A Great Way to Get Experience as an Interaction Designer? Intern.

I covered a list of expectations I have for new user experience designers. Some lucky designers graduate straight from school into working at company; the rest of us have to break in the field any way they can.

The best way into the user experience field is interning.

I know that it may seem like working for free, but the experience is invaluable, and it helps build your network. You can do if after you graduate (if you haven’t done it before), and it’s a good way to build your portfolio so you have something to show on job interviews.  It also might lead to a full time job if they like you, and I would rather hire someone that had an internship because it shows they are willing to invest in their future and not in it for the cash.

Even returning students, like Erin Moore, took internships that were hugely valuable — she spend time at Twitter. She’s good enough she didn’t need to.

Great designers are not born, but grow through experience and learning from other great designers.

Here’s a few ways to find a great internship.

Search internship job sites and job boards

Companies I talk to find it hard to get interns because many  designers  don’t want to work for rates lower how they  perceived   their value even though they lack the skills to effectively do their jobs. They’re taking to the internet to find candidates whereas in years past, you would have had to know someone.  Many internships are listed on sites like Internships.com (a past client of mine) and InternMatch, and they tend to be larger companies so you get to see the internal workings of IBM and other Fortune 500 firms.

Opportunities are also listed on general job boards and through career sites. Over 8,000 internship listings are available through Jobvite’s Facebook application. Meetup.com is one of the companies looking for Design Interns.

Follow Interaction Designers on Twitter and read their blogs

Install TweetDeck, News Gator learn how to use ifttt.com to get email alerts, and find interaction designers to follow. The very first place they’ll list internships is on their Twitter feeds and their blogs.

Nadyne Richmond of VMWare has a few internships available right now, and the first place you would have read about them is on her blog.  HUGE, the interactive agency, is another one that talks about their UX Design School program (entries are closed). And searching on Twitter is your best friend; there are hundreds of results every day.

I also have several Twitter lists categorized by location of Twitter users who are User Experience designers to follow, and I’m always curating that list. I would reach out and start a conversation with the designers on the lists.

Go to local meetups

Personal networking is an another way to get started in the field. Many companies host meetups to find great talent. You can also get advice from other designers in the field on how they got started.

In San Francisco (where I live), UX Eye for Developer Guy is a meetup that pairs engineers with designers to create great products and get feedback on ideas.  Many companies sponsor the meetup, and it’s regularly hosted at organizations looking for interns. The UX Happy Hour also is a great way to meet designers that might have opportunities. The Happy Hour is growing to metropolitan areas like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

All you have to ask, “Is your company looking for someone to break into the business?” What’s the worst they could say…no?

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