Networking: It feels hard, but here are some tips to make it easy.
As a creative, you spend a lot of time crafting your portfolio, curating your digital collateral and creating a ‘brand’ that represent your unique, creative persona. All that time is a wasted effort if nobody knows to look at it. That’s precisely why networking is so important. It’s the word of mouth strategy for your brand’s marketing plan. I think we all know that networking is what gets us opportunities and pushes our career forward. So instead of talking about why network is important, let’s spend some time talking about how to motivate yourself to network effectively.
Start With the People You Know
If you’re reading this at work, then the first step to building your network is probably sitting right next to you: your co-workers. If you’re a student or in ad school, your teachers (and eventually your fellow students) will be some of the most valuable people you meet. I met my mentors through ad school, these people helped accelerate my career by giving me countless opportunities above my pay grade. Why are these people so valuable? They not only know your work, chances are they’ve worked at other agencies, so use them as easily accessible advocates on your behalf. Keeping them in your network is also insanely easy. Just be friendly, chat them up by the coffee pot. It’s a minimal amount of work that can lead to a ton of return.
Get Your Next Job by Researching Where You Want to Go
Advertising is small. Chances are, the network you want is not as far away as you might think. Identify the places you want to go, then see who you know who knows somebody. Invite that co-worker who used to work with someone at the agency you like for coffee and see if they can introduce you. Simply asking around (and stalking on Linkedin) can reveal connections you didn’t know you had.
Expanding Your Network Locally
The second most important want to build your network is to get out there and be seen. Start attending local events, like New York City’s Creative Mornings or local creativity meetups. Heck, take a stand-up class. I guarantee you’ll find someone who’s an ad copywriter taking it too. No matter where you go, it’s an opportunity to expand your skills and meet like-minded creatives. Yes, it’s super intimidating to start up a conversation with someone new, but you’ll inherently have something to talk about by being a part of a shared activity. The more you do it the easier it’ll become.
Expanding Your Network Digitally
Digital can be a harder place to make noise, but it’s an important space as more and more of our world goes digital. Some people like to use social media for their brand. It’s a great way to put a branded facade out there. If that’s your thing, cool. For me, I’m less interested in lengthy Facebook posts about my wins and philosophy, but for writers Twitter can be a great resource to start conversations with people you admire. It’s also an opportunity to show off your writing. Feel free to engage in conversations and drop a clever one liner. If it’s not your thing, that’s fine too, just make sure you’re using digital to….
Stay in Touch. Always!
Whether you have a network of 10 or a network of 100, if you don’t stay in touch you’re essentially throwing away all of your hard work. It’s super important, so send your network reminders. Casually drop them an email on their birthday. Tell them about the really interesting creative conference you listened to that you thought they’d like. Make it a goal to send them some ‘update’ once every few months. This way, you’re not only showing how thoughtful and awesome you are, but you’re putting out good vibes.
The reason I wrote this article is because, the truth is I am a terrible networker. There’s plenty of excuses I could give you for why I’m a terrible networker, but the truth is that they’re all just excuses. Advertising is a social business. The more people like you, the more they want to hire you, recommend you and think of you. We can all make it a priority if we just dedicate a little bit of time to it. In fact, most of the examples I mentioned in this article are easy and take a minimal amount of time. If you have any networking tips or strategies you like, share them with us here.