Not all of us are born extroverts. Maybe you didn’t study a business degree. Perhaps you prefer not to spend your weekend with your head buried in career development books.
Degrees are great for many things but most syllabi don’t cover those soft skills that are essential if you’re to build a successful career. Skills such as how to win friends and influence people, how to make sure a job interview goes your way, or how to present your creative concept and win over your boss.
We’ve decided to open up on all the secret skills you need to have to really own that job and develop your creative career with our new series Creatives 101. In this series of monthly blogs, we’ll be sharing with you bite-sized guides to these essential skills.
Some of the skills we’ll cover will include:
But we’re kicking off the series with a short guide on how to get the very best out of networking from Amy George.
The word ‘Networking’ can strike fear into the most extroverted of hearts. The prospect of having to speak to complete strangers about yourself for over an hour doesn’t always feel like the most natural thing in the world.
You might not like it, but it’s essential.
If you’ve ever freelanced, you’ll know that your creative survival can ride on your ability to network. A successful networking approach can dramatically enhance your job search. Here are 6 secrets to successful networking that will transform your approach to growing your network:
Networking is the process of building your network and, in the creative industry, there is plenty of opportunity to extend your network and fill it with all kinds of talent that you can draw on or extend, whether it be writers, designers, front-end developers or business professionals.
How to: You can (and should) network everywhere and anywhere. At a friend’s wedding, by the pool on holiday, or at a local business group. However, if you’re to do this without losing friends and annoying people, this next tip is key.
If you launch into your elevator pitch with every introduction at a friend’s wedding, you may find yourself a little short on friends (or at least a little short on wedding invites).
Networking isn’t delivering your elevator pitch to anyone who’ll listen. It’s about having an effective two-way conversation with someone.
How to: Get talking first and show an interest in them. Asking questions such as ‘what do you do’, or taking the conversation in the direction of work can open up an opportunity to talk about what you do, and whether your skills could be useful to them or someone they know, now or in the future.
Networking is a long-term activity. Don’t expect to network on one occasion and to land that perfect opportunity. You need to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise over a time.
How to: Build your network gradually, with an introduction, maybe a couple of ‘chance’ meetings at business groups they attend, and then an email or a LinkedIn invite. It’s a progressive relationship that needs a consistent approach.
Once you get that commitment to connect, you want to be able to execute it in a professional manner.
How to: Keep a business card with you at all times. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date and make sure it’s focused on the types of jobs you’re looking for.
Keep that short stint as a cashier at the local petrol station to one line and use the space to detail your creative work and the results that it delivered for the business at the time.
The whole raison d’êtreof networking is to be able to tell people what you do and see if they can help you find that next job, learn those new skills, or extend your network further. So, it’s essential you can tell them what you do in terms they’ll understand.
Many business gurus would encourage you to learn an elevator pitch – a 60-second monologue about what you do, why you do it, who you do it for and why they should choose you. That’s great if you’re standing up for a timed speech at a local networking group, but most networking doesn’t happen in that kind of environment.
How to: Instead, spend time thinking about what you do, who you do it for and why you do it. Drop the jargon. Keep it short. When you are considering what to say, make sure it can answer the simple question ‘so, what do you do?’.
Pitch your response at the right technical level. For example, if the person you are speaking to is in Software Design, you can afford a much more technical response such as ‘I’m a senior Android Developer specialising in UX optimised interfaces and security protocols using JQuery, Ajax and PHP.’. If you were speaking to an Analytics Manager a response along the lines of ‘I develop apps for phones and tablets that are easy and secure for users.’ may be more appropriate.
Don’t dazzle them with science at this stage, they can always ask you questions later.
If they seem interested and you have some examples of your work to hand, ask if they’d like to see one of your recent projects, but again, keep it short and make sure that it’s appropriate to the situation (maybe whipping out your smartphone in the middle of the wedding vows isn’t a good move).
Whether it’s LinkedIn or whether it’s an email with a link to your blog, website or CV, make sure you follow up. They may have your business card, but cards get lost, so by following up with electronic communication, you can be sure that they can contact you if they need your skills or experience.
For more career advice check out our blog ‘Creative Professionals share the best career advice they’ve ever been given’ or check out the latest jobs we have at www.ic-creative.com/jobs.