Third in a series. Read Beth’s other Getting Into UX posts here.
It’s not an easy task to get hired for your first job in UX. It’s an especially difficult task when you don’t know anyone in the industry. Meeting other people will get your name out in the community, and there’ll be a better chance you’ll hear about awesome job postings.
Being a part of an active community is also a really great way to learn more. And there’s always someone out there who will be excited to help you learn and get connected.
There are a couple great ways to do this:
Join a professional organization, or at least start attending their events. If you’re in the Minneapolis area, I’d suggest checking out these great professional organizations: IxDA Twin Cities, UXPA MN, AIGA MN, and MIMA. Events are often free or inexpensive ($10-20), and you almost never have to be a member to attend. If you’re in a large city, you may find a local chapter of one of the above organizations is equally awesome. These organizations will expose you to great local (and sometimes national) speakers, and you’ll often get the chance to check out company digs.
Attend a meetup! Meetups (specifically organized on meetup.com) are usually similar to events put on by professional organizations, but sometimes they are as simple as a few folks grabbing coffee or happy hour and talking about UX. There are a bunch in the Twin Cities, with more popping up every month. A few great ones to check out are Minnesota Web Designers, TC UX, UX Design Discussion, Lean UX MN, Content Strategy Minneapolis/St. Paul, Behavior MN, Girls in Tech Minneapolis, and Skyway Software Symposium.
Work socially, if you can. If you have the type of flexibility that allows you to work away from your office, try working at a co-working space occasionally. You’ll get a chance to meet a lot of other folks, and most have good distinctions between “socializing” space and “getting stuff done” space. There are many coworking spaces in the Twin Cities area, and most offer low-commitment levels of membership, like one day a month. There are a few that will also let you drop-in or come as the guest of a member. Interested? Look into CoCo, MN Social Impact Center, Joule, Restore Collaborative, Startup Venture Loft, Workaround, and Intermedia ArtsHub.
Contact people in the industry you admire, and offer to buy them coffee in exchange for their thoughts. Okay, so the actual term for this is “informational interview,” but I think that term is both really clinical and really misleading. If you think someone’s job is rad, talk to them about it! If you have no idea what a career in information architecture might look like, find someone local and invite them for coffee. Twitter is frequently the place to start making this happen. I’ve had people come to me through a simple DM, and I’ve asked people to meet for coffee through both Twitter and LinkedIn. This is something I still try to do often as it’s been a great way to learn more about new areas, and connect with people who might be good speakers at my meetup group.
When I first started in UX, I wanted to go to things like An Event Apart, Confab, and UIE. While those are all incredible conferences, you don’t need to look far or have a lot saved up to start getting integrated in your local community, right now.
Disclaimer: I am a co-organizer for the meetup group Lean UX MN.