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Job Search and Recruiting Tips from an UMSI Alum

Every now and then, we'll get some words of advice from an alumnus who is out in the field. I always ask if we can share this, and of course, they always agree as they want their knowledge and experience and tips shared to help everyone. See below for some tips that this alumnus thought would be helpful based on several conversations that have been had with SI students over the past few years:

1. Female students don't seem to be familiar with the Grace Hopper Conference going on right now in Atlanta. From previous students I've heard that it was a very important place to make connections and I know a few people that actually got jobs from there.

2. Conferences in general don't seem to be high on students' list of priorities. There is usually a way to attend for a reduced price or for free through volunteer or stipend opportunities and that students should explore these options so that they can attend conferences, which are usually a great networking opportunity.

3. Almost every student that I've talked to indicated to be interested in developing for mobile devices. This is great, but I want to make sure that they are aware that they will be joining a pool of already very talented people when they come fresh from college. Being familiar with design for mobile is expected, but it does not mean they will be working on iphone/android/ipad apps all day right from the start. I think it's important to know that having worked on a mobile app for a class project and owning an iphone (yes, I had this comment) will not be enough. I also want to make sure that students don't specialize themselves too much for the job world by focusing on mobile design, since there is already a very big group of people working on these products and the experience of a 2-year grad program won't prepare them enough for this niche. They need to make sure to also have some presentable work for "web" projects.

4. Quite a few people are still undecided about research versus interaction design which I understand but at large internet companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple, these positions rarely overlap. Students need to know the difference and pursue opportunities that will provide them with the relevant experience for these separate, but related fields. Check out these links to get a general idea of the differences:
User Experience Research
User Experience Design
Interaction Design

I also think that students mix up the role of a UX designer with a specific job description. Most of the times UX design is the practice within a company that has a UX department along with engineering and project management. User Researcher and Interaction Designers can both be User Experience Designers.

5. When students talk to employers they should make sure to at least know one or a few products from that employer. Even if it's just to start a conversation. I am pretty surprised that many students did not know anything about what we do at my company, one of the largest internet firms in the world. I also had a student respond "I'm not that big of a fan of {your company}", which is not the best statement in any situation of job searching.

Posted by kkowatch at October 4, 2010 10:50 AM


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