The term "networking" can be vague and elusive. What exactly does it mean, and how can you get started?
Networking, at its core, is simply building and maintaining relationships. You probably networked quite a bit when you first arrived at UT Austin, whether it be through freshman orientation, tabling on Gregory Plaza, or First-Year Interest Groups. These early connections form the basis of your network here on the Forty Acres, and the same idea can be applied to your future career.
Much like college, the sooner you make these connections, the better. It's never too early to start networking through the methods below. In fact, most of the ideas below can be done before you're even enrolled at UT! Your future self will thank you.
Let's get started.
1. Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) describes the "Entrepreneurial Mindset" as a frame of mind that equips you to "recognize opportunity, take initiative, and innovate in the face of challenges." This is the more intangible side of networking, but it is absolutely critical. As you begin to build your network, ask yourself: Am I self-reliant, flexible, and adaptable? Am I comfortable with ambiguity and risk? Can I collaborate well with others and think critically? If these things do not come naturally to you, never fear! There are many resources available to help you improve your soft skills. Potential employers are just as interested the way you work as the work you do itself.
Start Here: Blackstone LaunchPad's Project Forward
Other useful resources:
- Texas Career Engagement's Career Ready Guide
- How to Build Skills and Grow Your Career in a Remote Environment
- Big Interview - Virtual Mock Interviews Powered by AI
2. Create a LinkedIn profile.
Joining LinkedIn is one of the easiest steps you can take to build your professional network. Connect with peers, professors, and key players in your chosen industry. Unlike Facebook, it is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) for you to connect with people you don't yet know in real life. Dedicating time each week to posting content, engaging with your connections, and keeping up with industry trends can do wonders - and may even land you your next job.
Other useful articles:
- The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Students
- 7 Tips on LinkedIn for Beginners
- How to Network on LinkedIn Like a Pro
- LinkedIn Etiquette: 20 Do's and Don'ts
3. Embrace the power of social media.
While LinkedIn is perhaps the most obvious platform for networking, the same idea can be applied across all social media (after all, it is called social media for a reason!) Utilizing Facebook Pages, Instagram Business, Twitter, and even unexpected platforms such as Twitch and Discord can help you build your network across the internet. The key to social media is authenticity, engagement, and patience. Slow and steady builds the network.
Start Here: The Rules of Networking on Social Media
Other useful articles:
- 8 Top Social Media Platforms for Artists and Designers
- 5 Better Ways to Network on Twitter & LinkedIn
- Networking on Twitch / Twitch: Graphic Design Live Streams
New to social media? How to Use Social Media in Your Career
4. Join student and professional organizations.
The University of Texas boasts over 1,100 student organizations and houses many student chapters of professional organizations. It's never too early to join, and any experience you gain or leadership positions you hold can be included on your resume. Joining organizations is the quickest way to finding like-minded students on campus who share your interests and passions. Who knows... you may end up making friends with the next Michael Dell or Brené Brown!
Start Here: Browse Student Organizations on HornsLink
5. Attend networking events.
One upside to the current state of the world is that it's never been easier to attend networking events. The transition to remote work and virtual opportunities has afforded the public greater access to gatherings that otherwise could have been location-specific or cost prohibitive. Take advantage of this by attending webinars and virtual meet-ups and leveraging these events to build your network. You can find networking events through social media and email newsletters, as well as a number of unexpected places (such as Facebook Groups and Slack).
If you can't attend a webinar in real-time, it still may benefit you to watch the recording and connect with the speaker(s) and attendees asynchronously. You can find a growing list of webinar recordings on our Career Resources page.
Here is a sampling of Austin-based organizations currently hosting virtual events:
- Longhorn Connection
- Austin UX Meetups & Slack Groups
- AIGA Austin Events
- Boss Babes ATX Events
- Built in ATX Design and Tech Events
- Austin Music Foundation Events
However, the beauty of going online is that you are not confined to Austin! There are many, many more organizations throughout the country and around the world that are producing public virtual events. Search tools such as Eventbrite and Meetup can help you narrow your search and find events that best fit your interests and career goals.
6. Ask someone you admire to coffee.
If that sentence scares you, you're not alone! Thankfully one of the privileges of being a college student is that, more often than not, professionals are willing to help you. Is there a local leader in your industry that you admire? Are you looking for career advice? Did you connect with someone on LinkedIn who has your dream job? It never hurts to ask that person out for coffee (or a Zoom meeting) for an informational interview. The worst they can say is "no," and you have everything to gain. (Please note that it is never acceptable to ask for a job during an informational interview).
Start Here: How to Set Up and Informational Interview
Other useful articles:
- At-Home Networking Strategies
- Here’s How To Ask Someone You Professionally Admire To Coffee
- 9 Questions You Have About Coffee Meetings But Were Too Afraid to Ask
7. Land your first internship.
Ever heard the saying "it takes a job to get a job"? This is why internships are so critical. In today's world, you can (and should) start applying for internships as early on in your college career as possible. Even if you have little to no work experience, you can bolster your resume with class projects, part-time jobs, and student organizations. Your early (potentially unpaid) internships can help you land your dream internship later. You'll walk away from every internship experience with a better sense of what you do - and don't - want to do long-term, as well as professional connections from your time with each company.
So how do you land your first internship? It starts with a strong resume, cover letter, and portfolio. Industry Relations at the School of Design and Creative Technologies can assist you with all three. Click here to set up an appointment.
Other useful articles:
- How to Create the Perfect Design Resume
- How to Write a Successful Cover Letter
- Professor Gray Garmon's List of Portfolio Resources
- Deconstructing your portfolio (Written by Center for Integrated Design professor Jai Dandekar)
- 4 Easy Steps to Create a Beautiful Design Portfolio
- 5 Tips for Perfecting Your Portfolio Presentation (Written by B.F.A. Design '20 alumna Caroline Rock)
8. Keep it up.
Networking is a continuous process and won't happen overnight. Now that you've laid the foundation, keep making new connections while maintaining those you already have. Over time, you'll watch your professional network grow and change with each step in your career. The more you grow your network as a student, the better poised you'll be to launch into your industry after graduation.