A flawless resume and impeccable interview skills are essential for landing a job, but there’s one shortcut that will both help you meet people in your industry and get your resume at the top of the pile. It’s called networking.
Networking simply means establishing and cultivating relationships that will help your career. And while it sounds like it should be easy, it can be both baffling and intimidating for any number of reasons. Where do you meet people who might help your career? What do you do when you meet them? And in creative industries like fashion and design, what do you do once you’ve made connections? It can be overwhelming to try to answer these questions for yourself. However, there are some tried and true practices that will help networking newbies get out there and start to forge productive connections. Here are some of the best, most efficient networking tips.
Tap into your college alumni network. Most schools have an alumni network that helps students and alumni connect with other alumni who already have successful careers. Even if there’s no formal organization in place, talk to your school’s career services department, and they can help you get in touch with alumni from your school who are working in a field that interests you. Even if they can’t help you to get a job directly, they can give good advice by simply explaining how they got to where they are today from the same place as you.
Join Meetup groups for creative industries. Websites like Meetup.com have hundreds of groups dedicated to networking in cities across the U.S., often organized by industry. There are a lot of Meetups for creative industries as well, which means if you’re looking for a fashion career, you can guarantee that you’ll meet people who can help you.
Always have business cards. Even if you don’t have a job, it’s a good idea to print out business cards with your basic contact information and a link to any online portfolio you may have. Though you’ll also be collecting cards and connecting with people online, having business cards ready shows people you’re both professional and prepared.
Ask everyone out to coffee. So what do you do once you actually have the business card of someone who works in a field or at a company you love? One idea is simply to invite them out to coffee to chat. Even if you don’t think they’ll prove helpful, you never know who they might know or what position they might have in the future. Plus, over coffee you can ask them to tell you their story, and for their opinion or advice on the industry and how to break into it.
Use social media to your advantage. When networking, you should let social media be your best friend. Every time you meet someone, always follow up by connecting on LinkedIn, and when appropriate, including a personal message. But you should also look up people whose work you admire, companies you dream of working for, and influencers in your industry and follow them on social media. Learn about what’s happening in the industry, and that way, when you do finally meet people, you can sound intelligent and informed.
Learning how to network can be stressful, but the benefits far outweigh any stress you may feel about talking to strangers. For more advice on where to meet people and how to overcome networking-induced anxiety, here are some helpful resources:
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