However daunting networking can seem, it is useful to remember that there are more positive reasons to network than not.
Successful networking will help you to; find out about your sector and employers within it, identify new trends and developments, as well as build your awareness of opportunities and jobs. If you are not actively networking during your studies, you are potentially putting yourself at a disadvantage for when you graduate.
Networking put simply, is a group of contacts and acquaintances that help you in a way that is mutually beneficial.You network all the time without knowing it. For example, how often have you asked your family and friends for advice, information or support recently?
Not sure who is in your current network?
Mapping your network is great way to identify your current contacts and will help you become more focused on your professional network. The University of Arts London has a great resource on their careers-creative-living website that will help you to identify your current network and spot any gaps; http://www.careers-creative-living.co.uk/images/resources/new_community_map.pdf
Want to develop your network?
There are many ways to develop your network, from online social media, joining professional groups and organisations, to face to face opportunities such as the Glasgow based creative network, Creative Banter: http://www.businessbanter.co.uk/inside-the-business-banter/specialevents/creative-banter.htm
However you choose to develop your network there are some golden rules to follow to ensure that you build a great reputation.
- Set a goal for networking: by setting a reachable goal (i.e. professionals you would like to meet, sectors you would like to find out about etc.) it will help you to focus you networking activities.
- Be professional at all times: It is really easy to create a bad reputation and really hard to lose it. Be professional at all times, avoid gossip and don’t bad mouth anyone! The creative industries can be a small place, being negative and unprofessional will just reflect badly on you.
- Be confident don’t under sell yourself. Practice a conversation opener and pitch and make sure that you don’t fall into the habit of downplaying your skills or abilities.
- Be friendly to everyone: Treat everyone as an equal, be open and approachable. You never know who you may be speaking to and remember not all employers wear suits. Smile and be aware of your body language if networking at an event- be open.
- Don’t be too pushy and share: when you are new to networking it can be easy to focus on just what you want to gain from networking. Don’t over sell yourself or just talk about you, remember a network should be mutually supportive. Be interested in others and build relationships first. Offer referrals when you can and share your knowledge. The best networkers believe in ‘givers gain’ in other words, what goes around comes around.
- At events and online give others opportunities to speak and share: Give people a chance to talk and listen to them carefully. Make people feel important by asking lots of questions and be interested in what they have to say. Keep the conversations light and friendly. Not sure how to start a conversation, remember to ask open questions, such as:
- How did you get into…?
- How/why did you decide to pursue this career?
- How did you find work?
- What would you advise me to do?
- What do you like most/least about what you do? What are the challenges?
- What personal abilities are important in this career?
- What skills are essential (technical and personal) and why?
- How can I find work experience?
- If you could do anything differently in your career preparation what would you do?
- Can you recommend sources for more information?
- What advice would you give to anyone starting out these days?
- Take notes and follow up on any activities: Swap business cards and take notes on who you meet and what they do, as it can be a great way of opening a conversation when you next meet them. If you say you will contact them at a later date then do so, don’t let a contact become cold because you have neglected to follow up on the discussion.
Networking in a professional context should be supportive, informative and help you to enter your chosen career. To get started check out the following links;
Visual Practice Networks
A-N’s Artist Talking http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking
Artquest’s Artelier http://www.artquest-artelier.com/
Central station http://www.thisiscentralstation.com/
(re) Design http://www.redesign.org/
Creative Industries Network: http://www.creative-cin.co.uk/
Architecture Centre Network http://archiecturecentre.net/docs/home/
World Changing http://www.worldchanging.com/community/
Want to find out more about networking email firstname.lastname@example.org for the companion handout and come along to the Networking for novice’s event Wednesday 3rd October 2012 4-5pm Building 10 on the campus map.( see about GSAcareers)
Thank you to Sean Black for use of the image