Tips on "breaking into" IA/ID/UxD industry forrecent graduates?

30 Oct 2007 - 2:37pm
6 years ago
9 replies
580 reads
Johansen, Kristen
2006

I often get applicants fresh out of school and I'm always
disappointed when their portfolio consists entirely of
homework assignments. To me, anyway, that's an indicator
that they didn't have enough interest or ambition in
their field to do at least a few freelance projects (who
doesn't have a cousin/friend/etc who needs a website?)
and get some real-world experience. I can't stress
enough the importance of internships while you're in
school, or at the very least trying to do the *same kind
of work* you're aspiring to get. If you're looking for a
job making basic brochureware websites, and that's what's
in your portfolio, great! If not, you need to
re-evaluate what you're presenting and make sure it
matches what they're looking for.

We often take people on as interns with no real world
experience, but once we're looking at a full time, even
junior, position, I want to see that the person is at
least capable of producing somewhat professional quality
work that's somewhere near the complexity of what we do.
Too often school projects are oversimplified or academic,
not focused on the things that will actually be important
in real life (real clients are a big part of that!)

So don't give up, but do consider using this time that
you're looking to further build out your portfolio. I
also recommend soliciting feedback about why you got
rejected whenever possible, and asking for advice and
pointers on your presentation and portfolio. You didn't
get the job, so it can't hurt to at least get some decent
advice out of it, right? :)

k

-----Original Message-----
From: Jason Barbarich
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 10:54 AM

A few members have mentioned that they are taxed with the
job of reading resumes and interviewing applicants - is
there anything in particular you look for when you see a
potential junior IA/ID/UxD? Should we all have some sort
of crucial skill on lock? Is there something that NEEDS
to be in our sparsely populated portfolio? Or is it
really just about being you, having a handle on the
standard toolset, and knowing the design process? I can
talk for a pretty long time about the one, EXTREMELY
simple website I freelanced over the summer. Obtaining
requirements from interviewing the owner, getting a feel
for who the primary users of the site were, wireframing
to establish design concept, etc., but again, the site is
epicly simple, and I'm still left with no agency
experience.

Comments

30 Oct 2007 - 5:43pm
harvinder
2007

Try adapting the intern route or doing a Masters.
Harvinder Singh
210-614-4198 O
210-884-1311 C
harvinder at bestica.com
www.bestica.com
Bridging the Usability Talent Gap

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Steven
Pautz
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 5:29 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Tips on "breaking into" IA/ID/UxD industry
forrecent graduates?

I'm also trying to "break into" the field. I've haven't been searching
nearly as long, but I'm having some similar experiences.

For my portfolio, I left out nearly everything I did as coursework, except
for one "ooh, shiny" project, but the remainder of my work was either
school-contexted (extracurricular stuff, but not commercial) or was for
smaller projects/teams that didn't need and couldn't justify formal (ie,
non-whiteboard) wireframes or other artifacts/communicables. So far, it
seems as though those things haven't helped my "interest or ambition in the
field" score, though. (Although they don't count as "same type of work I'm
aspiring to get", either.)

I'm working on a very large personal project to demonstrate (and practice)
process and artifacts and such. Would it be preferable to de-emphasize
several minor and tangentially-related items in order to promote one huge,
unfinished, very relevant project? Or is it more likely that I'm just not
presenting the less-relevant work effectively or appropriately? ;-)

I'm also coming from a more development-oriented background, which doesn't
seem to resonate with many people. (Anybody want
IA/IxD/UX/PHP/SQL/C++/OpenGL/OMGWTFBBQ?) In a few cases, it seemed as though
mentioning development experience actually hurt me more than it helped --
which makes sense given the number of developers who don't seem to discern
between solution and implementation. I'm steadfast in my belief that
technical knowledge can add value to design (when applied appropriately,
just like any other discipline or tool,) so I don't want to just omit it
from my resume/portfolio, but it seems as though some employers/people
almost consider it a negative.... Has anybody else experienced this?

---------------------------
Steven Pautz
seeking junior- to mid-level IxD/IA/UX/UCD work
http://stevenpautz.com/portfolio/
________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA Register today:
http://interaction08.ixda.org/

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30 Oct 2007 - 7:02pm
Robert Reimann
2003

Jason,

I think a lot of agencies are interested primarily in hiring senior
level talent, because, beyond the raw talent as Dan describes it,
there is also a need to be able to communicate with clients, manage
time and project work, and coordinate with other team members that
usually comes with industry experience. Many agencies run at a fast
enough pace that it is tricky to train very junior people on the job.

Going the in-house route may be a better first step in building your
portfolio; in-house departments often have more time to invest in a
talented but inexperienced junior designer. The right in-house
department can have plenty of talented and experienced folks to learn
from and be mentored by, and the knowledge gained by seeing the
in-house process from the inside is invaluable if you later move into
agency work.

Good luck!

Robert.

--
Robert Reimann
President
Interaction Design Association (IxDA)

Associate Creative Director
frog design
Seattle, WA

30 Oct 2007 - 8:16pm
Caroline Jarrett
2007

Hi Steve (and others searching for jobs)

I had a quick look at your portfolio site, and now I'm going to be
honest (but I hope you'll take this as constructive criticism).

Let's look at it through the eyes of someone looking for a mid-level
designer. My goal: I want someone who can design, for a client, today.

First thing that hits me:
"Painter Training in Virtual Reality
Master's Thesis
My Master's thesis for the HCI program at Iowa State: a VR-based spray
painter training simulation "

OK, he's got a master's, that's nice. But is writing a thesis the same
as designing?
OK, he knows about virtual reality. But I'm churning out [insert
rather ordinary type of app/product here]. Does he know anything about
ordinary stuff?
OK, he can copy text from links to description. And now I know where
he got that master's. But is that a prestigious program? Have I ever
heard of it? Isn't this just adding to what he's told me?

Hmm, I'm getting a bit bored now. Let's look at the text above all
this:
"This is actively under construction. Content and design are both
evolving".

Oooh. Sharp intake of breath...and not really in a good way.

Steve, I'm not going to carry on like this. All I can say is: I don't
think your current portfolio is doing you justice. A longer
exploration of it convinced me that you've got a lot to offer. Have
another go at it. Think again about your audience, do some testing of
your site, use all those skills that you've got. If in doubt about
what to do, buy Ginny Redish's book 'Letting go of the words' and let
her guide you.

And jobseekers in general might be interested in this short article,
more of a rant actually:
"How not to get a job in usability"
http://www.usabilitynews.com/news/article1841.asp

Caroline Jarrett
caroline.jarrett at effortmark.co.uk
01525 370379

Effortmark Ltd
Usability - Forms - Content
:
: On 10/30/07, Steven Pautz <spautz at gmail.com> wrote:
: > I'm also trying to "break into" the field. I've haven't been
searching
: > nearly as long, but I'm having some similar experiences.
: > http://stevenpautz.com/portfolio/

30 Oct 2007 - 10:33pm
SemanticWill
2007

Steven, Jason, and others looking:
1. Fresh out of school, an agency is just not the place to work. Not only
would I recommend trying for an inside position - I would try for one in
something like a company's marketing department; then as you gain
experience, you can begin to insidiously practice good IA/IxD or whatever
path you really want to follow within that role as you learn to evangelize
your process to those around you. The pace, deliverables, and client-facing
facts about agency work cannot be understated, and even "junior" people in
Agencies tend to have at least 3 years experience.
2. I agree with Dan that besides the hygiene issue (some normative
baseline), I want to be wow'ed. Take a existing Fortune 500 site, rip it
apart, and tell me all the things wrong with it, and then offer some ideas
about how you would: restructure the navigation, re-label the taxonomy, and
then do it. You could even be just a bit iconoclastic -- for instance take a
guru in our field, and there are many, that can talk the talk, but their
sites are pretty bad by most objective UX standards. Help them out -
redesign a gurus site and explain why yours is better. Email me and I will
point you to some :-)
3. The language of your portfolio must be perfect, and professional.
Caroline's article is a little harsh - but I agree. I have tossed resumes in
the trash for a misspelling ("I am a very detial oriented person," was
written on one resume")
4. A key part of our field is understanding the audience, understanding the
user. When you design your portfolio - it is not for your friends. Look at
the types of places you really want to work - and mimic the tone, design,
language. Create your portfolio for the place you want to work. I once
really wanted a job as an IxD for a company in town. I redesigned their
entire site, with critique, and sent it with my resume and a cover letter
describing what I had done, and why I wanted to work with them.
5. The proof is in the pudding. The thing about our field is that there are
a lot of tangible deliverables. Even if it's just a hobby site of yours -
create a complete site (or application), with wireframes, sitemaps,
navigation structure, task flows and narratives. This really doesn't take as
long as it sounds.

Feel free to email me if you need ideas.

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"
-------------------------------------------------------
will evans
user experience architect
wkevans4 at gmail.com
-------------------------------------------------------

31 Oct 2007 - 12:11am
Gilbert Beveridge
2007

Is there such a thing as open source IxD ? I mean I see lot's of open
source software that needs some help with the IxD . Is there a way to
integrate a "cutting of teeth" on a open source project ? I mean
Blender, Gimp, Inkscape and Open Office are all well known Open
source projects, not to mention Ubuntu, Linux and all the other
flavors of Linux. How does one go about approaching a project that
might benefit from this discipline ? Just a thought....

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://gamma.ixda.org/discuss?post=21947

31 Oct 2007 - 7:32am
bminihan
2007

Good points about portfolios, and I like the article, Caroline =]

On the subject of portfolios, and speaking as one "for whom the shoemaker's
children has no clothes", I thought I would add a little to the discussion.

My point is that a portfolio/resume is but one way to get a job, and (if you
believe "What Color is my Parachute?"), not even the best way. A
portfolio/resume can only (at best) illustrate concrete examples of your
work, and can never replace direct experience watching you in your native
habitat, doing what you do best.

If you're like me, and your portfolio web site is an ongoing experiment in
Fireworks, and you're just too swamped "doing what you do best" and actually
improving things where you work, an alternative (maybe better) way to land a
job in Usability is to embed it in everything you do, and (most important)
make sure someone versed in usability watches you do it. As time goes on,
use your network to learn about companies that do usability well, or those
that are open to using it. Whether you're experienced or just out of
college, you'll want to find the right company anyway, and you can only
learn so much from their web site. Think about it, how much can you learn
about a company's culture, how it treats employees, and its approach to
usability just from its web site? Same goes for your resume and portfolio.
Nothing really replaces what respected people can say about you...

Of course, if you're just out of college, and you're just in no position
whatsoever to influence a network of usability contacts, you may really need
a dynamite portfolio and resume. Sadly, what Caroline says is true...if you
only have one chance to get someone's attention, and it has to be in writing
or website form, it has to do all of your talking for you, and pretty much
should be perfect. Of course, it stands to reason the more you can avoid
that situation by demonstrating your experience, the less you'll have to
rely on a perfect web site.

Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Caroline Jarrett
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2007 9:17 PM
To: Steven Pautz
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Tips on "breaking into" IA/ID/UxD industry
forrecent graduates?

Hi Steve (and others searching for jobs)

I had a quick look at your portfolio site, and now I'm going to be
honest (but I hope you'll take this as constructive criticism).

Let's look at it through the eyes of someone looking for a mid-level
designer. My goal: I want someone who can design, for a client, today.

First thing that hits me:
"Painter Training in Virtual Reality
Master's Thesis
My Master's thesis for the HCI program at Iowa State: a VR-based spray
painter training simulation "

OK, he's got a master's, that's nice. But is writing a thesis the same
as designing?
OK, he knows about virtual reality. But I'm churning out [insert
rather ordinary type of app/product here]. Does he know anything about
ordinary stuff?
OK, he can copy text from links to description. And now I know where
he got that master's. But is that a prestigious program? Have I ever
heard of it? Isn't this just adding to what he's told me?

Hmm, I'm getting a bit bored now. Let's look at the text above all
this:
"This is actively under construction. Content and design are both
evolving".

Oooh. Sharp intake of breath...and not really in a good way.

Steve, I'm not going to carry on like this. All I can say is: I don't
think your current portfolio is doing you justice. A longer
exploration of it convinced me that you've got a lot to offer. Have
another go at it. Think again about your audience, do some testing of
your site, use all those skills that you've got. If in doubt about
what to do, buy Ginny Redish's book 'Letting go of the words' and let
her guide you.

And jobseekers in general might be interested in this short article,
more of a rant actually:
"How not to get a job in usability"
http://www.usabilitynews.com/news/article1841.asp

Caroline Jarrett
caroline.jarrett at effortmark.co.uk
01525 370379

Effortmark Ltd
Usability - Forms - Content
:
: On 10/30/07, Steven Pautz <spautz at gmail.com> wrote:
: > I'm also trying to "break into" the field. I've haven't been
searching
: > nearly as long, but I'm having some similar experiences.
: > http://stevenpautz.com/portfolio/

________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://gamma.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://gamma.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://gamma.ixda.org/help

31 Oct 2007 - 8:23am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

Will and others make some very good points. One small point that you
might consider as your are starting is to keep a good historical
timeline of your projects including sketches on napkins, rough
diagrams, flow charts, etc.. I've interviewed a few candidates who did
this and could express the evolution of their design thinking and
found it quite impressive as well as showing that they were well
organized and open to new ideas. The portfolios I have seen are more
feasible in paper and digital photo format. A simple thing you can do
is to simply to annotate screen shots with both positive and negative
issues (I think that Will mentioned that below). Before and after
shots with notes about the design principles you applied (say Gestalt
principles or HF principles, etc.) would be good. I like to see
storyboards (which are much discussed in UX and usability and IA
areas, but not quite as common as I would expect).

I think that the advice about locating or using the experience of
others on forums like this is an excellent one. It used to be that
companies would hire good people form college and teams would mentor
them. I had John Whiteside, Tom Spine, Michael Good, and Dennis Wixon
(all superb usability and design colleagues as mentors) and learned a
lot from them. Unfortunately, the design world seems to move at such
a pace now that even want-to- be-mentors seldom have enough time for
mentees.

Chauncey

On 10/30/07, W Evans <wkevans4 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Steven, Jason, and others looking:
> 1. Fresh out of school, an agency is just not the place to work. Not only
> would I recommend trying for an inside position - I would try for one in
> something like a company's marketing department; then as you gain
> experience, you can begin to insidiously practice good IA/IxD or whatever
> path you really want to follow within that role as you learn to evangelize
> your process to those around you. The pace, deliverables, and client-facing
> facts about agency work cannot be understated, and even "junior" people in
> Agencies tend to have at least 3 years experience.
> 2. I agree with Dan that besides the hygiene issue (some normative
> baseline), I want to be wow'ed. Take a existing Fortune 500 site, rip it
> apart, and tell me all the things wrong with it, and then offer some ideas
> about how you would: restructure the navigation, re-label the taxonomy, and
> then do it. You could even be just a bit iconoclastic -- for instance take a
> guru in our field, and there are many, that can talk the talk, but their
> sites are pretty bad by most objective UX standards. Help them out -
> redesign a gurus site and explain why yours is better. Email me and I will
> point you to some :-)
> 3. The language of your portfolio must be perfect, and professional.
> Caroline's article is a little harsh - but I agree. I have tossed resumes in
> the trash for a misspelling ("I am a very detial oriented person," was
> written on one resume")
> 4. A key part of our field is understanding the audience, understanding the
> user. When you design your portfolio - it is not for your friends. Look at
> the types of places you really want to work - and mimic the tone, design,
> language. Create your portfolio for the place you want to work. I once
> really wanted a job as an IxD for a company in town. I redesigned their
> entire site, with critique, and sent it with my resume and a cover letter
> describing what I had done, and why I wanted to work with them.
> 5. The proof is in the pudding. The thing about our field is that there are
> a lot of tangible deliverables. Even if it's just a hobby site of yours -
> create a complete site (or application), with wireframes, sitemaps,
> navigation structure, task flows and narratives. This really doesn't take as
> long as it sounds.
>
> Feel free to email me if you need ideas.
>
>
> --
> ~ will
>
> "Where you innovate, how you innovate,
> and what you innovate are design problems"
> -------------------------------------------------------
> will evans
> user experience architect
> wkevans4 at gmail.com
> -------------------------------------------------------
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://gamma.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://gamma.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://gamma.ixda.org/help
>

31 Oct 2007 - 8:48am
Todd Warfel
2003

Great advice. The good news is that you guys still have a semester to
polish that portfolio, pick up a side project or two and learn and
prove yourself as someone who has raw talent, heart, and can contribute.

I think most of all, agencies are looking for someone who can
contribute and learn, not just learn.

On Oct 30, 2007, at 11:33 PM, W Evans wrote:

> 4. A key part of our field is understanding the audience,
> understanding the
> user. When you design your portfolio - it is not for your friends.
> Look at
> the types of places you really want to work - and mimic the tone,
> design,
> language. Create your portfolio for the place you want to work. I once
> really wanted a job as an IxD for a company in town. I redesigned
> their
> entire site, with critique, and sent it with my resume and a cover
> letter
> describing what I had done, and why I wanted to work with them.
> 5. The proof is in the pudding. The thing about our field is that
> there are
> a lot of tangible deliverables. Even if it's just a hobby site of
> yours -
> create a complete site (or application), with wireframes, sitemaps,
> navigation structure, task flows and narratives. This really doesn't
> take as
> long as it sounds.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

1 Nov 2007 - 1:08pm
Dante Murphy
2006

Some points to address from a number of respondents.

Steven Pautz:
I don't look at development experience (or any other ancillary skill) in
a negative light, as long as it's positioned as ancillary. I have no
interest in a candidate who markets himself as a Project Manager on his
resume, or leads off with examples of his development work. I'm hiring
an IxD, and I want one who is dedicated to that practice.

Where ancillary experience may work against you is when you have a ton
of experience as, for instance, an art director, but no real experience
in IxD. I may not be able to pay you based on your employment
experience because your ability to produce is only commensurate with an
entry-level IxD. This actually happened just recently, which is a shame
because I liked the candidate, but I have to be realistic about how
happy and retainable he'd be at that level.

Dan Saffer:
As so often happens, you're dead right. At the entry level, I want
talent and passion. At the senior level, I want talent, passion, and
experience. It's all incremental. And I totally agree, I can teach you
every skill you need if you have the passion and the talent.

Robert Reimann:
Can't speak for other agencies, but my company is absolutely interested
in entry-level IxDs. First of all, there aren't that many senior-level
candidates who are available AND are worth their weight in spit.
Second, I think it behooves a manager to plan for advancement,
attrition, and growth. Your department should be balanced and diverse.
Having nothing but aging all-stars is a recipe for inevitable collapse.
Anyone a Yankee fan?

Dmitry Nekravoski:
Driving a design to successful execution is EXTREMELY important in an
agency, especially one with ongoing relationships and in-house
development teams. I agree that development experience is relevant in
both scenarios, but this relevance is not limited to "innie" work.

Will Evans:
"Fresh out of school, an agency is just not the place to work."

It may not be right for everyone, but I absolutely disagree. I just had
my 3-month review with my newest full-timer, a recent grad from Drexel.
He's doing a great job, and not just by my estimation, I collected
feedback forms from his clients and collaborators.

As I said above, I like to keep my group balanced and diverse, and
experience is a factor in that. By taking a bit of a chance on this
recent grad, I'm getting great results from him AND a co-op for less
than most senior people would demand. And let's face it, there's a lot
of production-style work in every assignment. This is giving my
"junior" people a lot of exposure and experience, and lightening the
load on the more experienced staff.

At the same time, both the new guy and the co-op are getting great
experience on a variety of assignments, and are migrating from support
roles to leadership roles. They're doing things that I didn't get a
chance (as an "innie") to do until I'd been doing IxD for almost 3
years.

If a recent grad believes in himself and has the chops, I would outright
recommend agency work for the pace and diversity.

(I agree with the rest of what you have to say, Will.)

That said, if anyone out there is looking for entry-level work in '08,
keep in touch. Contact info below.

Dante

Dante Murphy | Director of Information Architecture | D I G I T A S H E
A L T H
229 South 18th Street, 2nd Floor | Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA
19103
Email: dmurphy at digitashealth.com | www.digitashealth.com

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