Did you know … an estimated 85% of jobs are filled by networking (Forbes, 2021).
Networking is essential when working in the field of UX/UI design. It’s a door that gives you access to numerous benefits in your professional career growth.
But … what does networking look like? How do you know who to reach out to, and what connections might lead to a job?
Today, we’re dishing out some helpful tips and insights so you can build your own effective UX/UI design network.
- Why Networking is Critical for UX/UI Designers
- When Should You Start Networking?
- Who Should You Network With?
- Where to Find Networking Opportunities
- What to Say When Reaching Out to UX Professionals
- How to Maintain Networking Relationships
- Key Takeaways
Why Networking is Critical for UX/UI Designers
As a UX/UI designer, networking is crucial to your success in the industry. While you may possess a strong skill set and a unique design perspective, networking can give you an edge that will truly set you apart from the competition.
Networking opens the door to new opportunities: from meeting other professionals in the field, to learning about the latest industry trends and technologies, to new job opportunities—all of which can help you grow your career.
Side effects of networking may include:
- Career growth and advancement opportunities
- Staying up-to-date with industry trends and best practices
- Opportunities for collaboration and partnership
When Should You Start Networking?
Do you have family, friends, current, or past colleagues?
Then guess what … you’ve already been networking!
All you have to do is build on the foundation that you already have—and make a strategic plan of where you want to go next.
The earlier you begin to build relationships with other professionals in the field, the better. Even if you're still in the process of completing a UX bootcamp or gaining experience in the industry, networking can help you gain valuable insights and make connections that will serve you well in the future. By building your network early on, you'll have a better chance of learning about new opportunities, finding mentors, and gaining valuable feedback on your work.
In my own career, I slid into a UX design role from marketing, and found myself scrambling to get up to speed on both the foundations of UX/UI design as well as the latest trends. I joined a few relevant Slack channels and started asking questions and engaging in the conversations, eager to learn from the expertise of others. It was a fun and engaging way to learn valuable nuances and build some solid connections to support my career growth.
Who Should You Network With?
Who you should network with depends on what your goals for networking are.
You might have one overarching motivation (to get a job, for example), but this can—and should—be broken into smaller, more tangible action steps. The more concrete your goals, the easier it is to achieve them and further your career.
Some networking goals you may want to consider as you look for you next role include:
- Expanding your network: Take time to reach out to people who might have something in common with you or that work at companies you are interested in working at. Don’t forget to send a LinkedIn connection to anyone you meet at events or have a 1:1 conversation with.
- Cultivating your current network: Check in with the people who already know, let them know you are looking for work, and offer to help them in return. Always check for connections before hitting “apply” on a job. Ask if they can share a referral code or introduce you to the manager.
- Attending a live or digital event: Going to these events can be scary, but we are far more likely to help people we’ve met and had a real conversation with. Before you go, set a goal for how many people you want to talk to, and even what you want to share about yourself and learn about them. Once you hit your goal you can leave knowing you accomplished what you set out to!
- Conducting informational interviews: Talk to fellow UX designers to understand what a day in the life looks like. You can also conduct interviews with Developers and Product Managers, to better understand what it will be like working with them.
- Participating in a hackathon: This is a fun way to not only meet new people but also level up your skills at the same time. You can get hands-on experience working with developers, and other designers. Then you can always add the experience to your resume and portfolio.
A shortlist of people who might align with your UX networking goals include:
- UX/UI designers
- UX researchers
- Product managers
- Developers and Engineers
- Project Managers
- Industry thought leaders
- Recruiters and hiring managers
- Anyone who might work with the Design team!
Where to Find Networking Opportunities
There’s no “one stop shop” for networking. Depending on where you’re located and what resources you have access to, networking might take the form of anything from fully remote correspondence to in-person conversations at industry events, or even your own office or coworking space.
Here are a few places to start:
- LinkedIn (and other social media platforms)
- Online UX design communities
- Creative Mornings
- Design Buddies
- Workshops (Designlab regularly hosts free webinars with industry experts that you can attend.)
While there are still many more Design communities for you to engage with it’s also important to take a broader lens to networking events. Attend or join groups for industries you find particularly interesting. Go to job fairs for people in Tech and Design generally. It’s good to network with people who aren’t designers, but work with designers. They don’t want your job, but they do want to work with someone they like. That could be you!
What to Say When Reaching Out to UX Professionals
When it comes to networking, many of us have a stereotypical image of a person in a suit and tie, shaking hands and fast-talking at a business conference. And honestly … it’s not that appealing.
“It's important to remember that networking is a two-way street; by actively listening and offering valuable insights you will not only make meaningful connections but also increase your chances of success” says Pratik Chaskar, Co-Founder at Spectra.
It can be intimidating to reach out to other professionals. To make the process easier, it's helpful to have a script or general guidelines to follow. In a polite and friendly tone, you’ll want to craft a message that indicates your respect for their time, as well as a clear call-to-action: what do you want from them?
A general flow to consider might include:
- Introduce yourself
- Explain exactly why you’re contacting them (Hint: it shouldn’t be “to build my network”)
- Show interest in their work (be specific!)
- Ask for advice, feedback, or insight
- Offer help or assistance when applicable
- Thank them for their time
For example, if you're looking for advice on how to break into a certain industry, you could say something like:
My name is [Your Name] and I'm interested in learning more about breaking into the [Industry] industry. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your experience in this field? I would really appreciate any advice or guidance you can offer.
How to Maintain Networking Relationships
A Harvard Business School study found that, "Even when people know networking is beneficial to their careers, they often don't do it," according to co-author and Professor Francesca Gino.
It can be scary to put ourselves out there, but at the end of the day we are all humans and we crave connection. Folks are on LinkedIn and these other sites because they too want to build relationships and connect. When you’re reaching out, highlight why the two of you are already “connected”. Maybe they are a Designlab Alum, maybe they have a similar background to you, or maybe they’ve done work you find truly fascinating. Share that in your message, you’d be surprised how many people will want to connect with you as well!
Here are a few ways that you can take action to build and maintain a career-boosting network now:
Authenticity is key to building strong professional relationships. Be genuine in your interactions and show interest in the other person's life and career.
Be willing to offer help when you can. Whether it's sharing knowledge or providing a reference, helping others is a great way to strengthen your relationships and demonstrate your value.
After meeting someone new or attending an event, be sure to follow up with a thank you email or message. This simple gesture can go a long way in building a lasting connection.
Create a Contact List
Think old school address book, but for the digital age. Start a Google Sheet, Airtable, Notion, or Coda and keep track of your old and new contacts. It’s good to track: how you know them, where you contact them (email, text, LinkedIn), what level contact they are (excellent, good, mediocre), and any notes on your interactions.
Stay in touch
Regularly reach out to your network, especially those you haven't spoken to in a while. This can be through emails, phone calls, or even social media platforms. Keep them updated on your professional activities and ask about theirs.
Be active on LinkedIn
Engage with your network on social media by commenting on their posts and sharing useful information. This helps you stay top of mind and reinforces your position as a thought leader in your field.
Schedule regular check-ins
Schedule regular check-ins with key members of your network to catch up and discuss industry trends and opportunities. However, it’s important to be conscious and respectful of their time. This shows that you value their input and are committed to maintaining the relationship.
- Networking is essential when working in the field of UX/UI design. It’s a door that gives you access to numerous benefits in your professional career growth.
- Start networking as soon as possible—the connections you make today can help shape your future career in UX/UI design.
- Create a list of goals that you have for your career, and strategically build a network to support those goals.
- Networking is a 2-way-street. Look for ways to contribute value to your professional relationships, especially if you’re asking for something from them.
- Maintaining a networking relationship isn’t difficult, but it does take some care and follow up to ensure those valuable connections aren’t lost.