It is very often said in the business world that success in life is as much about who you know as what you know. Whether or not this is entirely true, it cannot be denied that a strong and well-maintained professional network plays a key role in the careers of most successful people. This is true in the creative industries as much as the business world, perhaps even more so given how challenging it can be to break into the creative professions.
Building such a network depends on some important skills and behaviours, and these do not always come naturally. People who are serious about their success, therefore, should work on developing such skills and taking the necessary steps to make sure that this becomes an integral part of their professional lives and not simply a superficial add-on.
Your business network
Here are a few ideas for how you can establish, grow and maintain a healthy business network that works for you:
- Conferences and events. In an increasingly virtual world, there is still no substitute for dealing with people in person. Industry-specific conferences have become big business, as the ‘Lord Laidlaw sells firm’ headlines demonstrated in 2005, when Lord Laidlaw sold his Institute of International Research conference business for $1.4bn. Such events bring together like-minded people with common interests to a single location, making them ideal for professional networking.
- Get online. That said, for anyone serious about professional success in any industry, including the creative ones, having an online presence is no longer optional. It is absolutely essential. Fortunately this is easier, and indeed cheaper, than ever before thanks to the diverse range of social media platforms available. It is crucial to research the various options available to establish which one has the best scope for reaching the right audience.
- Keep it regular. It is not enough to simply build a network. Like any tool, it must be regularly used and maintained to keep it in good condition. The most successful networkers build such activity into their day to day routine so that it becomes an inextricable part of how they operate, not an optional extra. Such an approach also means that over time networking skills get sharper and the right behaviours come more naturally.
A foot in the door
The creative professions are very heavily built on personal relationships. Many individuals who work in these professions are freelancers and are relatively mobile as a result, relying on their contacts to help in the search for their next role or challenge. In practice, this means that it can be difficult to get a ‘foot in the door’, especially when forging such relationships and continually marketing oneself does not come naturally.
Fortunately, everyone is in the same situation. Most professions tend to recognise this and provide a range of support and opportunities to network. It is therefore up to the individual to identify such opportunities and really make the most of them.