When I first started out as a young professional and attended networking events, I barely made eye contact and I circled the room from the sidelines. I always found it bizarre to bring a whole bunch of people in a room together and encourage them to artificially interact, for the purpose of individual advancement. I still feel that way and I call BS on a lot of these events. But I digress.
I find a lot of creative types want to stick to the feel-good aspects of artmaking. Keep your head down, practice, practice, practice to get better at it and then by some miracle the work will make itself known to the world. That’s part of what The Artist’s Way teaches, right? The focus on art as a spiritual practice. And that is all well and good when you are trying to get back in the game, but after a certain point the hunger to make creativity a whole and complete part of your life will take over. Going into a job every day that neglects this integral part of your being will be painful. You’re going to want out and the way you do that will be through networking.
Let’s face it, relationships are the foundation of the creative industry, through referrals. Sure, someone can put out a formal job posting, but it is far less likely to happen because new projects are being created all the time and each project may require a different skill or level of experience. When someone is strapped for time because they just got the funds to proceed with their creative project, they’re not going to want to put in the energy into a job post and weed through hundreds of resumes. The easier option is ask their friends or scroll through their list of contacts. You want to be on that list, front and centre.
If you’re like me and absolutely abhor networking events, then you first have to switch your mindset around networking and its purpose. Forget what it looks like on the surface: a bunch of strangers fake smiling their way at a party, each promoting themselves. You are there to talk to people and hear their stories. That’s all it is. You are starting a conversation because you are interested in another person’s life, thoughts and perspective. While your end goal may be to find work in your chosen creative field or to promote your latest creative project, that is not your opening line. Your first focus should be on the other person standing in front of you.
It’s only after chatting with the person first and hearing from them, that you will talk about your goals or latest project. And here is another important point. If you want to join the creative sector, do not define yourself by your day job in an introduction. Call yourself what you aspire to become, leaving out the word “aspiring” in front of it. Own your ambition. If it’s truly necessary to bring up your day job, you can do so, but don’t make it the focus of the conversation.
Here’s another form of networking and one I particularly enjoy doing. I reach out to someone I have never met, but whose work I admire or whom I’d simply like to connect with (or work with) and ask them if they would like to meet for coffee or to have a Skype chat. I do this through finding their email address online, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger and Twitter. This is a great way to also find out if there are upcoming job opportunities available or to learn more about your sector of choice. No matter what, it’s a learning opportunity and it will widen your circle of contacts.
At the end of the day, every interaction you have in your day-to-day life is a networking opportunity. You never know if the cashier at the grocery store is the daughter of a famous film producer. The more people around you that know your career ambitions and that identify you as a creative person, the better. This is the digital age. You need to keep finding ways to make yourself seen and heard amidst all the noise out there. Keep practicing your art, but don’t forget to keep your head up and stay connected with the rest of the world.
If you’d like a step-by-step breakdown on email and speaking scripts to make networking easier, then let me know in the comments. We can also set-up a call to discuss your next networking strategy. As always, subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you get blog posts like these delivered straight to your inbox.