I’m not proposing that I’m an expert at networking. In fact, I never really needed to do it for any specific purpose and I used to just thinking of it as meeting new people for fun. But in the last few months I’ve had quite a few chances to try out my new skills, and so here I present to you some things that I have learnt that might help out in the circuit, especially that of photographers and producers.
- Find events. Because a lot of people in the industry tend to spend time out in the field, or working to tight deadlines, most don’t congregate in a particular place very frequently. Therefore if an event does come along that many of your target people will attend, make the most of it.
- E-mail people. You don’t have to meet them all the same time, and e-mailing someone won’t hurt. Butter them up a little, and most people will make some time for you, even during their lunch break. People love helping others. And if not, then at a networking event it’s a great topic to broach when you do get to meet your contact – it shows that you genuinely know who they are.
- tKnow what you want. When meeting someone, or a group of people, it can help to know who you want to speak to (even if it’s by job title), as it allows you to target the right people. Knowing what you want to get out of it as well can make a meeting more productive, and will mean you can ask the right questions.
- Name drop. If you’re trying to get into a competitive and concentrated industry, sometimes it can help to show you’re doing your best to network around, and your meeting with this person wasn’t just a chance one-off.
- Show them your work. Don’t be afraid of showing people your work and your potential weaknesses. Most of the time they’ll be impressed with what your producing and the level of professionality you’re adopting, and if anything needs improvement you know what and how. If they see that you’re listening it comes across very well (I still struggle with this).
- Don’t be shy. I once decided to join two people who knew each other well by saying “Hi, I’m new here, I’m just trying to network around”. Bold move? Yes! If I hadn’t executed it with a smile and enthusiasm I’m sure it wouldn’t have gone down well. But it did and I learnt something from that conversation. Most will understanding how daunting it can be to speak to people you’ve never met, and it could be easier getting someone to introduce you. But if you show that you’re not afraid to speak to someone new on your own then that can leave many people impressed – the other side of the conversation, the host, and general observers.
- Talk to anyone and everyone. Don’t just try to aim for the big wigs. Often they don’t have as much say in what goes on at a lower level. The people who are newer to the industry remember their own struggles to get in, and will want to help you if they can (plus, if they can help you it means they’re getting somewhere in their own career!). Also speaking to people not necessarily doing what you want – in this industry e.g. not just producers but editors or designers, or people working in post-production, because they can eventually tip the scale in your favour in recommending you to others.
- Follow-up e-mails. It’s good to make someone remember you by sending them a follow-up e-mail. It’s even better if you can mention some actions that you’ve taken since your meeting, showing that whatever suggestions they may have given actually registered.
- Don’t be offended. Most likely people will be chatting away to so many others, don’t be offended if they don’t remember who you are. If you had a particular topic you two bonded over, that might help jog their memory, but if you say they met you they’ll believe you and will immediately be more receptive to helping you.
- Give it time. Things in the media industry materialise very. slow. And when they do kick off, it’ll all happen in an instant.