Remote networking tips for designers who are afraid of LinkedIn
If you are a designer looking for work or simply trying to expand your network it can be tricky.
It’s an interesting time for networking, to say the least. Networking in person, while natural and generally effective, is out of the question during a global pandemic.
You’ve got to find your next opportunity or connection through multiple channels, whether it be online job boards, virtual meet-ups, or sites like LinkedIn.
I’ve listed a few tips below that have helped me network with senior designers, hiring professionals, and other valuable connections.
I was not always met with success, but by casting a wide net and by staying determined, the connections I did make provided me with valuable feedback, recommendations, and a few contract opportunities.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out
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A lot of my peers have a paralyzing hesitation for cold or lukewarm outreach. They feel odd, intrusive, or bothersome messaging strangers. The truth is, the worst that can happen is that you don’t get a response. Rather than worry about what people might think, focus on how you may be able to make a genuine connection with your outreach.
You could meet your next design pal, a senior mentor that will give you much needed feedback on your digital portfolio website, or an insightful employee of a company you want to work for. None of these things happen if you don’t hit “send.”
That being said, outreach is a numbers game that also depends on the quantity and quality of your outreach, which leads us to…
2. Do Your Networking Homework
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Like I said above, the quality of your outreach matters as much as the quantity. One hundred short messages scattered to designers and hiring managers asking for a job will not yield desirable results.
It’s also important not to send multiple connection requests or messages to a Linkedin member or you may be marked as spam!
For Hiring Professionals & HR Managers:
Before you connect, email, or message any hiring manager of a company or position that you are interested in, ensure that you have done research on the company website.
Hiring professionals want brief messages from candidates that indicate three important things about you:
- I’m knowledgable about your company and I know what service / product you provide.
- I’m interested and qualified in this specific role and here’s why.
- I have a single specific ask: “Do you have time to discuss the role and how I may be of value to the team sometime this week?”
If you can concisely articulate these three important aspects of outreach, then you have a greater chance of receiving a response. That said, outreach is a game of numbers and you should never put your eggs in a single basket. A well-crafted outreach message should only take a few cursory minutes of research.
Designer outreach is a different ballgame because the direct HR job approach is considered forward and presumptuous. Designers in positions you desire have likely been in your shoes before.
Most likely, they are willing to help you, however, you need to be gracious and respectful of their time and ability.
Before you reach out to a designer, look them up! Many designers on LinkedIn share their digital portfolio, which is an invaluable learning resource.
Not only will it usually contain their preferred email address, but it is also a window to their work, passion, and interests. Design professionals want to see brief messages that indicate:
- I’ve done research on your interests, case studies, and side-projects and I found this specific aspect interesting about you.
- I’m “X” with “Y” background and I’m interested in your design experience, as well as your work with “Z Company,”
- I have a single specific ask: “Would you have time to connect and chat sometime this week?”
Most designers I’ve met are passionate, helpful individuals that love nothing more than to lift up and help out jr. designers in any way they can. It’s up to you to find common ground to get their attention and show that you are interested in learning about them and their experiences.
3. Have A Clear, Direct Ask
As we discussed above, it’s obvious to HR professionals and hiring managers as to why you are contacting them. Your ask is to speak with them about opportunities and why you are qualified for them.
For designers, it’s more complicated. Ultimately you want a position, likely in the company they work for, but it’s not within their power to grant you a job.
A designer can give you feedback, provide insight into the kind of culture and work they do at a company, and they can recommend you or forward your credentials to HR.
It’s impolite to directly ask for recommendations from people you don’t know well, so you need to understand your relationship and your rapport with your contact.
Use your inter-personal chemistry to gauge the level of your specific ask. Your first cold outreach with a designer you don’t know should always be a simple ask for an informational interview. Based on how your informational interview goes, you can craft an appropriate ask.
If you feel you’ve developed a good rapport, it’s fair to mention that you’ve seen an open position with the company and you’d like to learn more about an opportunity to join the team. If it’s within their ability, your connection can do a multitude of things:
- Refer or provide you with information to another relevant connection. (Designer, Manager, or H.R.)
- Forward your credentials to H.R.
- Give you advice on the hiring process and their experiences.
- Provide constructive feedback on your work or overall presentation.
It’s very possible that your connection cannot help you further, and in such an instance it’s important to be gracious and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. Manage the length of your meetings and be aware of the time people take out of their busy schedules to help you!
4. Remember: People Hire People
While a handshake is certainly something that I don’t recommend you do right now, it signifies an important fact in the digital age. People hire people. It is crucial that you take the time to connect and speak with actual humans during your networking and job search.
Online job postings can certainly feel like black holes, and understand that no H.R. person is going to sift through 300+ applications.
Your best bet is to connect with relevant or adjacent employees and get your credentials forwarded or get a recommendation.
Cold outreach can feel impersonal at first, but once you get a response, your ability to truly showcase your skills and personality increase 10-fold. Get your face out there and don’t shy away from phone calls and video calls!
5. Show That You’re Alive!
One of the most important things to do while you are networking and job hunting is to have a detailed body of work to showcase your skills.
Make time for that side-project, keep up the work on your design challenges, and showcase your unique perspective and voice via blogging.
It can be painful at first, but it shows employers and connections that you are actively creating and bettering yourself. It makes you become more than a name and a face on their computer screen!
These tips above have allowed me to make some great connections and have exposed me to some great opportunities as a junior designer in interesting times. Best of luck on your networking endeavors!
Originally published under UX collective on medium