5 Tips on Effective Networking: Digitally or In-Person
If you’re trying to get ahead in your career it often boils down to who you know, not just what you know. Follow these 5 tips on how to network more effectively, either digitally or in-person.
Everyone’s been to networking events and come away feeling awkward, rejected and tired. Networking has a bad reputation because its more about growing your network, rather than building real relationships. However, when done effectively it’s arguably the single best way to get ahead in your career.
Immanuel Kant (yes I did just drop a reference to an 18th century philosopher in a blog about networking!) suggested that the most important thing in life was to never treat other people as a means to your ends, but to treat them as ends in themselves. If you can do networking in this way, you’ll have more fun and more success.
The following networking tips are geared toward creative professionals (photographers, video editors, producers, etc) but are highly applicable for all types of business and industries.
1. Promote others not yourself
No one likes the person who won’t shut up about themselves. However, everyone likes the person who is excited, enthusiastic and vocal about their great friends, colleagues or acquaintances.
To promote others and not yourself is a humble way of putting other people first and making sure your advice is of value to the person standing in front of you. Offer to make introductions with other talented people. Soon they’ll likely start asking questions about you and your projects.
Note: if you promise to send them someone’s details, make a note of it and be sure you follow it up in a day or two. This is also a great way to get their contact details without seeming ‘grabby’. And always make sure you have some nice looking business cards to hand out.
2. Ask questions
Everyone likes talking about themselves. It makes them feel important, valued and interesting. So ask questions, lots of questions.
Direct the conversation towards what they are involved in, what they are excited about, what projects they would love to work on. This will lead to a genuine and human conversation, not just a networking speed date in which you quickly judge whether this person can help you or not and then discarding them. To be interesting is to be interested.
3. Get to know people who do your job
Other people who do the same job as you, may feel like the competition but really they are your community. I’ve gotten so much work through other editors I know, who recommend me when they can’t do a job and I recommend them as well to my clients. They will know far more people, far more clients, far more directors/producers etc than you can ever hope to know by yourself and they can share that network with you. If you try to protect your network and clients from others you are doing your clients a diservice and yourself a diservice because you’re limiting its growth (when it could be constantly expanding). The more you share your network the larger it will grow.
4. Know people who do the job you want
So how do you get into the job that you want? How do you move from the assistant to the master? Well I think part of the answer is to learn from as many people who already do what you want to do. Ask them to lunch (and pay!) and then pepper them with questions – be interested. Ask them if you can help them for free on a project or help them in some small way.
Asking them to help you; “Can you watch my showreel? Can you look at my CV?” is going to start off your relationship on the wrong foot, with you being a drain on their time and energy rather than a benefit to them. This may seem like the hardest part of moving ‘up’ – finding people to learn from, being as friendly and outgoing as you can and asking boldly.
5. Be polite
This is the simplest and shortest tip but its often the one that fails to happen most. If someone connects you with a valuable contact, if someone takes the time to connect you with someone they know (even if its just an email introduction), if someone spends any of their valuable time helping you with anything – make sure you say Thank You. Write them a quick email, send them a note, give them a gift, shout out on Twitter – just make the effort. It doesn’t really matter how small it is, but it is critical to demonstrating that you are grateful and that you are a person with basic manners. As they say, it’s the little things that matter.