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 five tips on how to network more effectively, both digitally and in person.
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Everyone’s been to networking events and come away feeling awkward, rejected and tired. Networking has a bad reputation because it’s more about growing your network 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 toward 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 before 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 to my clients as well. They will know far more people, far more clients, and far more directors/producers than you can ever hope to know by yourself, and they can share that network with you.
If you try to protect your network from others, you are doing your clients and yourself a disservice. You’re limiting your networks 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 people who already do what you want to do. Buy them lunch and 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 it’s 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 it’s just an email introduction), if someone spends any of their valuable time helping you with anything — make sure you thank them.
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.
What are the secrets to your success? How did you get ahead in the early days of your video career? Share your experiences in the comments below!