I’m going to be totally frank with you, b/c well, you’ve lasted this long and this week we’re talking about networking. And well… I have a lot to say.
I hate networking. I know, I know. Total heresy. Let me explain…
Networking for career success, in the traditional sense, makes my stomach churn.
You know the scenario. Business cards, three piece suits, Las Vegas conferences. The norm. Sure, it may work, but it lacks one key ingredient in a successful personal relationship: sincerity.
I’m a firm believer that if you can’t offer sincerity, you can’t offer much. And as creatives, if our heart isn’t in our work, it can get pretty ugly. And I’m not talking metaphorically here. Really, it’s ugly.
Same goes for networking. Without heart, you’re just a gal with a paintbrush and an email address.
In other words, you can attend all of the trade shows in the world and rock an overflowing Rolodex, but if you don’t make a sincere effort to foster those relationships, chances are, it all means nothing.
Remember that really bad late 90’s song “You Get What You Give?” Although I don’t encourage you all to skateboard in the middle of a mall, this song has a message when it comes to networking.
Don’t expect Martha Stewart to descend upon your studio anytime soon just because she slipped you her assistant’s assistant’s main line during last season’s craft show.
Networking is a 2-way street, and unless you have something to offer Ms. Martha herself, I wouldn’t bank on your phone number making its way into her speed dial anytime soon. Think you have nothing to offer the Queen of Craft? Think again.
You have a perspective. A pair of eyes, a pocket of experiences and a lot more talent than you think. Use your head. Get creative. Chances are, if you can illustrate something worthy of a sale or two on Etsy, you can figure out how to catch the attention of any blonde jailbird you set your sights on.
With that said, forget about Martha. You don’t need her. Look around you. We are so blessed to be surrounded with BILLIONS of creatives from every walk of life. Someone, somewhere is bound to be feeling similar to you. Find that someone, establish that connection , and grow a friendship. You’ll need that friendship whether or not your work is picked up by a gallery.
Don’t discount a less than obvious connection. For instance, I’m a blonde Midwesterner with three bachelors’ degrees, two dogs and a weakness for paper goods. You may be the complete opposite, but I would suspect that I know someone a lot like you. And unless you ask, you’ll never know if I’m willing to make the introduction.
Now let’s talk specifics. Obviously, this crazy webosphere is a great place to establish connections, but come on— that’s way too easy. Get off your couch and into your community. The best mentor I ever gained was someone I met at the market in the check-out line. Be friendly. Be open to possibility, but be intentional.
Use your resources. Don’t live in a big city? Check out these events across the globe.
Get creative. How about a Skype session? A Yahoo group? A community blog? Book club?
And to be totally honest, if you’re reading this post right now, you have all the resources you need to start a network of your own , or include yourself in an existing network. And if you’ve ever commented on a blog, you’ve already done the latter. Congratulations! You’ve networked!
The good news is that this post is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so, so many benefits of networking and billions of ways to go about it all. Figure out what works for you, and go get ‘em.
And lastly? Never, EVER monetize a current relationship. It’s rude, crude and socially unacceptable. People are not steps on their way to your heaven. Grow some respect and take the elevator.
Besides, I happen to know what Picasso thought about that sort of attitude, and trust me, it wasn’t good.