architecture. make sure your MS program is going to provide you with the education you need.
2) network, network, network. make sure all your friends and closest associates interaction designers by joining sigchi, ixda, upa, etc.
3) volunteer design/usability conferences
4) Focus on getting an internship directly related to what you are doing, or do research and design with your professor related to what you are interested in.
5) Do product designs, come up with ideas that you have for interface design/product design and flesh it out, put it in your portfolio. Develop a portfolio of designs by doing internships, contract jobs, or your own product ideas. I cannot stress that you have a portfolio because without a portfolio you won't get your foot in the door.
6)Write a resume that is reflective of your career aspirations.
7) Consider going to go work for a small business where you might where a bunch of different hats, but maybe part of your job is to do interface design for a software product or website. (that's how I got my start)
8)Look for jr. level interaction design position. I think that the market is very tight right now, more people are hiring very senior folks, as opposed to jr. folks. Perhaps maybe you can post an advertisement on craigslist and perhaps get some interest that way - particularly if you have a portfolio, or you are very good at one skill (I know a guy that got his start by just making icons and advertising on craigslist).
9) Present yourself well, how you dress, how you talk, your portfolio, etc.
10) Move someplace where there's lots of interaction design jobs, like  San Francisco, Seattle, Boston or New York. Companies are more apt to hire people who live there instead of not.
From: kbackstrand <koren212@gmail.com>
To: erpdesigner@yahoo.com
Sent: Tue, October 19, 2010 2:57:37 PM
Subject: [IxDA] how do I become employable?

HI all:  I tried posting this question some time ago but got very few responses.  Hopefully this title is catchier!

I'm transitioning from many years of no career in particular, to a developing interest in Interaction Design and Information Architecture.  I'm currently pursing a masters in Library and Information Science. 

Most job postings I've read want at least 3-5 years of experience.  HOW DO I GET THAT??  How do I start to get the experience I need so that eventually I will be attractive to employers?

20 Oct 2010 - 4:05am
Paul Bryan
2008

Every dept. in the University you're studying at has a web site. Most are probably strapped for resources and need an IA, and would welcome your help. To get started, you need a working knowledge of one of the major IA/IxD tools, described often in this forum (e.g. http://www.ixda.org/node/24850). If possible, along the way, become familiar with current pattern libraries. By the time you graduate, you will have experience, knowledge of tools, and work to show that is relatively free of intellectual property restrictions.

In terms of employability, people who have been in the field 10 years or more have seen a dramatic increase of talented IA/UXA's. The ones I've worked with over the past few years have been phenomenal and get kudos continually from clients. It has become a very competitive field. Not like photography or real estate, but expect some elbowing on the way in.

Paul Bryan

Blog: http://www.virtualfloorspace.com

Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

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