Whether you like it or not, one of the cornerstones of getting into UX design is networking. Through networking, you’ll be able to form bonds and connections that will last you a lifetime and propel your career forward faster than you’d ever imagined.
Of course, we know that networking can be scary. Some people just aren’t entirely comfortable putting themselves out there.
However, if you follow our 4 simple steps, we can assure you that you will be able to come out of your shell more easily or reaffirm your confidence if you’re already an outgoing person.
Why Is Networking Important?
UX design is an ever-changing industry. New ideas are constantly being introduced as people keep researching customer interactions with technology and applying those ideas to elevate that coveted user experience.
Thus, by expanding your network and approaching people that work in your industry, you will be privy to those new research results and new techniques.
Essentially, through networking, you’re connecting with people that will allow you to remain on top of the UX game and not fall behind, stuck with outdated techniques that no longer work.
The other reason to engage in networking is a much simpler one – it’s to get yourself a job within the industry. As a young designer fresh out of college looking to work for one of the San Francisco web design agencies, you don’t stand much of a chance. However, with proper networking, you might be able to do just that.
The key, of course, is to keep putting yourself out there. Show off your skills, show off your experience, and don’t be afraid to approach people.
Yes, it might sound scary, especially if you’re an introvert, but remember that, as a designer, you’re part of the UX design community. There is no better place to find recognition and start a network than within your own community.
Where Can You Start?
Speaking of community, here are some places where you can stumble on members that you might reach out to.
LinkedIn has always been the most prominent hub where professionals tend to congregate, making it one of the first places to go if you want to meet people in your own industry.
The most prominent advantage of LinkedIn is, as we said, that it’s a place for professionals. If you want to check out and come into contact with some people that you admire from the industry, this is the place to go.
The opposite is true, too. If you want people to come to you, or if you’re trying to create a network for yourself and need to validate yourself and your successes, your best bet is to create a LinkedIn profile.
There, you can create a portfolio for yourself, and display your experience, your successful projects and your qualifications. From there, your potential contacts can verify if you are who you say you are, and if you’re as experienced and as knowledgeable as you say you are.
Though Twitter is a less-than-professional environment, it is still a social media platform, and, as such, is a great place to meet and follow people.
Not only that, but Twitter might be one of the best places to start a discussion. All you need to do is post a question, tag people, and voilà! People will flock to your tweet in a matter of minutes to give their two cents.
Twitter also allows you to “stalk” those who inspire you. Using the platform, you can follow your idols, learn more about them, follow their projects, listen to what they have to say about UX design, and, eventually, even become involved in their posts. This will be your first step at establishing contact with that person, and you can then easily take it from there.
Though forums are an outdated concept, they still live on through online communities.
Online communities take on many forms nowadays, mostly based on where they congregate.
Some like to hang out in Discord, others are engaged with a subreddit, and yet more are active on social media. The only effort you have to make is to sniff out those communities and find out where they hang out.
After that, things become much easier. The one great thing about communities such as these is that they’re usually very open and welcoming to new members.
People generally like to share their knowledge, and all you need to do is show interest in what they have to say, and you’ll be accepted into the community and onboarded in no time.
Though you’ll probably be interacting with like-minded individuals online, you should also make efforts to engage with them in real life.
This is where conferences come into play. Conferences are one of the best ways to meet and greet people from your community in real life and pick up important advice firsthand.
Of course, we’re well aware that meeting people in real life, especially people that you look up to, can be quite daunting, and you might feel quite uncomfortable.
However, if you think about it, these people probably went through the same learning process as you and took the same steps toward making connections, making them quite approachable.
Tips to Create Your Own Network
So, now that we know the best places to establish a network, let’s take a look at some tips that will make it easier for you to step into contact with people.
Create a Solid Portfolio
Though education certainly is massively important, your experience might be a much better indication of your expertise in the field of UX design.
Thus, creating a portfolio should be your first step toward making yourself more appealing and approachable to people.
Through your portfolio, you’ll be able to tell people exactly who you are and how skilled you are, and why they should be interested in you.
Remember to highlight your very best and most successful projects, but don’t be afraid to list every bit of experience you have to appear more seasoned and versatile for your new contacts.
This is also why gathering experience as soon as possible is such a great idea. Even during your studies, if you’re able to gather at least traces of UX design, this experience will make you appear a hundred times more experienced and interested in the industry even before you land your first gig.
Follow Your Idols
Both literally and figuratively.
As we said before, a great number of professionals also have social media profiles, where they are likely to talk about their work and the industry as a whole or promote their projects.
By following your idols, you can learn a great deal about how they think and what makes them such great professionals, and absorb a lot of small but crucial details and pieces of knowledge that you can apply in your work later.
Of course, being able to follow them also gives you a great opportunity to start interacting with them. You may find opportunities to post replies to their comments, express your opinions to them, or ask them questions – interactions that will make you more noticeable and set a foundation for your relationship later.
Be Personal When Approaching People
One of the greatest mistakes people make when approaching other people is sounding disingenuous or even downright impersonal.
Creating tailored, personalized messages is a must if you want to sound genuinely interested in establishing contact with the other person.
If you’re reaching out via email, a good idea would be to introduce yourself, establish who you are, establish your reason for reaching out, and then ask if the person you’re contacting is interested in reciprocating.
This way, you’re immediately laying the groundwork for what you want from the other party rather than simply communicating that you want to waste their time. And there is nothing more people hate than having somebody waste their time.
Become Comfortable with Cold Outreach
Sometimes, reaching out to people cold is just the nature of the beast.
Not everyone has a Twitter account that is bustling with activity, or a Facebook page that is constantly updated. Sometimes, people like to keep it private.
This is where you will have to do some cold calling.
Naturally, most people don’t like being cold-called, and you might face a lot of rejection. However, following the advice we’ve given you in the previous step might improve your odds significantly.
Again, by stating your business clearly and upfront, you’re communicating that you don’t intend to waste people’s time and that the ensuing exchange is beneficial for both parties.
Finally, remember not to take rejection too personally. People sometimes just don’t have the time or don’t want to spare the effort, and you need to be respectful of that. Either way, your next outreach will come to you that much more easily, and you’ll build up a network of associates in no time.
In the end, this is what networking is all about – obtaining and sharing experiences. And, as we noted in the beginning, due to the fast pace of UX design, a young designer such as yourself will benefit immensely from all that experience sharing in your future career, so don’t ever be afraid of reaching out.
Sophie Douglas is a digital marketing specialist and a journalist based in Columbus, state of Ohio.
Her characters are passionate, innovative, and ambitious.
Before becoming a writer for DigitalStrategyOne, she was writing short stories, screenplays, and directing short films.