I find networking too forced. Entering a room packed full of strangers with the aim to talk to them and share my own career achievements and ambitions. That doesn’t actually ever happen for me. I’ve practiced my elevator pitch thousands of times yet networking events are too formalised for me. They strike me with terror. I enter, immediately panic, and try to work out at which point I can make my retreat and hide.
This is not to say that I don’t network. I DO. Every single aspect of my life, work and career depends on it. Everything I do is about connections, working with other people, co-producing, sharing ideas and making new relationships. I find these networks and connections happen everywhere that ISN’T networking events.
I’ll be working on a stall and I’ll talk to the other makers and designers there. I’ll go to arts events and festivals, meet other creatives there and connect through working on projects or ideas. Maybe it’s through study, work, or through life. It happens at events and moments for me that were never orchestrated for them to be networking moments. Accidental networking, I like to call it.
For me accidental networking is the way forward. It’s best when it happens naturally, organically and without any pressure or intention. I find going into a networking meeting with the hope to impress, to sell yourself is all too ingenuine, and I’d much rather connect to the real person rather than the ideal they present.
Of course you still can’t sit at home and wait for opportunities or networking moments to come to you. Go to your local arts events. Attend local festivals. Volunteer. Get involved in young people's programmes. Be active in opportunities when you’re studying. Connect with those you work with and their contacts. Use your own connections in your personal life with friends. Even join online communities and virtually connect and network. Social media is a great tool for this!
The point of this article is to say everyone is different. If you love networking events, then sure keep going to them, meet lots of people, get your name out there and have a fabulous time!
But if you’re at all like me, there’s no need to feel pressured at networking events as you can connect and network in other ways – maybe even ways you don’t see as such. That’s the whole point. You don’t recognise it as networking because essentially networking is just building and acting upon relationships. You do that every day of your life already. You got this. There’s too much hidden in the jargon that makes it appear scary and alien. Just talk to another person and discuss an idea you want to do. There, you’ve done it. Easy.