In an era where digitalization has spread to all processes and functions of the design field, students often overlook the importance of face-to-face interaction.
My generation believes social media not to be a distraction, but a way of connecting to the world—an easier way, I’d say. In an effort to transition into the professional environment, design students will invest a lot of energy in polishing their skills and trying to outshine their peers, and not enough energy networking. For many students, networking isn’t easy—for some, it can even be painful.
My focus has always been on the basics: my relationships with my family, friends, teachers and employers, as well as with money. A solid relationship is a catalyst for success. As we know, people do business with those they like and trust. It is important to form and maintain a strong circle of contacts.
Regardless of where you look or what you do, there is no better time than now to build and strengthen your network. I believe that a solid network can serve you well for years to come and it is a nice asset to have in your toolbox during these times of economic uncertainty.
What ways do I network? I try to be visible at my school, rather than hiding at home or behind the computer screen. I volunteer for projects with students of different disciplines, and make myself available to help out at school events. I use my lunch hour to develop my ideas by having discussions about other projects. I ask my peers for their opinions and we bounce ideas off of each other. I stay informed. I know where the companies I want to work for are going and I try to meet them at design associations’ events. An easy way to do this is by joining a professional organization within your field. Most of them are very student-friendly. Network by regularly attending the meetings, engaging with new people, and absorbing information and knowledge from seminars and speakers.
Keep in mind that networking is not only about meeting people, but also about using these relationships as resources and helping others succeed. It’s not about who you know, but who knows you.
Working together is much better than going it alone, right?
—Gabriela Meneghetti is working on her masters in interior architecture and design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She also serves as the education chair for the Retail Design Institute’s Northern California chapter.