The word networking often strikes fear in the heart of otherwise confident together individuals. It can become this beast that takes over and your thought process flips from “I hate networking” to “I’ll never get a job if I don’t”, to “how does she find it so easy.. God I hate her..” We envisage scenes of gulping wine standing against the wall at an industry do, frantically looking for a familiar face and thinking why am I missing Game of Thrones for this. Is that what networking is really all about though? Don’t we do it naturally on a day to day basis? I know lots of people at all levels, some very senior people who are happy to facilitate other people’s careers, “let me introduce you to John” but the moment they need to talk and promote themselves a terror of appearing arrogant and show offy (I’ve made that word up and I like it) transcends upon them and they become an apologetic mess about all the great stuff they have achieved. I’ve been that person more interested in chatting to the person checking my coat in than the big wig I am supposed to be schmoozing. Feeling like a sulky teenager downplaying your achievements or making daft jokes out of nervousness or reflecting on the weather. I’ve also been someone people have networked and been bombarded with facts about their CVs or being told “I don’t know what your company does” (get off snapchat and google it love). I’ve seen the good, the bad, the you really think I’m going to give you a job and the no love no types of networkers. So here are my top ten tips about networking. It’s not the music charts so these are in no particular order.
Engage and ask questions
I’ve been at many an event where someone has talked at me, literally shouting their CV at me as if their life depended on it. Often at events people will hustle to chat to you, talk over other people and literally scream “notice me notice me”. Now I get the world of TV is competitive and you want to get noticed but think about how you go about that. Talk to me not at me. Engage in a normal conversation talk about the event, ask questions, even compliment me on what I’m wearing.
The most senior person is not always the person who can help you the most
We often think we need to grab the CEO and they are going to notice us and facilitate a wonderful new career for you. Sometimes that works for people but it can often me someone at your level that can help you get that job. In TV talk to production managers they are key to hiring and also talent managers as well. Don’t be dismissive of those at the same level build your contacts up. You never know that runner that you just don’t think is important could one day end up being your boss.
Networking isn’t just about formal functions
You don’t have to be at a fancy reception sipping champagne and wondering when the fererro Roche are going to be bought out when it comes to networking. Networking can and should be a regular thing. Whether that’s simply chatting in the lift. Complimenting someone on Twitter about their latest production or simply asking people for advice based on their experience do what you can to be seen and heard. This can seem scary but don’t overthink it, it’s not about pestering but more about showing an interest and seeing how you can help.
Are you using your own networks
Often we ask ourselves how will I get that job? Oh I don’t know anyone who works there, there’s nothing advertised, I’ll not bother contacting anyone. We often neglect our own network for help, sometimes for feeling too cheeky or sometimes we are too proud. It’s often difficult to ask for help.. But how will people contact you about jobs if they don’t even know if you are looking. You’ve probably done it a million times put a friend in touch with someone who can help them find a job, well then it’s about time you did that for yourself..
Know about the company the person you are talking to works for
If you are speaking to someone at an event do some research, find out where they work and the programmes that are produced there. It will give you a head start and a conversation opener if you can talk positively about things they’ve worked on. Don’t be dismissive if you’ve not heard of the company I remember at a careers event someone came up to me and said “I don’t know what “company name” is and what you do, what can you do to help me get a job”. Now this person might not have known the company but my impression was someone that hadn’t done their homework and was all about how can I help them rather than how can they be a great asset to the company. So do your research if you know certain companies are attending or before you go and speak to them do a quick Google search on your phone and find out a bit more.
Know what you want to do
Have an idea about what you want to do, what areas you are passionate about and research the roles that are in tv. This idea my change with time but a confident person with a passion and an interest in a role will always get taken more seriously then as someone said to me “I just want to try tv and see what it’s like”. The industry is far too competitive for you not to have a focus.
Keep in touch but don’t stalk
Once you’ve networked keep in touch, now that doesn’t mean go total ex girlfriend syndrome. By that I mean emails on an almost daily basis of “I sent you my cv why have you not got back to me” or the passive aggressive, ” I see you are looking for a runner why haven’t you contacted me?” You need to cultivate a professional relationship, talk about new skills you’ve acquired or new jobs you’ve worked on that would benefit the company. Or simply email and say “really enjoyed the new series of … That your company made, I’d love to work and something like that because my passion is for…” Tie it into them and what you can do to help rather than what they can do for you.
Make your own opportunities
Don’t always get in touch when you need a new job, I know that is often the aim of networking but use your network for advice and help. I know people frustrated at not getting into the industry who’ve set up their own networking events and attracted a wide range of influential people in the industry to speak. This use of initiative really impressed many senior people in tv and raised the profile of the organisers.
Pay it forward
Help others network and put them in touch with people that can help them. Now you don’t want to be a total martyr and be constantly helping others above yourself but show a little kindness and it will come back to you. You also get to expand your network and don’t feel so bad asking for help when you’ve already helped someone.
Don’t get too personal
You may have checked out someone’s Facebook or Instagram page but at this first point of networking it’s not wise to be like “oh you looked hot at the gym last week” or “that wedding in Devon looked lovely”. Keep it professional, there is the danger after nervously downing the free drinks to pluck up some courage to speak to someone that you in a Bridget Jones style fashion start talking about your favourite member of one direction or your best spice girl memories or that ex that you’ve never quite got over. If booze makes you behave in a certain way whether that be flirty, loud or agressive know your limits and don’t go over board with the wine.. You don’t want to be known as that drunk person at a do.. That will get you remembered for all the wrong reasons.
So don’t be scared of networking, don’t over think it and most importantly just be yourself.. You can tie yourself up in knots talking about news night when you’ve never seen it!