Whether you’re an aspiring UX designer, a newcomer to the field or a seasoned professional, you’ve probably been told at least once that networking is crucial. And you might not want to hear this but… it really is.
We know that networking can be scary, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry like UX design. But we also promise that it’s worth it — and we’re here to help you get started.
All you need is our ultimate guide to UX networking, featuring:
- Why is networking so important for your UX career?
- Where to go for UX networking
- 5 tips and best practices for networking success
Keep reading and prepare to network like a pro.
Why is networking so important for your UX career?
You might be surprised to learn that an estimated 60% of jobs are found through networking. If you’re new to the UX industry (or trying to break into it), this alone is a huge incentive to start making connections and growing your network. But finding potential job opportunities isn’t the only benefit.
The real value in networking is that it helps you to build your very own community of people who you can learn from, get advice from and feel inspired by. It gives you first-hand insight into the UX industry, helping you to keep on top of what’s happening in the field and continuously develop your skills.
At the same time, you’ll get better and better at building relationships and communicating with different people in all areas of the industry — an extremely valuable skill that will carry through to your day-to-day work as a UX designer.
And, because networking is a two-way street, it also gives you the opportunity to provide mentorship and be that source of advice and inspiration for others. This is extremely rewarding and you’ll notice how quickly your confidence grows as a result.
Yes, networking can be scary and uncomfortable — but the long-term benefits are well worth the short-term fear. So where can you go for UX networking? Let’s take a look.
Where to go for UX networking
There are plenty of places both online and offline where you can start making industry connections and growing your network. Here are our top UX networking destinations.
Twitter (and Twitter Spaces)
If you’re active on Twitter, start following and engaging with people from the UX community.
We’re not just talking about UX influencers, although it’s certainly worth following them to keep abreast of the industry. You can also find less “famous” voices within the Twitterverse by searching hashtags such as “UX” or “UX design”. This is a great way to get different perspectives on your radar and join conversations that you’re interested in.
Another relatively new feature worth exploring is Twitter Spaces. You can join audio conversations and hear others talk about UX-related topics live in realtime (think of it as a very small-scale, audio-only event). Use the Spaces feature in the Twitter app to search for upcoming UX talks and take the chance to connect with others who join the space.
LinkedIn is essentially the go-to platform when it comes to professional networking. Use it to connect with and follow UX professionals and to join UX-related groups. You can find relevant groups by searching keywords such as “UX design”, “UX networking” or “UX for beginners”.
In addition to LinkedIn groups, there are lots of other online hubs and communities that are ideal for UX networking. Check out this round-up of 12 UX communities that are ready to welcome you and search the web for more.
The great thing about dedicated UX communities is that they’re built with connecting and networking in mind, so the people in them are typically very open to engage. Find a few groups that interest you or feel geared towards your specific goals and start striking up some conversations.
Local and virtual meetups and events
Meetups and events – both virtual and in-person – present another great networking opportunity.
Search platforms like meetup and eventbrite to see what’s going on in the UX world. You might find specific networking events for UX designers or broader industry events that will allow you to chat and connect with other attendees.
If in-person events feel a little too heavy, start with virtual events to build your confidence first.
Your current company
Are you working at a company that has a design team? Then start networking at work. Send a friendly message to the in-house designer(s) and ask if they have time for a twenty minute video call or a quick coffee break. It might feel like a bold move but the person on the receiving end will likely be flattered and happy to talk to you about their work.
We’ve looked at where you can network. Now let’s consider how to network successfully.
UX networking: 5 tips and best practices for success
1. Make sure you’re ready to be seen
Once you start reaching out to people, they’re most likely going to check your profile before deciding whether or not to respond. So, before you arrive on the UX networking scene, make sure your online presence is primed and optimised.
Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, including a meaningful ‘About’ section which summarises who you are? Is your Twitter giving off professional vibes? And, if you’ve got one, how’s your UX portfolio looking?
All of these things matter when it comes to making a good first impression and convincing people to connect with you. Spend some time polishing up your online profiles and you’ll make it easier for people to get a glimpse of who you are and why you’re reaching out to them.
2. Get comfortable with cold outreach
You can network by attending events and joining in with existing conversations. There’s also a less organic type of networking that requires you to reach out to people “cold”. This means they have no existing connection with you, nor any prior knowledge of who you are and what you want.
Essentially, you’re messaging them out of the blue. Surely that’s a bit annoying and unprofessional, right?
Not necessarily. Of course, there are lots of cold outreach messages that are indeed both annoying and unprofessional but yours don’t have to be. As long as you hit the right tone and send a well-crafted message, you can avoid falling into the metaphorical “spam” category. We’ll show you how to write a strong outreach message in tip number 3.
You have to be bold when it comes to UX networking and getting comfortable with cold outreach is part of it.
3. Be specific: Tailor your outreach message and make it personal
There are some golden rules to follow when it comes to cold outreach: keep your message brief, tailor it so it’s personal to the recipient and be specific about why you’re reaching out.
Here is an example of how you might reach out to a potential connection:
Hope you’re well. My name is Brook and I’m a marketing assistant in the process of learning UX design. I’m reaching out as I really enjoyed your article about how you made the switch from teaching to UX design. I would love to learn more about some of the main challenges you faced when getting into UX and how you overcame them. Would you be available for a quick chat sometime?
The recipient of this message will immediately understand who you are, why you’re reaching out and, most importantly, why you’re keen to connect with them specifically. This kind of message is much more likely to resonate than a generic intro message or a vague request to connect.
4. …but don’t take rejection personally
Your attempts to network and connect won’t always be successful — and that’s ok. It’s to be expected, even. People are busy and may not necessarily have space in their schedules – or the mental bandwidth – to foster a new connection right now.
While it can be disheartening when you’re sending out dozens of carefully crafted messages and not hearing anything back, always remember that it’s not personal.
And don’t lose heart. Keep finding people who inspire you and sending those messages. One day, your message will catch someone at just the right time and it’ll all have been worth it. UX networking is a slow and steady process, so don’t give up if you don’t get results immediately.
5. Remember that networking is a two-way street
It’s important to view networking as a meaningful exchange. Don’t just reach out saying you’re looking for a job; these people aren’t your personal recruiters.
Instead, focus on making genuine connections, learning and sharing knowledge, exchanging stories and experiences — ultimately building strong professional relationships. That’s the foundation for a solid UX network. From there, the career opportunities will take care of themselves.
We hope you find this guide useful and are ready to start growing your UX design network. For more networking tips, continue with this guide on how to find a UX mentor.