Literally as it says on the tin, to succeed in anything nowadays, not only do you need the brains to be able to do the job but you also need to know some people on the inside to get yourself in.
Now, I'm not an expert. A lot of my blog posts are based on my own experiences and what I've been told by others that I've had the very lovely pleasure of working with. But hopefully I'm being that little bit informative and telling you things you might not have thought about ... at least not yet!
Networking is a crucial element to succeed, especially in Media. It's so so competitive out there and for you to stand out, you should be throwing in a name here or there which can make the difference between getting noticed and not. Better still, if you can get a reference from someone from the company you're wanting to work in then that would really help - so long as it's a good reference of course. That's one of my tips; If you do manage to get work experience, even if it's just for a day, email or ask someone you've worked with for a little paragraph about what it was like to work with you. The worst they can do is say no or give you a bad reference (which I doubt they would do!). But it just shows your future employer that you are wanting to improve as you're asking for a reference / feedback on how you did. It also shows that, depending on what they write of course, you're able to work in that environment you're wanting to go into.
But how do you even begin to network in the first place?
Ah, twitter. It's such a wonderful oddball of a social networking site. (Notice the "networking" there...). It's great! And it's certainly one of the best tools I've used in my own networking. Use it to your advantage. Look through those people that are working in the field or company that you're wanting to work in and just click "follow". You can keep on track with what they're doing and maybe learn some tips and opportunities along the way. It was from twitter, and liking so many of the soundwomen, that I found out about some great opportunities (unfortunately which I didn't quite get) but I still applied for.
I think that's one of the things that gets some people, and I know it's making me ponder over a lot at the moment. Applying for things. The way I've started looking at it is that you might as well apply just for the experience if nothing else. And if you get it - fantastic! Wonderful! Sort all the if's and but's when or if you get the opportunity. Even just simple networking events are competitive and at least if you're applying, you're getting your name out there and it shows you're trying. That's one of the ways to network best. Use social networking (although, I personally only add people on facebook who I actually work with!) to help you get there. Twitter is honestly one of the best tools to network and you can tweet directly to those you're following who might just tweet you back or even RT it. Again, this helps you to get noticed because all their friends and followers can see you and might even start following you too.
Now I've only ever been to one organised networking event. It was absolutely terrifying! It was whilst I was working at Shooting Star PR and they gave me the fab opportunity to go to a lecture all about networking. For those who know me, I may come across as confident but like many others I am absolutely bricking it inside. Especially when it comes to new people or new places. Anyway, there was a guy there who told us exactly how to network, gave us all these freebies and everything and it was really interesting. He mentioned about social networking, particularly about Linkedin (which if you haven't already I defo recommend you get one. It's basically an online CV but you get to network - there's that word again!). But he also talked about how to approach people. So below is a few things he said as well as a few things I do / did which sort of work.
So, imagine this. You're in a room, filled with people you don't know but who could be potential clients / employers... Here's what you can do.
1. Think positive and tell yourself motivational stuff. Sounds a bit strange, but to make people believe in you, you need to believe in yourself. Say things like "I can do this" or "I'm a nice person, people will like me", "I'm nervous, but so is everyone else", "I'm going to have a great time talking to people" etc... I know, I know, I thought it was a little odd, but it does work. If you believe in yourself and say that you're confident then it will ooze from you and people will be more tempted to talk to you because you seem to know what you're doing!
2. Pick out potential talkers. Let's face it, it's very intimidating going up to a group of people and expecting to just slot in there and join in the discussion. It doesn't work. You need to look around the room and pick on people who look like they are bored or aren't doing much. For example, people standing by themselves, they're probably so nervous and shy they're waiting for people to approach them (pst, that's your cue!). Open groups, no more than 2 or 3 people who are stood talking but are leaning into the room. Sort of hard to explain this one but look for people who seem to be making room for others to join them. You're not going to approach a group that's close knit and in a deep discussion and avoiding eye contact with everyone else in the room.
3. Be polite. Such an obvious one, but once you've got talking to people don't just walk away from them whilst you're in the middle of conversation. Make eye contact and look interested in what they're saying. And don't interrupt them if you can help it. Use your body language to reflect your attitudes to what they're saying - a simple nod of the head or smile will work wonders! And when you're ready to leave the group, maybe to go network elsewhere, offer them the option to go with you and that way you have a starter into the next group by introducing yourself and your partner.
4. Business cards are a useful tool. You might have so enjoyed talking to John Smith but you have to go; does he have a business card? Perhaps you can contact him via social networking? And make sure that once you have that information, follow up with a courteous message of "It was really nice to meet you" or something similar. This makes you more memorable and they consider you really pleasant and eager in return.
I think that's more or less it for networking. But really a lot of my advice posts sort of tie in with each other. Similar to the one on work experience, which essentially you need to network in anyway, it's all about being polite, memorable and approachable. You're representing yourself and / or the company you work for, so when networking, treat it almost like a job interview. Make the right impression. Make them want to know you. And above all, make them want to hire you.