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I will be graduating with a master degree in HCI and am interested in taking up ux designer roles in the industry. Most of the job openings require 5+ years of relevant exp and a portfolio to showcase that. I don't have the relevant experience but a couple of school projects to share. Can someone share thoughts on what I need to do become employable?

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4 Answers 4

I used MeetUp.com to find some UI/UX relevant groups in my area and attended the event to mix and mingle with other industry folk.

I was actually surprised that out of the 60 or so people there, only 10% of us had actual UX/UI experience. The rest were recruiters, company representatives, and other developers. At the beginning of the session, the audience was polled for anyone looking for a job, and then they got a quick opportunity to say who they were and what they were looking for.

Then, it was asked if anyone's company was hiring, and there were 4-5 companies actively looking for new hires. Same thing - quick introduction, what we do, and who we are looking for.

While I'm personally not looking for a job, I think community events like this are important to getting your name out. You are, essentially, demonstrating your skills in a live environment, and shaking hands with the people who are going to influence the hiring process. Make a statement with your skills, be vocal and active in the events, and I think you'll start getting some leads.

Everyone says it is all in who you know; I disagree - it is all in who knows you. These community events are perfect for that.

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Excellent points. As always, networking is the key. –  DA01 Jun 24 '11 at 19:00
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And speaking of networking, nothing beats the face-to-face opportunities, but you can do a lot with LinkedIn and Twitter as well. Start following local UXers on twitter or companies you want to work for. Answer a few questions. You never know (I actually got my current gig via twitter). –  DA01 Jun 24 '11 at 19:01
    
Exactly. I've found that if you make yourself really approachable and demonstrate knowledge, you're more likely to get poached. It's happened with a few of my friends. –  Nic Jun 24 '11 at 19:04

Don't sweat the specifics of job requirements. They're rarely a 1-1 match to reality. You should certainly have some form of example work, though...school projects at the very least.

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First, one of the nice things about being a designer is that you can build a lots of great stuff on your own and build a great portfolio without a lot of client work. Many designers have gotten great gigs by showing how they would tackle a difficult problem that, rather than just talking about it. If you want to build up a great portfolio try using greasemonkey or css to redesign an existing site (so it's still 100% functional, and live). E.g. better gmail.

Second, talk up your education. Higher education has been shown many times to be a good predictor of ability. Be able to article what edge your education gives you.

Third, most of the companies you want to work for almost never hire from incoming resumes. Get to know people in your field and find a way to talk to the people at the companies you want to work for in person. Oh, and build an incredible portfolio online that people will talk about and people will start talking to you!

Fourth, and this is more general, be humble and honest. That's also show to be a good indicator of a successful job seeker.

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Have a strong portfolio of projects.

Become active in communities like this one, both to continue learning/broadening your perspective and to show that you are active in the UX community.

Prove that you are a strong candidate, this can often override the experience requirement. I know many people who have gotten the jobs without the required experience simply because they displayed a strong set of skills and desire to learn in their interview. One of the most important things that an employer wants to see is that you are dedicated and driven and always eager to learn and adapt.

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