My greatest mistake I made at the beginning of my career was not networking. I absolutely hated it and avoided it at all costs. As a self-proclaimed introvert, going out and meeting new people can be exhausting. And industry events always felt as authentic as Sunday brunch on your local Love and Hip-Hop.
Hate it or love it, networking can make or break your career. But I promise, once you start putting it into practice it’s not nearly as painful as it is in your head. Here’s some questions to ask yourself as you sharpen those networking skills.
Who are your friends?
The first and easiest place to look when starting to network is people you know. You already have a rolodex (right next to your fax machine) full of friends, coworkers, professors, and family. You’d be surprised at the amount of talent among the people you talk to on regularly. Those are the ones that can help you execute a project, introduce you to other connections and get a job.
What you makes you so special?
You’ve identified the people and their awesome skills you’d love to work with – but what’s in it for them? What type of value can you offer for their goals? The main goal of networking is to create mutually beneficial relationships.
As a novice in the industry you make be thinking that you don’t have enough experience or know-how to to help anyone, but remember your point-of-view is a powerful thing. As creatives, we’re able to see the world differently and sometimes simply offering your unique perspective can help someone solve a problem.
What do you need?
If you were to meet the perfect person to add to your professional network, what steps would they need to take to help you reach your goal? Would it be an introduction to someone else? Advice? Feedback on project?
I’ve noticed that people are more inclined to help those with a plan. It’s wise, not to go into networking situations blind. Map out the people you want to meet. Map out the questions you need answers to. Make it easy for your connection to help you. Then in return, always revisit question #2.
Is this a genuine connection?
Using people is not ok. While I’m not saying every connection is going to spearhead into best-bud-city, you want to connect with people who you at least like. Talking to people you feel comfortable with, especially if one of you needs a favor, will take the pain and awkwardness out of the whole ordeal.
Now go forth and network!