You’ve probably heard this before: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
This is a phrase you’ll hear often in the media industry, and it’s meant to illustrate the importance of having a strong professional network. Of course, what you know is very important as well, but all the knowledge and technical proficiency the world has to offer can only go so far on a limited network. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of some key things to help make building your professional network easy and meaningful.
1. Talk to everyone.
Networking is all about leaving a positive, lasting impression on people so that they’ll think of you down the line when they need someone with your skill set. You can’t leave an impression on someone you don’t interact with, so be sure to at least say hello and introduce yourself to everyone present when a networking opportunity comes up. You don’t need to worry about having an in-depth, relationship building conversation with everyone, but a greeting and an introduction is a great way to show that you are interested and open.
2. In conversation, ask the person questions about themselves.. and be interested in the answers!
One of the easiest ways to get a conversation rolling to is get the person you’re talking to to talk about themselves. This is great approach to take. It will allow you to deepen your understanding of the person in question, both on a personal and professional level, and will provide you with topics and opportunities to take advantage of in conversation. It is important to be an active listener when a networking opportunity presents itself. Actively listening to, and engaging with, another person is a great way to demonstrate a number of positive traits. It can show that you are attentive to and engaged with the world around you in more than just a superficial way and will make your conversation partner feel valued. It has also been shown that people are more inclined to be interested in someone that shows interest in them. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself, but if you can contextualize your own skills and interests within the framework of the other person’s life it’s more likely to be information they retain.
3. Wear your passion on your sleeve.
Remember, when networking, one of your biggest goals is to portray yourself in a memorable and favorable way. Demonstrating a passion for what you do is a great way to accomplish that. If you can show that you well and truly love the work you do, people will notice and will remember that. People want to work with people that are going to be excited about the project at hand. Letting your enthusiasm for your line of work show is a good way to let people know you are serious about your work and will be a positive asset for their next project.
4. Get business cards and carry them with you.
Networking opportunities are everywhere. Some are obvious, like working with a new client or attending an industry related event. Others will sneak up on you when you least expect it, like in line at the coffee shop or riding the bus downtown. Because of this, it’s always good to have a quick and convenient way to pass along your contact information. The benefit to this is two fold. One, as mentioned, is the ease and convenience of handing off your information to your new contact, but the second is the sense of professionalism it adds to the proceedings. Handing out a business card carries an implication that you are prepared and competent, that you weren’t caught off guard or unprepared. It’s a small touch, and while not having a business card likely won’t ruin an attempt at networking, it can help things go more smoothly and elevate the impression you leave to a slightly higher level.
Remember, networking doesn’t occur in a bubble. The skills taught at the Specs Howard School of Media Arts are in demand from people in a myriad of positions and places. Be open, courteous, interested, and prepared at all times. It’s all about getting out and making a good name for yourself, so engage with people at every opportunity you get. You never know what opportunities are waiting just on the other side of a conversation.