There are many tools you can use as a UX designer, but not all of them are directly design related. Communication software like Slack, product/project management programs like Asana, and email providers like Gmail, are all part of a designer’s day to day world. 

But the other tool that must be conquered before one can land a job as a UX designer—and is one many people (not just designers) have a love/hate relationship with—is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform owned by Microsoft that lets you post career updates, share and like content, and connect with others. 

Sounds easy, right? Yes, you can just check the boxes on the basics, but here we’ll talk you through how to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile as a designer, and how to jumpstart the job search by using this valuable tool.

First and foremost, keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional communication platform, not a personal social media channel. LinkedIn is often the first place a recruiter or hiring manager will go when considering you for a position. Your LinkedIn profile is your best chance at a solid first impression—keep that in mind as you use these tips to build and maintain your LinkedIn.

Imagery: Make a Strong First Impression

Pick a professional-looking, headshot-type photo, if you choose to include one. You don’t need to be in a suit and tie, (and for a design job, looking too buttoned up might actually hurt your chances), but you also don’t want to use a photo from last Halloween either. 

Avoid cropping out or including friends, family members, or pets, as well as blurry or old photos. The area where your photo goes also includes a customizable background image, and the same principles apply: keep it unobtrusive, professional, and relevant. 

Headline: Advertise Yourself As a Designer

Under your photo and name is a place to include a clear and concise headline that summarizes what you do, or what you hope to do, in your career. Treat this as a place where you can advertise yourself as a UX designer. 

Avoid making it too long or wordy, and as much as you might describe yourself as an, “Aspiring UX/UI designer leading with empathy, looking for an entry-level position in a mission-driven product company,” know that spelling it out in your headline just underscores the fact that you don’t have as much UX experience as the roles you’re applying to.

Instead, list your current role as, “Freelance/Contract UX/UI/Product Designer,” or whatever resonates with you. When recruiters are searching for candidates, they often search by title. If you’re not calling yourself a designer, you’re not going to show up, no matter how good your portfolio might be. 

For those of you who have full time jobs and are trying not to let your current company know that you’re searching for a new position, you’ll need to double down on the LinkedIn networking instead as a way to use this tool to your advantage (see some tips for that further down).

Geography: Broadcast Your Location (or Not)

Next up is geography. In general, list yourself in or close to the city you’d like to work, even if you’re not currently there. Recruiters will search by geography to narrow down their candidate pool, so if you’d like to move to Boston, go ahead and list that as your location. Just make sure to be clear during the interview process as to your intentions and timing on relocation. 

Industry: A Designer Is a Designer in Any Industry

Industry is a required category that can be a bit confusing. As a designer, you’re in a role within an industry most of the time, unless you’re a freelancer or in a design consultancy. For example, you could be a UX designer in an E-learning company—is your industry Design or E-learning? 

Approaching it from a recruiting perspective, your best bet is to go with Design, so you’re showing up if someone is searching for designers no matter what industry they may be recruiting for. 

Contact Info: Make It Easy for People to Find You Online

Did you know that you can customize your profile URL on LinkedIn? So instead of the random arrangement of letters and numbers that LinkedIn assigns you, you can actually change it to your name or to match your portfolio website. You may need to play with this a bit if you have a more common name, but it looks more professional to have this customized regardless. 

Within your contact information on LinkedIn you’re also able to add your portfolio URL, which is vital to anyone searching for a design role. You want to make it as easy as possible for recruiters or hiring managers to find all the information they’re looking for in one place.

You can also add your email address and phone number to the contact information section, but these are all optional so add at your discretion. If you choose to add contact details, just make sure they match what’s in your portfolio and resume.

About You: Keep It Short and Sweet 

The About section is similar to a cover letter in a way; some recruiters and hiring managers may read it, but it’s not going to land you a UX job. It should be similar to the About page in your portfolio. 

A short paragraph about why you switched to UX design makes sense; three paragraphs about your hobbies, passions, and favorite TV shows does not. Keep in mind that readers are looking to know more about your professional background rather than what you like to do on the weekends or in your spare time. 

Work History: Use Keywords From Jobs You’re Applying To

Here’s where you get to list your work history, in chronological order. It should map closely to your resume, and include keywords that you might find in a UX/UI or Product design job description—especially the ones you’re applying for. 

For example, if you’re applying to a position that talks about collaboration, B2B, and deliverables, make sure to include those words in past roles, if possible, even if they weren’t related to design. Make sure to include any metrics that you might have from past roles, such as people or teams managed, an increase in sales or profitability, efficiency data, etc. 

If your current experience is some sort of freelance designer, you should include short descriptions of projects you’ve recently worked on, even if you’re not able to show them quite yet. So something like, “User research study for a local fitness company,” “Website redesign for a therapy practice,” or, “UX design for a real estate startup”. 

You don’t need to name clients specifically, but you do want to speak to your current design experience. You also don’t need to include high school or minor internship roles, unless they were for a company or person that might be relevant to your current aspirations. 

A word on grammar: write about your current role in the present tense, and anything else in the past tense. It’s up to you if you’d like to use first or third person, bullets for responsibilities, or paragraphs, but stay consistent and don’t jump back and forth.

Education: Be Recent, Relevant, & Right 

This is a pretty straightforward section, and most people order them with the most recent first. Designlab would go here if you’ve taken our UX Academy program or any of our short courses, along with any post-secondary or secondary education. If you have other certifications or degrees, feel free to add them too. 

If you attended, but didn’t graduate from a particular program, don’t claim that you did; it’s better to be honest up front than to have your company find out in a background check later, which may result in a rescinded offer. 

Note that any education beyond high school that is relevant to positions you’re applying for is worth listing on your LinkedIn, but no need to list your high school education or anything prior. 

Extra Credit: Professional Recommendations Can Give You a Boost

There are additional sections on LinkedIn for Volunteer Work, Skills, Endorsements, Accomplishments, and Recommendations, and it’s up to you if you’d like to fill them out. In general, unless the Accomplishment is significant in the industry, it won’t help that much. Same with Skills and Endorsements; everyone has them, and has similar ones, so it will be hard to stand out based on those areas alone.

If you’d like to ask for a Recommendation, make sure that it’s a person who can speak to your work directly, rather than a friend, family member, or professor. Remember, LinkedIn is a professional networking tool, so as nice as it is to have your fellow Designlab students vouch for your communication skills, a stronger statement might come from a former boss who can talk about your growth and ingenuity. 

One thing to note with all these changes: if you currently have a job, or for some reason don’t want to broadcast your updates to your connections, you’ll want to turn off notifications. To do this, go to “Settings & Privacy,” and under “Visibility,” change “Share profile updates” to No. You can always adjust, but this lets you be more selective about what you’d like to share with whom.

LinkedIn Premium vs. Basic: Which One Is Right for You? 

You can join LinkedIn for free, but if you’d like to take full advantage of things like Search, Messages, and InMails (their equivalent of email), you might want to upgrade for a few months to their Premium Career tier. This gives you InMail access to people you have no connection to, more insight into who views your profile, and more tools to make your profile stand out to recruiters. 

Connections: Make Them Both Personal & Professional

One of the key things you’ll use LinkedIn for is to make connections with peers, hiring managers, and other industry professionals. While you might wait a few days or weeks to add someone as a friend on another social platform, your best bet on LinkedIn is to reach out right away. 

If you attend a hackathon or networking event and meet 10 people, add them all within the next 24 hours or sooner. You don’t need to write a long note, either, but do add some sort of context. The tool automatically uses the phrase, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn,” but be sure to add a personal note that references when you met and what you discussed, something like,”Thanks for the advice at the UX Academy Foundations meetup last night.” This type of personal outreach encourages a more lasting connection. 

Outreach and Follow Up: Growing Relationships 

Once you’ve made all these fabulous connections, what’s next? While you’re certainly not expected to personally message all of these connections with any regularity, sending targeted messages to select connections can go a long way to keeping your network strong. 

If/when you land a new job, all of your contacts will see when you update your new role. Take the time to send short thank you notes to anyone who helped you in your search in a significant way, if you don’t have their emails. If you come across an event, article, or job post that you think a connection might find interesting, pass it along. 

If you do send a connection request or InMail that goes unanswered, be cautious with your follow up. Just because someone doesn’t accept your request right away doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you. 

Many people only use LinkedIn when they’re job searching, so they may not be logging in on a regular basis. If you’ve requested to connect with a very senior person, or a recruiter, their InMail box and connection requests could be in the hundreds. Try to be patient and don’t take it personally. 

Conclusion

As with any tool, LinkedIn will take some time to get comfortable with. Block out an hour or two to play around with different formats and approaches, and know that you can easily adjust and amend as you go. It is a powerful networking tool that can definitely help you land your first job in the UX/UI Design industry. By building a strong profile, being an active member, and fostering connections, you can make LinkedIn work for you. 


To learn more about landing your first job in the UX/UI design industry from design career pros like Nicole, explore our UX Academy program—which includes up to 6 months of Career Services. You’ll be paired with a Career Coach to identify the right job opportunities, add extra polish to your portfolio, work on your interview skills together, and launch your new career!

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Nicole Locklair

Talent Partnerships and Career Services

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