7 Things I Learned from LinkedIn Networking as an Entry-Level UX Designer

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Securing a job in the UX industry is never easy — especially if you don’t have much experience.

While looking for my second UX internship, I spent an extensive amount of time on expanding my network on LinkedIn. It made a huge difference on my job search journey and my perspective as a UX designer. That’s why I decided to share what I learned from networking, hoping to encourage more entry-level UX designers to do the same.

This is how it all began…

While talking to one of my professors, I got advice that I should focus more on networking rather than just submitting applications to job postings.

Oh no, I hate to talk to new people. I’m an introvert!

This was honestly the first thought that went through my mind. Just thinking about talking to new people and asking for help made my hands sweat. Nonetheless, why not? I sincerely wanted my internship and decided to push myself out of my comfort zone. I knew that I got nothing to lose by trying and asking, but I would lose all the opportunities if I didn’t give it a try.

Hmmm, then how could I expand my network?

As an international student who recently moved to Canada, I only knew a few people here and even fewer in the UX industry. However, instead of using this as an excuse, I decided to reach out to people via LinkedIn.

Why LinkedIn? Due to the pandemic, most design events were still held online and I barely had a chance to meet UX designers in person. Also, I thought it’s more likely that they could make time to have a conversation with me via video or phone calls than to meet up in person.

Since last month, I’ve reached out to 200+ UX designers who are working for the companies I’m interested in. This became one of the best things I’ve done this year.

Not going to lie. Networking is time-consuming and drains your energy especially when you’re applying for jobs and studying full-time on the side. But it’s worth it.

These are 7 lessons I learned from growing my network on LinkedIn and the reasons I’d like to encourage all fellow entry-level designers to do the same:

  • Got used to rejection
  • Heard honest thoughts from people in the industry
  • Got tips for my next career steps
  • Made it an asset for the interview
  • Yes, got referrals
  • Reassured with that there is no right or wrong path
  • Learned the value of reciprocity

1. Got used to rejection

Here’s my rough success rate.

I sent a connection request to 10 designers with a note. 6 of them accepted the request. Then I asked them if they were open to having a quick chat with me. 2–3 of them were willing to share their experiences and I ended up having a chance to talk to 1 of them.

So technically I was rejected or ignored 180+ times!

In the beginning, I was concerned with how people would react or if they would ever respond. But after a while, there was no room in my mind for fear of rejection — nothing extreme happened even though I was rejected so many times in a day.

Also, I learned how to not take every rejection personally. People could be busy, not active on LinkedIn, forget to respond, or have other priorities in their life. It neither means that they are bad nor implies that something is wrong with me.

2. Heard honest thoughts from people in the industry

I cannot think of any better ways to hear candid opinions than having a one-on-one conversation.

UX designers I talked to not only shared great things about their companies, but also honestly mentioned what could be done better or the challenges they are facing. Everything they shared is more true to life than reviews on Glassdoor or Indeed, while being more genuine than ‘About Us’ on company websites.

This made me think about what is the right fit for me, and what kind of work culture could support me to grow and learn.

3. Got tips for my next career steps

While talking to them, I learned about their career journeys that brought them to the current positions. I also had a chance to ask about the goals they have and the challenges they are experiencing.

This widened my perspective which was solely limited to landing my internship.

Learning about the perspectives, considerations, and concerns of UX designers with different levels of experience made me picture my next steps: what I want to gain from my internship, achievements I want to make as a junior, duties I might have as a senior designer, and more.

In addition to this, talking to them helped me to get prepared for the rest of the internship hiring process. Back then I was only thinking of a way to pass the HR screening and to get an opportunity for an interview. Then some UX designers gave me this advice.

“Your portfolio and resume are good enough. You’d better start structuring the portfolio presentation as it takes so much time to finish it.”

Even though I hadn’t passed any HR screenings at that time, I took this advice and started making the presentation slide decks. And guess what? This portfolio presentation I’d been working on in advance led me to land my UX internship!

4. Made it an asset for the interview

Why do you want to work here?

This common interview question can be challenging to answer especially if you want to impress interviewers. I also received that question nearly in every interview. When answering this question, I always mentioned what I heard from UX designers of that company and made this a chance to show my passion.

“I reached out to some UX designers from your company to learn more about the work culture and the values that are prioritized. And one thing I found is that …”

This way, I was able to demonstrate my passion in this position more impactfully than just repeating some keywords from the company websites or job postings. Also, it helped me to show that I’m proactive and take the initiative to learn more.

5. Yes, got referrals

Getting referrals might be the most direct and immediate benefit you could take from networking. To be honest, it was one of the motivations for me to reach out to UX designers.

If the company was recruiting a role I was interested in, I asked the UX designers at the end of our conversations if they were open to referring me for the position.

(My heart was indeed pounding whenever I asked this question, but I did my best to look calm. I was afraid that they would say “No” and I repeatedly reminded myself that it never hurts to ask.)

One thing I’d like to emphasize here is that I always prioritized my connections with them over referrals. The stories they shared and the rapports I built with them go a longer way than referrals.

6. Reassured that there is no right or wrong path

Every UX designer I talked to took different paths to enter this industry. Hearing from them gave me reassurance that my path is never wrong.

I’m a UX designer with academic backgrounds in biochemistry, visual design, multimedia design, and front-end development. While I believe my background gives me a broad perspective when solving problems, it sometimes makes me experience imposter syndrome as well.

Talking to numerous UX designers who transitioned from different industries at different moments of their life reassured me that there isn’t only one right path to be a UX designer.

Most of them previously studied different types of designs or even worked in completely different industries — accounting, chemistry, business, urban planning, and more. Everyone’s journey was unique.

This made me feel more confident about my background and think of a way to turn it into my specialty as a UX designer.

7. Learn the value of reciprocity

I was surprised how many people were willing to help me, a complete stranger! They shared their insights and experiences, referred me to the position, reviewed my portfolio, kept me posted with new positions coming up, and had a mock interview with me.

Wow, there are lots of amazing people in the world.

This admiration turned into this question.

How could I help others in need as well? What could I share?

And this is the reason why I decided to write this article. I’m still in the very early phase of my career, so I don’t have many things to share when it comes to work experiences.

However, I thought my experience in job seeking and networking could encourage and support fellow entry-level UX designers. Are you still hesitant about reaching out to people on LinkedIn? Please, give it a try. Remember, it never hurts to try.

Before wrapping it up, I wanted to sincerely thank all designers who were willing to share their stories! Everything they shared became an indispensable asset as I just addressed above.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment on this article or reaching out to me at gleamwtr@gmail.com or LinkedIn.

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