Opportunities for recent grads?

25 Mar 2011 - 5:27am
4 years ago
4 replies
1799 reads

Dear All:

I'm an aspiring designer and currently finishing grad program from one of the best universities in US and Bay Area. Most the my colleagues (including myself) who are focusing on HCI/UX in their grad studies are having trouble finding jobs. Its not that we have bad profiles (or even portfolios). We've worked on several of exciting projects and some hard UX problems. Number of us have publications in prestigious conferences like CHI/UIST/ CSCW etc. Yet, most of us are finding it hard to land a job in the areas of UX/HCI/IxD. Also, we are not straight out of school. We are in a grad school and we've worked for couple of years in lot of different roles like engineer, content strategist, editor, graphic designer etc. People tell us that UX folks are in high demand (heck, Quora had an epic discussion on this topic). Still, we feel nobody wants to hire right out of college designers. For example, I have background in front-end engineering and worked couple of years. Yet, whenever I apply to any jobs, following are the reasons I get in rejection:

Solid portfolio but:

  • Not enough visual design experince
  • We want someone with strong Information Architecture work
  • No service design
  • Too little of mobile UX experience
  • etc...

A friend of mine worked as a graphic desginer for top print agency for almost 3 years and she always gets following responses:

  • Well, we want someone who is proficient in HTML/CSS
  • We are looking designer who can build their stuff
  • No user research background
  • etc.

I totally understand that every UX professional *has* to be master of everything from visual design to user experience, content strategy to information architecture, interaction design to service design. Its not an easy field. But do you honestly want *every* skill in a new grad? Even if you find all these skills in experienced designer; I bet he/she will be a rockstar. Yet most of the companies (currently hiring designers) want to hire such rockstars? Are there enough rockstars first of all? But everyone wants to know why there is stunningly short supply of designers everywhere (not just valley btw).

Compare this to engineering. Everyone wants to hire new grads. As I said, I've worked as an engineer and hired some new grads too. None of the new grads were good enough when compared to experienced engineers at first. Some of them were good at front-end stuff or some really good at back-end work. But they were hardly a complete software engineer that everyone wants to hire. Actually, most of the promising new grads in engineering are really good at algorithms and hardly know one or two programming languages. Yet every single company hires them and *trains* them in number of programming languages. There is learning curve of few months. But the sheer raw talent they bring is worth the hassle.

Of course, it would be foolish to compare engieering to UX given the sheer number of oppportunities. But in tech industry, design is getting its rightful place next to engineering. Designers play important role in every product. So why design (as a field) does not follow engineerng.

Its not a rant. Its a genuine question to this wonderful design community.

P.S. its not entirely true in reality as only handful of biggies hire new grads, right out of college. But majority wants experinced rockstars


28 Mar 2011 - 5:01am
Sean Pook

Hi there,

I'm a UX recruiter and know the jobs market very well. Here are some points to consider:

- You're right. Companies rarely want to hire direct from college and 2-3 years 'commercial' experience is the base board for most roles, But how do you get that? Chicken and egg

- If you studied HCI or Interaction Design or User Experience design and want to work in this area - avoid web development roles at all costs. Once in this field you will find it very hard to go back

- Contrary to your statement, employers looks for specialists. UX professionals are not expected to know everything and tend to specialise in one area (whilst understanding what the others do). You will find user researchers, Information Architects, Interaction Designers, Visual UI Designers. I know only one or two candidates in the world who can do all four as effectively as the best specialists. Companies that understand user experience and have more than two cents to spend on hiring staff will look for specialists. You are setting yourself up for a fall if you market yourself as a generalist. However, this applies to your career later on. As a grad - you are a generalist.

My advice is to research the top agencies working in UX today, and trying everything you can to get an internship for up to 18 months. Once you have this experience on your CV you will find getting your next job a whole lot easier. Once you have 3-4 years experience you will have job offers thrown at you from all directions. Don’t give up hope- this is a great career once you get past the initial 2 year hurdle.

This is the biggest down-side to the user experience industry - there is no clear route to commercial experience from graduation. To recap - stay clear of Web development roles unless that's what you want to do, ensure your portfolio is better than everyone else’s, and start knocking on the door of top UX agencies.

Good luck!!!

Sean Pook

Head of Design and UX Recruitment at IC Creative


1 Apr 2011 - 10:14am

Hi motely,

I can't speak for other companies, but here at Walmart I have an entry level Information Architect position to fill go to http://walmartstores.com/careers/apply/default.aspx?reqid=16488BR to see the job description and apply.


Nick Hoh

2 Apr 2011 - 9:54am

Hi Nick,

maybe it would be a good idea if you would post your job offers on the IAsummit (http://2011.iasummit.org/) "discussion" http://ias2011.crowdvine.com/ 

so long,


25 Oct 2011 - 5:00am

Sometimes a solid portfolio and good school rreformance is not enough for a recent graduate mainly because most employers are looking for experienced people, and today's job market is tough, that's why I chose to take an online masters of public administration degree that allowed me to work and study at the same time. When I graduated I already had more hands-on experience in my field than any other recent graduate and it helped me find a better job.

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