A solid network is an ideal foundation for a career that’s going places.
In this fast-paced industry, a good network is essential. With more and more people working freelance or on short-term contracts, jobs are often given to contacts. Your peers will also keep you up to date with the latest trends and teach you about how your industry works. Networking can also give you ideas for projects and exciting career paths.
This is why the International Moving Image Society puts great emphasis on networking. All of its events offer networking opportunities and the smaller IMIS communities groups are perfect for getting and staying in touch with like-minded people.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the secret to good networking is not to perfect your sales pitch, but to build mutually beneficial relationships, which is also much more enjoyable. Here are eight tips that will help you build a network that will work for you.
Nurture your contacts
Whether these are your mates from uni, former colleagues, friends of friends or university professors, try to stay in touch – that could be just by connecting on LinkedIn or other social media, or meeting up for the occasional drink, chatting about projects and news in the industry.
Go to industry events
Any work-related events, such as discussions, workshops, union gatherings, trade fairs or seminars can be brilliant opportunities to nurture old contacts and make new ones. It’s easiest to meet new people at events for professionals, as many people will come on their own. It’s much harder to network at social events, such as private views or parties, where most people arrive with a group of colleagues or friends.
Consider going to networking events
Have a look for relevant networking events on www.eventbrite.com. While some comprise members of all industries, others target specific professional fields. Although entering a room full of strangers can be intimidating, these events are designed to make it as easy as possible to get chatting. Some networking events follow a programme, where members meet a set number of people (a bit like speed dating), while others are less structured.
The easiest way to get going, is to just introduce yourself to somebody standing on their own. You can also wait until somebody approaches you, which often happens very quickly. Think of a brief introduction beforehand. It needs to explains in a couple of sentences who you are and what you are looking for. For example ‘I’m [your name] and am looking to expand my network’, or ‘I’m [your name] and work as [job title]. I’m now looking for my next career move’, or ‘My name is [your name]. I’m a film graduate, looking for opportunities within TV’.
A couple of sentences at a time is often all people can take in at a busy and noisy event, so keep your introduction to a minimum and start asking about their work.
Focus on building rapport
When you’re chatting to someone, focus on having a good conversation and finding common ground, rather than just giving a presentation. Try and find out what your new contact does and is looking for, regardless if they’re a movie producer or assistant – you never know who can connect you with just the right person. Explain what would help you in your career, but also find out what their goals are. Share sources, experience, advice and offer to connect them with other people in your network. It’s not only lovely to help others, but they’ll be happy to return the favour.
Keep it brief
Once you feel you’ve had a good chat (or if the conversation doesn’t get going), ask for their card, tell them how nice it was to meet them and offer to stay in touch, before moving on. It’s often best to keep it brief. If you’ve started discussing a possible project, or there is something both of you would like to talk about in more depth, arranging to meet up again is often better than to spend all evening talking to the same person.
Always follow up with a LinkedIn contact request and message or email. Making introductions can also be very helpful and is an excellent way of making a positive impression. If relevant, try to meet up with your new contacts, suggest ideas or send your CV.
Stay in touch
Even with the best intentions, most people will forget the majority of people they meet at networking events, unless they make an effort to stay in touch. If you want to considered for that perfect work opportunity a few months’ down the line, you need to remind them of your existence.
How you do this, depends very much on each contact as well as the field you work in, but again, the best way is trying to be genuinely helpful. Make introductions, share relevant professional information or forward work and funding opportunities. The occasional email can work as well, and many swear by interacting with your contacts on social media, such as LinkedIn.
Stick with it
Building a good network takes time. It’s a skill, and the more you do it, the better you will get. You will also find the style of making and nurturing contacts that works best for you. And remember, that you will never know when you will meet the person, who will put your career on a new trajectory.
Sonia Klug is a freelance writer, editor and news junkie, who has written about the media and imaging technology for nearly two decades. She is particularly interested in the impact of new technologies on us and how it’s changing our working lives.