GA UX Grads Need To Stop Passing Off Class Projects As Real Work
Denis Lesak

I’m a 15 year seasoned UX, and registered mentor for both the IAI, and IxDA. A close friend graduated from the SF GA program in March 2016 and I attended the graduation. Several of the grads had little or no UX or design work outside of projects they had done in class. They asked for some advice, and this is what I told them I would do, if my portfolio was limited to GA work alone.

  1. Find some websites and applications that are old, or problematic, and in need of a redesign, then redesign them. These could be non-responsive sites, or just plain Old sites or applications with poor navigation, visual issues, content problems, or other. Sketch out a new solution, then put the old on the left, and your new representation on the right. You can do this in visual form, using Sketch, Omnigraffle (low fidelity), or go all the way and prototype it in invision, Marvel, Wordpress or Bootstrap. Take a screenshot, and add a link to the prototype. Below the visuals (screenshot of the old site, and wireframe or visual mock of your solution), have 2 short supporting statements below the images stating: Problem (a few sentences or bullets) and Solution (what you did to fix existing issues in bullets). Do as many as possible, until you fill up some portfolio space. This will offer the designer not only more samples to share with recruiters and hiring managers, but will put you in a place where you not only challenge yourself, but show how you think. Keep it simple, 2 images (before and after), then short problem and solution paragraphs and/or bullets. People who are looking to hire you generally scan. The shorter the content, the better. It may not be paid work, but this “spec” work will enhance your abilities, and could allow you to submit the solution to site owners as a potential way to get paid work by saying, “Hi, i took a look at your current site/app, and saw some issues that could be fixed with a little UX work. I would like to bid to redesign it. Would you like me to quote it?”.
  2. Get on Indeed or Craigs, search for UX, and go to the bottom of the last page. Apply for Everything starting from the oldest post to the newest. This will benefit you in 3 ways: 1. You will learn what rejection feels like. 2. You will learn how to phone screen. 3. You will most likely get interviews. All 3 of these items are critical to getting jobs in the field.
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