Importance of Networking

Networking is for everyone, artists and designers alike. Think of your network as your support group of like-minded professionals. Whether it’s getting help with a gallery show application, trying to earn an interview at a design firm, or seeking mentorship and advice for your next career move. Leveraging your connections will give you an advantage in whatever career challenges you face as a fine artist, designer or entrepreneur. 

A student networks with an employer at the Design Portfolio Review, Networking Reception.
Your Introduction

Everyone should be equipped with a clear and efficient introduction to share in an impromptu meeting. Whether attending a gallery opening, a professional conference or connecting online, a concise explanation of who you are and your short term goals will generate meaningful conversation. Preparing your introduction in advance has the added benefit of helping shy or introverted people to start a conversation like a pro. 

employer and student in conversation
Your Strategy

Focus and persistence are key in order to achieve your career goals. In order to get the most out of networking, maintain a list of top prospects whether it’s your favorite design firms or fine art organizations, and the designers or fine artists you aspire to work with some day. Set aside modest time each day or week to research the prospects on your list, looking for new connections and keeping in contact with the ones you’ve already established. Pro tip: Cramming in hours of networking is not nearly as effective as networking for an hour or two per week.  

A student engages with an employer in the Student Waiting Area of the Design Portfolio Review.
Keep In Touch

A common question we get in career advising is, “What do I say when I reach out to someone that I’ve already made contact with? I feel like I don’t have anything new to say and I don’t want to bug them!” First, let’s consider the why. We keep in touch so that our contacts don’t forget about us. So that if an opportunity arises, whether it be fine art or design related, you may be considered. 

Here’s a simple outline to use for any periodic outreach to your top prospects. First, give praise! Did your contact’s company release a new line of products that you like? Be specific with your praise, as that’s what makes it believable. Second, provide an update. Share a brief story relating to your recent work or possibly some new techniques or tools you’ve been learning to progress your professional skills. Include a couple images to enhance your message. Lastly, promote your goals. Remind your contact of your immediate goal whether it’s getting a job at their awesome studio or finding an exhibition opportunity for your latest artwork.

Pro tip: Artist postcards featuring an image of your work with a handwritten note are rare in this digital age. Consider selectively mailing these to contacts as a pleasant surprise that could enhance your rapport and general good will. 

Key Ways to Network

Whether in-person or online, there are multiple ways to network effectively and in a style that matches your personality. 

RISD Events

The Career Center provides other opportunities to engage with professionals on campus. In the Fall, Internship Connect hosts over 70 companies and art organizations, ready to meet students and answer questions about their organizations. In the Spring, the Design Portfolio Review and Fine Arts Portfolio Review hosts over 200 organizations, to critique your work and provide feedback for improvement. 

RISD Network
RISD Network

The RISD Network is a multifaceted platform that helps foster connections between RISD students and thousands of alumni around the world, facilitating career-related conversations between RISD students and alumni. It offers an opportunity to seek knowledge and advice, explore new career paths and build a professional network. 

Join the RISD Network

LinkedIn logo

This professional networking platform hosts 500+ million users and 16+ million companies and organizations. With a basic profile, you can search for professionals by organization, geographic location, discipline and any imaginable keyword. You can invite someone to connect and begin a conversation, which will sometimes lead to a meaningful professional contact. 

The Rhode Island School of Design Alumni Group on LinkedIn hosts more than 10,000 verified undergraduate and graduate alumni along with current RISD students on the platform. If you meet the criteria, you may request to join the group to give your network a boost! 

Join The Rhode Island School of Design Alumni Group

graduating students
RISD Alumni Clubs and Affinity Groups

For RISD’s alumni around the world, there are a growing number of regional clubs and professional affinity groups to keep you connected to RISD. These groups are a powerful way to connect with like-minded alumni.

Explore The Alumni Groups

professionals at a networking event
Professional Associations

There are valuable, professional associations and directories within the fine art and design fields. Explore professional associations connected to art and design disciplines to fuel your networking strategy.

Explore Associations By Major

Building A Professional Network - Video Tutorial


Watch this on-demand tutorial for a deep dive on how to effectively grow your network.