I have posted a little bit about professional networking in the past, but it is so important that I am going to talk some more about some of the best ways to network with others in the design industry.
How about starting with the easy, digital networking solutions:
1) Twitter - While you may not be directly talking to professionals on Twitter, you can follow industry professionals to see what they are up to and what they are talking about. Producing insightful tweets or even replying to a firm or a design professional in a tweet when appropriate could net you a follow from them. Make sure to include a short and sweet description of yourself on your profile and link to your online portfolio if available. You can find me on Twitter @sean_mateer.
2) Linkedin - I'll admit that I neglected Linkedin for awhile, but I've recently found how helpful it can be when applying for internships and looking for connections in different cities. I was able to connect with a few strangers in distant cities through introductions from my existing Linkedin connections. Linkedin also gives you an alternative place to organize all of the information you would put on your resume. I try to keep mine as updated as possible, as I have found that some employers actually prefer to look at a Linkedin profile over a resume.
Alright, real life networking. It's easier than it seems. Here's my two favorite ways:
1) Hang out before/after events - Typically, before or after an event, industry professionals are more than happy to chat with you about any questions you may have. If you aren't confident walking right up to someone and introducing yourself, try working your way into a conversation between a few people and go from there.
2) Informational Interviews - Do these. Do these a lot. Did you find a firm in town that looks cool on Twitter? Send them an email saying you'd love to chat with someone at the firm. Did you meet someone after the AIGA event you attended? Send them a follow up email and ask if you can meet and chat more sometime. Informational Interviews are by far my favorite way for creating lasting and meaningful connections with design professionals.
How are you building connections in the design industry? Let me know in the comments.