Why networking is so dang important

Even during a pandemic

I want to start off by saying that I am by no means an expert in networking. But as someone who has been trying to pivot into User Experience Design over the last several months, I’ve come to realize just how important networking really is.

Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Let’s backup for a second. When I was a travel & hospitality publicist, I wasn’t very active on LinkedIn. Of course I had a profile and would update it anytime I was promoted and got a new job throughout the years, but what I didn’t realize was how powerful LinkedIn could be as a networking tool.

Flash forward to the best year ever — 2020. I was laid off in March and had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do next. Eventually I found UX, the perfect combination of talking to people, conducting research, and design. So, I jumped right into a 3-month immersive course at General Assembly and graduated in August. What I wish I knew from the start was just how important networking would be to launching my new career.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about networking along the way…

Connect with someone from every job you apply to

This was news to me. I had never thought about reaching out to people as a way to boost my likelihood of getting hired or even getting some advice from a professional. Be sure to reach out the creative recruiters as well as UX/UI Designers that are currently at the company you want to work for.

Trust me — this is actually really helpful when navigating through a job hunt, especially when it’s for a new career path entirely.

Always include a SPECIFIC note when connecting

Think about it this way — you’re not the only one reaching out to this UX professional (honestly, you’re probably one of a few hundred). So when you connect with someone and add a very specific note that outlines what you want to achieve by speaking with them and how much of their time you need, your chances of that person accepting your connection request increases. They may not be able to meet over the phone or Zoom, but maybe they’ll offer to answer your questions over email in their free time.

What’s important to remember here is that you’re trying to network with a working professional — AKA they’re busy. Give them a few days or even a week to respond before following up again. Most professionals I’ve encountered genuinely want to help you and will get back to you when they can.

Be active and engage

Comment and like posts from people that genuinely peak your interest. I’ve reaped the benefits multiple times. The most recent being that I received a new offer for an internship opportunity that I found out about because someone else within my network commented on the CEO’s LinkedIn post. You never know where opportunities can come from, so this extra engagement can’t hurt.

It’s also important that you start curating LinkedIn posts — whether it be an original insight you have or you repost an article. Not only does it show that you’re active, but if you’re sharing personal stories or news that you’re passionate about, that’s a good sign to potential employers. Posting at the same time and day throughout the week also shows that you can meet deadlines and are consistent. These may seem minor to you now, but you’d be surprised what recruiters pick up on.

Be open to helping other junior UXers in the future (or even now)

I’ve always had an interest in giving advice to other bootcamp grads or junior UX professionals once I had some experience under my belt and I think you should want to do this as well. If you’re doing the above and networking your heart out, I bet you’ll find it inspiring when you discover how supportive other UX designers can be. Not everyone has the time or is kind enough to share their insights, but more often than not, UX designers are empathetic by nature and are eager to help out the next generation of designers.

You don’t have to wait to give this a try until you’ve had years of experience. Many people out there are looking to shift into a new career, and as a new grad, they may want to pick your brain about your bootcamp or job hunt experience.

To wrap things up, I want to thank all of the UX professionals out there that have spent their precious time chatting with me about their experiences and their company’s culture, while also providing advice for how to get started on my new career path. My focus and outlook has shifted greatly (and in a more positive way) because of you, so keep up the good work!

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