Networking is smart and extremely beneficial for creative professionals who are starting, looking to shake things up in their career, or improve their business pipeline. But just going out to meetups or industry happy hours is not only daunting for most but can be a waste of your time (unless you are there primarily for the beer).
Some of us don’t have a lot of free time, and when we do, the last thing on our mind is to go out and hobnob with strangers, hoping they may be of some benefit career-wise. Showing up at industry type events like an AIGA or AAF happy hour is fun because you get a chance to hang with some familiar faces and many like-minded people. But don’t expect to get anything business or career boasting out of the evening. These should be considered social events and little else. If you are looking to improve your current situation, you need to network smart. To get the most out of networking, have a plan by following these steps and make it happen!
OK, first ask yourself what your current situation is, then identify what the hell you wish it were. Do you want a new job or more money or better clients? Great. What is that job, and who would you be working for? How much money are you wanting? What would your ideal client be? Identify and describe your responses as detailed as possible. That’s your goal.
The next step is to plan how to achieve that goal. Was your goal to double your income? Well, the plan has to correspond with that realistically. It is rare to double your salary from a single job change or promotion, so devise a plan and timeline to make that happen. Keep that goal in mind, and always update the plan as you work toward it. If your plan is failing, well, change that shit up.
This is when you start networking. You have your goal; you have your plan, so start meeting the people that can help you accomplish your mission. Pinpoint people you know or your colleagues know and reach out or ask for an introduction, making your motivation clear. Go as far as meeting the people who know the people you need to meet. Do your research. Make sure you have your shit together too. Write out your pitch and your value proposition. Have some questions ready to ask, be professional and concise. And listen! Then after you meet, be sure to ask them if there is anyone they know that could help you in your mission. If you are shy or scared, knock it off and grow up. They are people no different than you. The last thing you want to deal with is regret. The worst that can happen is they say no or ignore you. The rejection or being ignored is annoying, but at least you’ll know that person is a jerk, but regret really sucks.
Once you put this networking plan into action, you’ll start winning more. The more proactive you refine your 3 steps, the better off you’ll be at life and accomplishing the things that matter to you.