HCIM graduate student Vanessa Oguamanam talks about the insights she's gained in applying to internships, and the approaches that helped earn her a position at Google this summer.
OK, so I didn’t really “trick” Google into hiring me. I think it’s safe to say most of us
get this feeling when we undervalue our intelligence and capabilities by applying an
unfair higher standard to ourselves. I certainly did this when I was first offered the
job. I was in such shock that I completely downplayed the hard work and effort I put
into the application process to get here. I had to do some self-evaluation and
reflection to realize that this offer was very deserved because of how well I
prepared for it.
It took two long years of sacrifices and rejections from companies for UX positions,
for me to realize that the way I was approaching the job application process was
wrong. It wasn’t that I waited to the last minute to apply for positions or wrote
generic, boilerplate cover letters; it was just that my approach did not serve me well.
I used to apply for the UX jobs using a resume similar to the one I would use when
applying for software engineering positions. In addition, instead of putting in the
time to work on a portfolio, I would attach a couple PDFs displaying pictures of
screens that I’ve designed for some of my mobile application prototypes. I vowed
that this year I would change my approach and not only get an internship, but get
the internship of my dreams. Below I will provide 5 general tips to increase the
likelihood of securing the internship of your choice.
1. Be Confident
Remember the impostor syndrome I mentioned earlier? Let go of that mentality.
You are so much better than that! Also, you are more qualified for that position than
you think. Stop selling yourself short. Anytime I hear anyone talk about a company
like Google, they compare it to taking a jump shot. Each time you shoot the ball to
the basket, you are taking a chance. The problem here is that people convince
themselves that they will miss that shot even before taking it. That is to say, I’ve
heard students mention that they won’t even attempt to apply because they don’t
think they will get the job. So what’s the point of applying right? . . . WRONG!
I began my job hunt with the attitude that I am very much qualified for all the
positions I was applying to. Even if there were certain skills I didn’t have, I
approached each application as if I were the best candidate for them. Be confident
even if that means faking it until you make it. If you don’t believe that you are
qualified, you can’t convince any manager that you the right person for his or her
team or company. Not to sound cliché, but you must be your biggest cheerleader!
2. Be Persistent
Do NOT give up ever! Never quit trying and never stop applying. (Sorry for sounding
cliché again, last time, I promise.) Last year, I applied to over 20 UX industry
positions and got rejected by all of them. I threw a mini pity party for myself but
once that was over, I got back up and starting working on honing in on my UX skills.
As a result, I worked in the HCIL last summer to gain more experience in the field
and learned how to use some UX tools. My skillset became much stronger and I was
better qualified for the next round of applications.
3. Start Your Job Search Early
Although most positions are for the summer, be sure to start your job search early.
Winter break is the perfect time to start looking for positions, working
on crafting your resume, and building your portfolio. Keep a look out for the
positions that come in through the HCIL and HCIM listservs, as well as searching
directly on companies’ website.
4. Do Your Homework
It is important that you do research on the companies you want to apply for.
Additionally, do research on the position you are interested in applying for. You
should generally know what the company looks for in a candidate, and should frame
your portfolio and resume to highlight the skills and experience that are most
relevant to each potential employer. You can also find people on LinkedIn who have
worked in similar positions at companies you are applying to. Be sure to ask them
questions about what the company typically looks for in a candidate and the best way to
prepare for an interview.
5. Utilize Your Resources
There is a good chance that the faculty members in your program have worked with
companies that you may be applying to. Build relationships with the faculty in your
program and let them know what companies and which positions you are interested
in applying for. They may be able to forward your resume or recommend you to a
former colleague or a manager in the company. Also, talk to students in your cohort,
previous cohorts, and/or PhD students who have been in the program longer than
you have. Ask them how they secured their internships for the program and see what advice they have to offer. The good thing about our program is that for the
most part, everyone is approachable; so don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help.
In addition to talking to other students and faculty, attend career and professional
development events in the field of HCI put on by your school, program, and outside
of your school. For example, go to the career fairs, resume workshops, portfolio
building events, etc., especially if it’s being put on by the iSchool. I guarantee you
will walk away with crucial information that will support you and guide you through
the application process.
Now, this list is not exhaustive at all. I should have mentioned there are many ways
to secure internships, but these are just some of the things that have helped me
along the way. Hopefully you found these tips to be helpful. Good luck on your job
hunt! Can’t wait hear about the cool exciting positions you all are able to secure! I
know you can do it! Also, feel free to contact me if you have any questions at
nessaogu [AT] gmail [DOT] com.