Ah, the classic necessity to push one’s career trajectory that is often met with trepidation—networking. Like every other career, networking in the field of user experience design is an important aspect of helping you connect with like-minded individuals in your field or finding people that can potentially land you a future job. It is an art form that can prove to be very valuable as you gain experience and continue to meet more people over the course of your career.
However, many of us—such as myself—roll our eyes at the presence of the word ‘networking’ because it can feel like pulling teeth. Some of us are introverts, and we get anxious at the thought of reaching out to a seasoned individual within our field. Some of us don’t like the idea of meeting with another person to try and get something out of it. These are all valid concerns, and I hope to address them in this article. My goal is to give you some more practical tips to make this process less painful and perhaps even enjoyable!
To kick things off, let’s discuss why networking really is important.
The Importance of Networking
Getting Your Foot in the Door
According to an article from TopResume, 60% of jobs are found via networking. This staggering statistic right here should already make it abundantly clear that the art of networking is powerful.
Ever feel like applying for a job position online is just shooting your resume into a black hole? It’s because online applications aren’t nearly as effective as having a contact in your network refer you for a position.
This essentially gets your foot in the door and your resume onto the top of the pile, making it more likely for the hiring manager to see. Super valuable, no?
Meeting Seasoned Professionals
Networking is also a fantastic way to develop your career. For UX Designers, networking allows us to meet seasoned designers who have more years of experience working in the field. Reaching out and speaking with them can prove to be fruitful as they share stories and advice on how to be successful in the field, and the relationships you foster could develop into long-term mentorship. Never hesitate to let a more senior designer take a peek at your portfolio or resume! They know what companies are looking for.
Additionally, the more people you know, the more you’ll hear of potential job opportunities that arise, which can play into the point I made above—a good relationship can be the reason why your resume may be paid attention to closely because someone is vouching for you!
Sharpening Your Speaking Skills
Lastly, the more you network the better you’ll end up as a conversationalist. Over time, you’ll have a better understanding of the appropriate questions to ask and how to get to know strangers as you sharpen those soft skills of yours, which are invaluable in making you appear confident and fostering genuine connections with others.
I hope these three points shed some light on how beneficial networking can be!
How to Network Well
Okay, so now you see the value in reaching out and growing your network but you want to know how to go about it well. Here are some tips to make networking effective. I’ll break it down into a few points:
1. Seek individuals that have experiences you are looking for.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a UX designer–or at least have an interest in the field, right? Then find UX people to talk to, preferably in an industry/company that you’re interested in or at a level of seniority that is in a place to help you.
There are plenty of places for you to find these individuals. Everyone loves LinkedIn, but I’d also recommend looking into other resources such as the Design Buddies Discord channel or ADP List where you can find people willing to spend some time going through your portfolio or providing mentorship. Check those out!
2. Don’t be afraid to reach out with a well-crafted message.
C’mon, don’t be shy! Just click that send button already! The worst that can happen is either they decline or don’t respond. No biggie! If you want to improve your chances of getting a reply back, look up ways to write a good cold email. There are some nuances to it, but the main gist is that you should keep it succinct with an introduction and form the message in a way where you are asking to learn about their experience in an informational interview. And seriously, take a deep breath. Most people are willing to help out if they have the bandwidth to.
It’ll be beneficial if you can come up with a unique message per person, but I’ll share a generic template to get you started:
3. Come with a list of questions or with a goal in mind.
The worst thing to do is to receive a reply back, schedule a quick call, and completely waste everyone’s time because you didn’t come with an agenda. Spend some time writing down questions you’re hoping this person can answer for you, whether it’s related to the kind of work they do at ABC company or if they would mind poking holes in your portfolio so you can make improvements. Go in with the idea of what you want to get out of it!
There are lots of questions you might ask depending on what you’re looking for, but I got some general questions that could help you:
1. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey in design and how you ended up in your current role?
2. In your opinion, what skills does a good designer have?
3. In your current role, what defines success? How should one prepare for it?
4. DO NOT ask the person for a job. DO ask them to tell their story.
Straight-up asking for a job is honestly shallow, disrespectful, and people will see right through such a self-serving attitude. The goal here is to learn more about the person’s story and see if there’s anything that you can apply to your own journey, where you are seeking guidance and help from someone who’s probably more senior than you in the industry. There’s nothing wrong with informing them of an ongoing job search and asking for advice, but please don’t put them in an awkward position.
Here’s an example of what you should NOT do:
Good Lord, please do not be that guy. Here’s an example of what a good question would be:
5. Afterward, thank them for their time and try to keep them updated.
People are usually really busy, so be sure to send a follow-up message at some point thanking them for taking time out of their day to speak with you. Gratitude pays off a long way, and the small things do count. As you progress in your journey, feel free to keep them updated every now and then to foster and maintain the relationship that you have established. People like seeing others they’ve spoken to grow successful!
Here’s an example of a thank you message:
Networking can feel like a daunting task, but it really isn’t so bad now that you guys have read these tips! Like many of you, I struggled with the idea of networking before, but I found the practice easier the more I did it, and I encourage you all to push yourselves out of the comfort zone. Do you guys find these tips helpful? Do you have more questions? Let me know, I’m here to help.
If you’re in the market for a new UX design job, or you’re a recruiter writing your first new-hire job
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You’ve landed an interview at a company you’re interested in after putting in all the hard work into your application—nice!