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things you need to get an IA/UX job

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I’ve been working with a few new IAs recently, all hoping to get their first jobs.

Some common themes have come out of those conversations about things they need to learn or prepare, in order to get that job.

1. A portfolio, showing a range of UX activities

Mostly people know they need to do this. And even more frequently they are concerned that they don’t have enough material or enough worthy material.

Often you’ll be asked to bring a portfolio to interview. It’s worth bringing even if not asked as you may need to illustrate your answers to questions.

Make sure the portfolio covers a full range of UX activities. Even if you haven’t got professional experience doing user interviews, producing wireframes and running usability tests, you need to find a way to get something in your portfolio to demonstrate what you know. That might be academic projects, volunteering/work experience, or stuff you’ve done purely for your own development. These *may* not be rated as highly as professional experience but they are far far better than having nothing to show.

(don’t be afraid to re-do documentation as you learn more)

2. Ability to do test UX exercises

Increasingly employers will set you an IA/UX activity to complete either before the interview or on the day. Typically you’ll get a brief describing the problem and you’ll need to describe the steps/methods you’d use, propose at least a partial solution and maybe some documentation.

So you need to understand the methodology and what tools are used when and why. Don’t over agonise about the solution you propose – just make sure you show your thinking and where you’ve had to make assumptions. Also don’t over-do the detail of the documentation – if you’ve already got high fidelity wireframes in your portfolio then it may be just as effective to do sketches and very rough documentation for this “think-piece”.

3. Experience with the software

Entry level IA/UX jobs often involve taking on a lot of the effort of producing the documentation from your senior colleagues. Often what is needed at the junior level is not about what makes a successful experienced IA. Whilst employers are looking for evidence of creative UX thinking and the potential to become one of their superstars, they also want someone who can contribute in some way whilst learning and developing.

Many junior roles will inherit a set of complex wireframes in the organisation’s preferred software (Visio, Axure, Omnigraffle, Illustrator and so on) and so the preference is for someone who can hit the ground running.

The software isn’t cheap, so can be difficult to skill up in if you don’t already have access to it. Trial versions are available for some and it’s worthwhile getting these and spending some concentrated time learning how to use them and producing some deliverables.

It’s also worth finding out about the strengths and weaknesses of each package for producing UX documentation. You might get asked.

4. Knowledge of the basic design patterns

In the UX field the stated emphasis is on user research and new creative designs. In reality a lot of designs are primarily composed of reasonably standard design patterns.

You need to know these. You need to know the ordinary but basically effective patterns for navigation, search, article pages, video and so on. Norms are probably more established in web publishing and e-commerce than social media and mobile design.

You might have a great and innovative idea for doing things differently. But you need to show you understand where you are innovating from (at least in most conventional recruitment scenarios).

So explore published pattern libraries, create your own for your organisation, or just collect your favourites.

Written by Karen

November 18th, 2010 at 11:09 am

Posted in junior ia

tactics for finding work

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Recession-Proof Graduate is getting attention mostly for Charlie’s advocacy of working for free but there’s lots of good stuff about how to approach your career. None of it is rocket science but it is the sort of stuff we lose sight of when job hunting.

View more documents from choehn.

Some quotes, mostly from the stories contributed by others interesingly enough:

“Postpone getting paid now, for amazing opportunities later”

“I quickly figured out that the most important thing to do in college was to not focus on getting great grades, but to get out of the classroom and start working for people to build a solid portfolio.”

“I learned more from my Google Reader than I ever did in graduate  school.”

“There are absolutely no rules to what you can put on your blog.”

“Very few job seekers take the time to actually put themselves in the shoes of the people they want to work for.”

Also a must-read in this domain is Avinash Kaushik on Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World!. Gold dust if you want a career in analytics but still applicable to everyone else too.

Written by Karen

August 18th, 2009 at 6:27 am

Posted in career,junior ia

knowledge officer role at RNIB

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The RNIB is recruiting a Knowledge Officer role:
Knowledge Officer – Ref: 5155.

This is part of my team and would include some information architecture work (with me!). Some of the role would be involved in designing system solutions to knowledge sharing problems but the role is also about coming up with people and process solutions.

The systems side might be about intranet and extranets, document management, collaboration tools, people directories.  Probably quite a bit of SharePoint here.

The people and process side might be about communities of practice, knowledge cafes, learning lunches, improved communications, workshop facilitation, maybe  training solutions.

Imagine how you would improve knowledge sharing within customer helpline staff, between a group of home-workers, or across the busy project managers working in different departments. Different combinations of technical and process solutions will be appropriate for each group.

The RNIB calls it KM but you could even consider the combined role to be about cross-channel design. Or enterprise IA.

Non-profit rates, I’m afraid.

Written by Karen

April 16th, 2009 at 10:59 am

Posted in junior ia,rnib

IA-ish training roles in the North West

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Amongst the trainee web developer and designer roles that Northwest Vision and Media are championing, there’s a project co-ordinator role that looks like a good way to pick up some IA skills.

Have a look at the details of the Digital Placements particularly the Mando Group’s Project Co-ordinator.

The role will compliment (sic) Mando Group’s consultancy in requirements analysis and project management, particularly at the start of projects and seeing through to the end of the production cycle.

Client & user requirements gathering include conducting:
• Consultative workshop contribution and eventual facilitation
• Stakeholder interviews
• Industry & Competitor analysis
• User interviews, focus groups, and testing
• Other requirements gathering methodologies as and when required
• General project management and risk analysis

Requirements documentation & analysis:
• Documentation of all requirements gathered such as user testing reports, content
inventories, and other consultative documentation
• Produce proposed strategy, concept models, flowcharts, wireframes, and client & user
analysis (inc. Personas)

Written by Karen

October 30th, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Posted in junior ia

junior IA @ Defaqto

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2 month contract with Defaqto, no salary mentioned. Yet again junior means at least one year of experience.

“We require a Junior Information Architect to join the business, supporting
ongoing web site development. Working with the Senior IA, you will be
responsible for producing wire frames, sitemaps, user journeys / story
boards and user scenarios considering the usability of the client’s
Websites. You will need a minimum of one year of experience as an
Information Architect, preferably for a major agency”

from London-IA

Written by Karen

July 9th, 2008 at 11:35 am

Posted in junior ia

junior IA/designer at London agency

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I’ve come across a few ads for a junior IA/designer that I think are for the same job. Always interesting to see the differences in how agencies advertise the same role.

From Skillbrokers, advertising for a Junior Information Architect/Designer

SME based in the centre of the West End is looking for a junior information architect/designer – the technical environment is made up of: photoshop, HTML, CSS, Wireframing tool (such as visio or axure), Ecommerce/ebusiness.

Ideally you will be able to demonstrate some experience in this area, have design experience, but want to become an information architect with a passion for user experience and business performance above design aesthetics – you will need to have a solid understanding of Web design and development along with a working knowledge of Web technologies, be well versed in tools such as illustrator, Photoshop and visio, an understanding of digital agency processes.

You will either be a Web designer with a good grasp of user experience design looking to move into information architecture or an Information Architect with a good eye for design.

And from ABRS, advertising for an Information Architect/Designer

Junior Information Architect / Designer sought by leading consultancy to create wireframes, site blue prints and input into the functional specification. You should be able to turn these into high quality site designs as well as contributing to other design projects.

You should have good photoshop knowledge, good understanding of HTMLS and SS, and wireframing tool (such as Visio or Axure).

To succeed in this role you will have some design experience and want to become an information architect with a passion for user experience. This is an excellent opportunity to develop competencies on high profile projects for someone with limited experience but with the right attitude and skills.

Written by Karen

June 25th, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Posted in junior ia

volunteering: get IA skills to get out of the no-experience trap

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Pretty much every job ad asks for experience, which can make trying to break into a new field seem nigh-on impossible at times.

If you are trying to break into information architecture and hitting the ‘experience-required’ brick wall then consider doing some volunteering:

  1. The IA Institute is always looking for volunteers. There’s a list of opportunities on their website and most of them can be done anywhere in the world.
  2. Use the advanced search on do-it.org and select ‘computers, technology and website development’ to get results for charities looking for help with their websites. Or try idealist.org or the equivalent service in your part of the world.
  3. Approach a local charity direct and offer to help with their website. Usually they’ll be looking for help write, publishing and troubleshooting but you can start there and suggest other improvements as you go along.
  4. Get familiar with how people use technology – volunteer to help teach basic IT skills. Age Concern are currently looking for IT trainers and Help the Aged run a similar scheme. Schools and other community groups are often looking for help like this as well. Try the same computers search on do-it.org but narrow with the keyword ‘trainer’.

Volunteering gives you an opportunity to try out what you’ve read about, build up your portfolio and it is great experience at making IA improvements with a limited budget (or more normally, no budget). That’ll be attractive to any employer.

Written by Karen

June 24th, 2008 at 10:19 am

Posted in career,junior ia

junior IA in Bristol

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There’s a junior IA job being advertised on Total Jobs for an un-named company in Bristol.

It isn’t a complete junior as they are looking for 2 years experience which isn’t really junior in my book (or in the current state of the recruitment market, more importantly). They also want someone with the “ability to make complicated problems easy” which sounds like a very marketable skills that might be worth a bit more than “up to £250/day”. But maybe that’ll work in Bristol.

Interestingly the role comes with the opportunity to work from home 3-4 days a week.

Written by Karen

June 12th, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Posted in junior ia

junior UX consultant @ Foviance

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Foviance are hiring a junior UX-er.

“…looking for somebody who:

• Has a degree (BA or MSc) in user experience or related field (such
as technical communications, human-computer interaction (HCI),
psychology etc.).

• Has the ability to professionally present research and analysis to
internal and external stakeholders.

• Has a genuine passion for user and customer experience, and has the
ability to communicate that passion in an informed and professional

• Has a valid UK work permit.”

Email clare.mitchellcrow@foviance.com

Written by Karen

June 2nd, 2008 at 10:57 am

Posted in junior ia

Looking for work experience?

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We still have space to offer an IA work experience placement this summer, preferably July or early August.

You can get more information from the BBC work experience site or it might be simpler to read IA work experience on this site.

Written by Karen

May 13th, 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in bbc,junior ia