Practical UX Career Development: How To Network In(to Any Technology-Driven Field)
As an educator who is also a UX practitioner, I get a lot of students asking me: “how can I break into this field?” Despite what my industry counterparts say, I usually respond: “it’s tough.” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t disagree about the following things common to most articles I see on UX career development:
- UX is an emerging field, meaning there are lots of opportunities.
- UX is a great field for creative people with an eye for design.
- UX is a set of skill sets that is different from that of other fields (e.g. web development, marketing, business management, etc.).
At the same time, like any emerging field, I also think these things are true about UX:
- As an emerging field, skill sets for UX are not yet solidly established.
- As a creative field, UX leaves a lot open to interpretation.
- As a field striving to establish itself as separate from related fields, it isn’t always clear to new practitioners what makes UX distinct from these other fields.
At the same time, I also think that many of the above points are true about any technology-driven field. In light of the face pace, emerging skill sets, and complexity of technology-driven fields, I think breaking into them needs to involve a lot of your own independent research and professional networking.
So, let me give you my networking method that I give everyone trying to break into any such field:
- Change your LinkedIn profile tagline to: Seeking Opportunities in (Name of Intended Field).
- Identify as many people as you can on LinkedIn that are in positions you want to be in someday. Connect to as many of those people as the LinkedIn “People You May Know” algorithm will allow.
- Identify as many groups on LinkedIn as you can that represent knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) related to your prospective field. Join as many of those as you can.
- When people accept your connect request: send them a message asking to do an informational interview with them. Tell them you are a college student (or your current job description), you’re interested in breaking into their field, and you’d like to talk to them for 15 minutes or so about how they got established as a (their job description). As a rule, you should start this process with people at the center of your current network and work outward.
- Also use LinkedIn to look for internships in your prospective field and apply to as many as you can find. If you meet minimum qualifications for jobs, apply to those, too.
- Identify 10-20 thought leaders in your prospective field. Follow their blogs.
- Develop a social media strategy for networking even when you’re offline. Dedicate yourself to doing it every week.
- Develop an in-person strategy for networking in your prospective job market. Join as many local professional groups as you can and attend their regular meetings.
- Repeat for the rest of your life as needed ;-).