The first step in building your network

Starting out or looking to expand your career is difficult. There's so much to consider. It's complex. 

I've seen young designers completely overwhelmed with the fear of taking the first step.

One of the things that haunted me when I was starting out—and it continued years into my career—was the lack of a network. I just didn't feel 'connected'. I remember being in first year University and not knowing who Chiat Day were. (I later found out.)

The thought of building a network petrified me. Without a link into the industry, an existing network of 'connected' friends—I was at a loss to know where to begin.

Granted, today I have a very broad and deep network of colleagues, friends, mentors and influencers whom I regularly keep in touch with.

To take this first step I suggest getting to know the industry you're trying to grow into — get to know the people, the businesses intimately from a healthy distance.

Simply start listening and have your metaphorical radar switched on. Without it you're missing out on the day-to-day, week-to-week events of the industry you're looking to enter, or move into.

With this simple amount of intelligence you've broken down the first critical barrier — the fear of the unknown.

Here's a way you can turn your network radar on.

I was looking through my Twitter page recently—something I rarely do because I use TweetDeck—and realised that I've been listed 197 times!

I love the Twitter platform, I've been a member since 2008, and it has definitely grown up and thrived since then. Like any social media platform, it's only as good as the feed you curate. Bad curation = bad feed.

I follow many people who inspire me, influence my thinking, teach me new things and sometimes give me a good reason to laugh out loud. People like Nick Hallam, Madeleine Baud and whoever it is that tweets for R/GA are people whom I tune into regularly for insight, intelligence and in the case of R/GA, comedic relief.

True story: I hired Madeleine after following her on Twitter and seeing how intelligent, witty and creative her writing was.

Twitter lists are a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to them. They collect like-minded, on-topic people into one, easy to access list which you can subscribe to. It's a simple way to build a Twitter feed, but an even simpler way to find the people you're trying to connect with.

Below, I've put together 35 Twitter lists with over 15,000 designers, strategists, brand experts, advertising planners and creatives you can follow to start tuning your network radar. They're all tweeting relevant information that will help you build a career in design.

Some might turn into mentors, others will influence you day-to-day and give you a glimpse into an industry you may not know that much about.

Start listening to what they're talking about, the content they're sharing, the people they're interacting with. From time to time a discussion will fire up—if you feel like it, contribute to it. Say hello and jump in. Watch for awards announcements, notice which agency is changing, moving or shifting focus. It's all valuable intelligence for you as you embark on, or are growing into, a purposeful career in design, user experience, strategy and innovation:

I'd love to know the social media platform and channels you're using for inspiration and knowledge in your career.

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Where to next?

3 lessons from Tim Kotsiakos