Have you ever wondered why some graduates seem easily get into exciting jobs and have opportunities flooding towards them? Are they are more talented than you? Probably not. The key here is visibility: Its not what you know, but WHO you know.
The only person who can create your opportunities is YOU. Many people wait until graduation to start thinking about networking/job hunting but this is leaving it too late – the best time to be doing this is while you’re a student.
This article will show you how to start building a relationship with industry and opening up those opportunities, how to do this successfully and professionally and get over the fears and anxieties of getting yourself out there both in person and online.
There should already be a strong connection between social media and your studies. It’s very easy to set up and use and it’s much less scary than real life networking. Even the most unconfident people can find themselves chatting amongst peers, future employers and industry leaders.
The most prominent online web design community is on Twitter. If you haven’t already got a Twitter account stop reading this and sign up now! A huge amount of graduates are getting their first jobs just though this network both by show casing their talents or picking up on one of the many job adverts passed through the network. If you’re new to Twitter check out Cheryl Lawson’s infographic for some fun visual tips.
- Be professional. This will become a record of how you conduct yourself so only act as you would in front of a future employer and avoid any conflicts with other users. People can form opinions very quickly from online comments, make sure the impression you make is a good one.
- Description. Make sure you mention you are a student, so people understand you are still learning, and link to your blog or portfolio.
- Follow. Peers and people working in the industry (particularly local to where you are).
- Interact. Ask questions and respond to tweets. Don’t be afraid, people need to know you are there. This could be as simple as saying, “Hi, I just thought I’d say I really like the work you did on xxxx”
As a web design student you must have a website. Without one you will not be taken seriously. Don’t worry about this being fantastic, people will understand you’re still learning, but it should show demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject.
Things to Include on Your Website:
- Blog. Write about what you’re doing, events you’ve been to and reviews of designs, websites, books.
- Portfolio. Examples of your work, don’t worry about the standard, just get things up there. Most people want to see things you’ve done outside of college, so look for freelance projects or try something like www.designcrowd.com for tackling design briefs.
- Design Feedback. Social sites such as Behance and Dribbble are great to sign up to and get feedback on your work.
Real Life Networking
The web design industry is packed full of events, meet ups, hack days and conferences. With a bit of research you’ll probably find lots of things happening in your area. A room full of strangers, nothing more scary then that is there?
Most people will avoid real life events because they don’t have the confidence to burst into a room shouting that they love web design and introducing themselves to everyone. I’ll let you into a secret, most people feel this afraid. My job is to stand up in front of people talking every day and I still get nervous when going to an event. If you can get past this fear then meeting people in real life really is the best way to get to know people and, more importantly, have them remember you.
Real Life Networking Tips
- Sign up and attend. Don’t be that person that signs up to things then never turns up.
- Take a buddy. Bring along your class mates, maybe your tutor can set up an events calendar so you can share events.
- Talk to people. Just a simple, “Hello where are you from?” is usually enough to start something.
- Stand out. Wear/carry something strange, its a good conversation starter. I once saw a woman bring a stuffed pigeon to an event, weird but everyone in the room spoke to her.
- Contact. Collect business cards, then you can tweet them afterwards to say it was nice speaking to them. This reinforces who you are in their memory.
- Blog. Write up about the event afterwards, what happened? What did you learn? How will it influence your studies? Then post a link to it on Twitter, copying in any event speakers you’ve mentioned (presuming you’ve said good things of course!)
Placements & Visits
While you are at college, take advantage of the fact that most companies are happy to accommodate a placement or visit. Once you are no longer a student, this is much harder to arrange. This is an excellent way for future employers to get to know you and for you to prove your work, if you work hard they might not be able to let you go at the end! This is how some students end up in part time work before graduating.
Your institution may organise these for you but you really are best being proactive and searching out the companies that you aspire to rather then just settling for someone who’s contacted your college for cheap labour.
- Research. Think about what companies you might want to work for on graduation, research and target these.
- Contact. A polite email introducing yourself is non intrusive, but you must have a website or professional blog to help support your skills and enthusiasm. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a reply straight away, most people are really busy. It sometimes helps to get your tutor to contact them on your behalf and give a glowing reference.
- Professionalism. While on a placement you MUST treat this as a real job. Turn up on time, work hard and be prepared to do all the most junior jobs.
Always be professional. The web design industry is very tight knit, if you give one person or company a bad impression that reputation may well be shared quickly with other people.
Be positive and happy. Even if you feel angry or down about something, don’t tweet, blog or talk about it. Ranting online about something, even if you are correct, only makes you look like a bitter person. Finally – be passionate, love what you do and overall enjoy yourself. Anyone can learn skills, but genuine enthusiasm is difficult to fake.