Career: How to creatively network without burning bridges
This blog post has been sitting my in my Drafts for six months because I was unsure when the right time would be to hit "publish." But due to recent personal events, I feel compelled to share my latest Career post revolving around the topic: How to creatively network without burning bridges. As a creative, networking is something I do daily. I receive an average of 25-30 emails in a week to grab a coffee, hop on an informational interview phone call or review portfolios and resumes. This also doesn't include the direct messages I receive on social media or text messages I receive from those I know personally.
*Please note: this post specifically highlights creative networking rather than networking as a whole due to the fact this is personal, real and applicable in my life and a topic I feel confident in discussing.
So what is creative networking?
Creative networking is a great way to get connected and stay connected in the creative industry. For those that don't know, the creative industry (like many) is a small, small world. So burning bridges is never a good idea or worth it, ever.
There are many different forms of creative networking. Sometimes it's spending time on LinkedIn to add more contacts to your online network; other times, it's attending creative events, art shows or business meet and greets and sometimes, it's asking someone you professionally admire out for a coffee to learn more about their industry and background. Networking is truthfully about getting out of your comfort zone and making the effort to become more knowledgable about a field you are interested in.
My thoughts on creative networking (the good and the bad):
I have always been an advocate of creative networking and supporting one another in a variety of communities. I'm an advocate for those that are personally and professionally motivated, driven and aware. I am not an advocate for those that choose to personally and professionally take advantage of their contacts and don't put in the work or effort themselves to network or do research on their own.
Let me discuss this further...
The good: Creative networking is a choice and how much time, effort and care you put into it will be a direct reflection of your network. Creative networking is a great way to land a job/career, meet professional mentors (and friends!) and is overall an excellent way to improve your professional communication skills.
Despite having a career I love, I still spend close to 2-3 hours a week on LinkedIn. I research organizations, professionals I work with or hope to one day connect with, career and creative news and market research on trends and jobs. Aside from blogging and my full time job, I'm an active member in several creative groups that allow me to connect with creatives in my field both locally and around the world.
The bad: Creative networking is all about being professional AND genuine you're taking the initiative. The key word here is genuine. I think one of my biggest pet peeves when I get reached out to about career insight specifically is the lack of of awareness. And truthfully, this is what stemmed this blog post. I receive so many emails and texts from people I both know and don't know that I have never met or talked to (or have, but haven't connected with in a while) and they will ask me, ever so casually but directly to "keep an eye out for open positions" or "let them know about open positions" at my place of work. I'm mostly sensitive to the fact it feels demanding and disingenuous.
When creative networking, it's crucial to be sensitive about how you reach out to someone and what your intentions are. While I'm not discouraging you to creative network, it's important that you are not relying on others to do the networking, job hunting or research for you. Aside from having a full-time job, blog side hustle, freelance side hustle and life - job hunting for others, is most definitely and will never be, my job.
Tips on creative networking:
Creative networking is all about professionalism. I've decided to compile 4 tips of creative networking I admire and abide by.
1. EMAILS > TEXTING
No matter who you are reaching out to (a friend, a coworker, a stranger) always be professional. Sending a "hey what's up" text message when networking with someone is not a good start. While you can determine just how formal you want your initial email to be, I always recommend sending a professional email over a text message. It seems more legitimate to the individual you are reaching out to that you took the time to send an email. Usually, when I receive text messages asking me about job postings, my job, how I landed my job, etc. I don't respond.
2. BE GENUINE AND INTENTIONAL
It's incredibly awkward when you're networking under false pretenses. If you're hoping to get more career insight, land an informational interview or have your portfolio or resume reviewed - BE HONEST ABOUT IT. I've been asked out for coffee before with the assumption it was to get brunch and strike up a friendship when truthfully it turned into a really awkward and uncomfortable conversation about how I landed my career and what steps I took to get there. I felt misled and burned by the situation. Instead, be honest about your intentions when you want to connect with someone but be sensitive that not everyone is going divulge their "secrets."
3. NEVER STOP CREATIVE NETWORKING
Even if you land your dream job you should never stop expanding your creative network! Creative networking helps you tap into a skill set that can often go unused when you're feeling overly comfortable at work. Networking enhances your professional communication skills and allows you to connect with a variety of individuals that can lead to other opportunities in the future or even, professional friendships. Creative networking groups can also be a great addition to your resume!
4. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE THANK YOU
I'm old school but there's nothing that puts more of a sour taste in my mouth than when I take time to do an informational interview or portfolio/resume review and I receive NO thank you! People always remember a thank you and will always remember when you don't send one. So long story short, send a formal thank you.