How Not To Network
We spend hours honing our craft; trashing and rewording our pieces, practice shoot after practice shoot, editing film down to the microsecond. But there is one crucial skill that we neglect to perfect which can make — or break — a career.
Knowing how to network is as valuable as any technical skill you can learn, especially in a people-centric field like journalism. Like most things, some people are born with a natural talent for it and some people have to work a little harder.
It isn’t easy to learn to charm people, but a good start is knowing what to avoid doing. HackPack canvassed editors and writers for their experiences with early career professionals, and what threw up red flags in their encounters.
Do your research
Before you approach someone for a favor, job or introduction, you need to know a few things: their first and last name, where they work, and their position in that company. If they are a journalist, photographer or filmmaker, it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with a couple of their published pieces and get a sense of what they’re interested in.
It’s about them, not you
In the adult world, it is mutually understood that in the workplace, everyone is keeping an eye out for opportunities with the people they meet. The key is not to make this your only aim.
Put some effort into getting to know the person you want to be connected with. Be able to talk to them about their work, ask for their insight (within reason), thank them for their time. If it’s appropriate, ask about how they’re doing. Keep close tabs on how much of the conversation is about you. (It shouldn’t be most of it.)
You’re not entitled to their e-mail
If it isn’t offered, don’t ask before the appropriate time. Spamming across twitter asking busy editors for their personal contact information isn’t likely to win you friends, and soliciting personal e-mails in job applications or pitches often isn’t a great idea either.
Don’t get excited about meeting them as a part of their company. Get excited about meeting them.
Let’s say you meet Elena from Company X, and Company X is very prestigious.
Your very first words should not be asking her about Company X, commenting on how cool it is that she works at Company X, clarifying that she works for Company X, criticizing Company X, or telling her you have a great idea for Company X. You’re not talking to Company X. You’re talking to Elena.
Quality, not quantity.
When networking, remember: a network is, by definition, a web of connections. A smaller web of strong connections is much more useful that a huge web of flimsy ones.
Don’t worry too much about starting small and staying there for a while. You’re not trying to collect Pokemon, you’re trying to get to know people, and that takes time. If you’re genuine and intentional about cultivating the relationships you have, your network will grow naturally.
This is a talent that is under-rated in the modern industry. Today we push success and fame more than anything, while forget that the way you built a solid network is real connections with other people.