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Friday, 29 June 2012

Networking - the boundaries

Networking in any industry is key. In television it is essential.

The world of TV is like one big extended family - everyone is connected in some way, and that is often due to excellent networking.

Almost every job you take, someone will know someone else you know or have worked with before. Try it out - look around you now and do some sneaky googling. You will be amazed how many friends in common you have on Facebook with the rest of the office!

Now - I am not saying that knowing someone is how to get a job (although it can help) but having mutual connections can help bond you with people offering jobs.

I am not going to tell you how to network - I am not an expert (although I do have a lot of excellent contacts so must be doing something right!)... what I will discuss today rather are the boundaries around behaviour via email and at a networking event. Having sent and received a lot of emails re. networking, and attended lots/hosted my own events, I feel this is an area I can safely comment on! Cheers to the fabulous for the suggestion of topic!

So - with networking at an event, we have two main scenarios: you are either at a network specific event in which networking is actively encouraged, or you are at a non networking event full to the brim with the type of people you long to network with. How do you behave?

Clue's in the title... get networking! These events are held for a purpose - and that purpose is to enable you to meet relevant people in the industry. My tips for networking at a designated event are as follows:

1. Approach people with a smile and confidence - nobody remembers a wall flower. Be energetic, outgoing and positive. Make someone want to connect with you again.

2. Listen with focus - if you do introduce yourself to someone, really listen to what they are saying. There is nothing more insulting than someone staring blankly, whilst waiting to sing their own praises and thrust their CV at you.

3. Listen some more. When networking it is imperative to hear what the other party is looking for. What are their needs? Find which ones you have and are wishing to pursue, and match yourself to those needs. By networking, you are trying to develop a relationship. A relationship has two parties in it - and thus along with selling your own requirements, you must take on board those of others.

4. Give - do not just take. Use a networking event as an opportunity to introduce people you already know to someone they don't. Be seen as a 'connector' - people will migrate to you and your social capital will snowball. Plus, it is good manners. It can be very overwhelming for someone who knows not a soul at a networking event - help a peer out. Equally - it can be daunting if you are the person people want to meet, and time consuming; meaning that you don't actually get to meet anyone yourself that you may have desired to. If you see a 'key person' at a networking event drowning in networkees, offer to take them over to meet someone you think they might find useful to meet.

5. Network wisely - go for quality not quantity. It is the wise networker who leaves an event with 5 solid contacts who are happy to help/be helped, over 500 names and numbers at random. I say this with experience - when I am thrusted business cards with no proper introduction or conversation, I generally dispose of those cards as I struggle to recall what relationship I would have with that person. So the key here is to build an efficient network - not a massive one.

6. On that vein, it is important to focus on finding the right people for you at a networking event. Do you want to work in editing? Focus on edit contacts - both at senior and junior level. The casting researcher is probably lovely - but not hugely relevant to your career path at entry level. Equally, whilst you will want to network with contacts who could prove useful in the future - a more senior person in your field, a supplier or a potential new recruit, do not forget the power of networking with your peers. Since my last #tvmingling event, I have been delighted to see how many of the runners have kept in touch and are helping each other to find work.

7. Time - do not abuse it. if someone gives you their time at an event you should firstly, ensure you have planned ahead and know how you are going to use it (wisely). It is also polite to thank them at the end of the conversation - and if you want to impress, ensure you end it. It will be noticed if you are considerate of others and say something along the lines of 'I would love to stay and talk - however I can see there are lots of people here wishing to talk with you. I very much hope we get to speak again in the future. Thank you'. This is really important - you can leave someone feeling very uncomfortable if you overstay your welcome.

8. Whilst you should exude confidence - do not blur the lines of the relationship and act with over-familiarity. I speak only for myself here - I often offer a polite hug or a kiss on the cheek to someone I have communicated with previously, but do not wish to be otherwise touched by a stranger. Equally, following someone into the toilet to continue a conversation is not the done thing at a professional event. On a Friday night on the razz with friends this is fine however...

9. Be prepared. OK, so you know general rules... you are ready to network. Do so with a plan in mind, a wallet full of business cards and a clear marketing message. In networking you are marketing a product - you (or your supply/company). Be clear about why you are a useful person to know.

10. Don't flirt. Ever. It is weird and uncomfortable.

OK - lets create a potential scenario: the wrap party. An occasion like this can be one at which you may, for the first time on a job, meet some of the staff face to face for the first time. You want to make an impression - to be remembered and hopefully invited back. Equally, there may be someone there moving onto a great new project you are dying to get involved with - what do you do?

1.Remember that the primary purpose of this event is not networking. People may be there purely to celebrate, booze, chat about non work things, etc. It isn't the right time to try and do all of the above - however you should still take heed of the tips.

2. Be remembered - for the right reasons. Want to impress and remain in the important folks minds? Be funny. Be sociable.Talk to everyone without coming across as desperate for a new job. Be polite and have good manners. Don't be remembered for being the girl/boy who brought their CV to the wrap party... or got shit-faced and fell down the stairs... or slept with the IT guy/gal (or any guy gal for that matter... be discreet!).

3. Have fun - and at the end of the night, when you are leaving, casually hand your card to those you want to keep in touch with and say 'it was great working with you - do think of me if anything else comes up'.

4. Follow up the non networking 'do' with a polite email - keep it light-hearted and say that you would love to have an informal chat about potential future work etc - and that you didn't think it was the right time at the party but do want to follow up.

So... they are just the thoughts of little old me. What is the Weazel now wondering? I am wondering what you think? Please do share any advice on the comments page!Equally, do you have a funny tale of a blunder or awkward experience at a networking/other event - share it here and others can learn!

 ©July 2012 – Lou Gallagher

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