Networking is important no matter what industry you work in. The contacts that you make along the way as you develop and grow into your artistic career can last for decades and might even propel you into job opportunities that you never expected. Networking might not seem like it’s part of the artistic career path, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you want to meet other artists, possibly collaborate with them, or discuss jobs with future clients, you will need to have the right networking and bridge-building skills to make this possible. Part of the recipe for success in networking is being genuine and honest, but that is not enough in some cases to help you to connect with the jobs and the individuals that you need to make relationships with to succeed in your artistic career.
If you want to learn some tips and tricks about networking and building bridges with people, read on!
Networking and Building Bridges With People
1. Don’t Overshare
When you first meet someone, it’s easy to fall into the habit of oversharing and telling your entire life’s story due to nerves or a desire to impress them. You might feel like people need to understand every aspect of your artistic path that has led you to where you are now, but that can be overwhelming to new people.
Try to remember that you would never seek to make friends by telling your whole life story to someone, and this tactic does not work well in networking or bridge building for the same reasons that it does not work in a friendly environment.
Your whole life story is not always relevant to the conversation, and you are not allowing the other person to discuss things with you when you are telling them all about yourself. At worst, you will come across as narcissistic, and at best you will seem inexperienced and nervous. Being able to offer up a small tidbit or two is a much better way to start a true conversation and leaves room for the conversation to grow.
2. Think of These Interactions as Storytelling
If you were telling someone about your life story in an engaging way, you would not tell all of the information that you have to offer in one fell swoop. You would offer up some details and then expand on them. Storytelling is part of art, and it is also part of networking.
Be mindful that you are telling a story about yourself and that you want others to become engaged with it. Think of these first steps as the highlight reel for a really good film. You want to offer up just enough information to get people interested without being overwhelming, or boring them with dry facts and figures.
3. Figure out Common Ground to Meet and Network with Others
You might find that there are some demographics that you struggle to connect with. Maybe you just feel that you don’t have anything in common with these people and yet you need to try and build common ground together. One of the best ways to overcome this struggle is to think of what you DO have in common.
There are many common experiences that people all over the world share. Even if you have not walked a mile in the exact same shoes, you have probably experienced similar things that you can bond over. There is more common ground between two people than they often realize. Finding the common ground between people is all about being willing to look for it, even when you don’t think it’s there.
4. Be a Good Listener to Build Bridges with People
As we talked about before, no one enjoys engaging with someone who only talks about themselves. You will need to learn to both talk and listen if you want to get good at networking. A big factor to successful networking is to make sure that you are listening and remembering details about the other person. Everyone likes to be heard, and being a good listener is a great way to build lasting bonds with others.
If you struggle with this part of the networking relationship due to nerves, or a concern that you will not know what to say to others, simply slow down and be patient with yourself. You will always be able to come up with questions to ask of another person if you relax and start truly hearing them. Think about your best friends and how easy it is to talk to them. This is the kind of bond that you need to strive to make with networking connections.
5. Online Networking
This can be challenging because the face-to-face element is missing. We get a lot of our relationship-making cues through people’s expressions and their reactions to our words. When you are not able to see the people that you are talking to, you might not be sure if you are connecting with them correctly.
One of the best ways to handle online networking is to never assume emotion behind typed words. You can also try and reach out on a more personal level and ask about the person’s interests and their personal story. Being able to connect with others is often more about knowing details about their lives than it is about having common ground to discuss.
6. Add Value to Make Networking Meaningful
You should always strive to make sure that you are offering value to those you are trying to connect with when it comes to networking. You might not think that you have anything of value to offer, but you would be surprised. Being a good listener, offering up your own native skills, and being willing to actually truly talk to others can be just as valuable as having art skills that are in demand.
You might offer value through ingenuity, or through your organizational skills for some connections. For others, you will be offering the skill to create a certain piece of art. Added value is often more about how you can help others and not so much about more specific skills that you have to share with others.
7. Frame Networking as Creating Friendships
People can always tell that you have an agenda if that is the only way in which you are approaching the conversation. You might be making networking connections by sharing someone’s art on your social media, or you could be offering value just by making a supportive comment on a picture you see online.
Being able to create connections just for the sake of creating connections is the foundation of true networking. Making friends with other people in your industry is just as effective as reaching out with the intention to create specific professional bonds.
8. Don’t Hesitate to Connect with Others
Don’t let your fear of judgment cause you to miss out on making connections. A well-known artist will often be just as happy to meet you as you are to meet them. Worst case scenario, you reach out and they do not reply. In the best-case scenario, you make a connection that can last for years and be profitable for you both.
Being self-confident can be hard when you are new to an industry, but you have to remember that most people are as genuine and kind as you are. Likewise, if you run into someone who is not as open to discussion, just move on. You will meet more people who are willing to invest in you than those who are not.
9. Chance Meetings Can be Effective Too
Be open to meetings of all kinds. You might not know if a chance meeting will turn into a long-term professional relationship. Running into someone at an art show could lead to a job, or a joint project that you never expected.
Being kind and thoughtful with others can lead to professional connections that you never expected. You never know who you are standing next to on the subway, or who you are grocery shopping next to as you pick out your produce. Being genuine and reaching out to others is often the basis for lasting connections that you may never have expected to make.
10. Missed Opportunities Affect Your Overall Network
You might be sad that you were not brave enough to talk to a professional artist who is more established in the industry, but you probably have not considered all the other parts of your potential network that you are missing out on as well. While you might reach out to someone who is not receptive, you could meet three other people who are, just through this one less-than-profitable connection.
Each of your connections spreads out into many layers of other connections. Don’t cheat yourself out of the connections that can spread out from each unique person that you interact with. You never know what might come of meeting just one other artist!
Networking and Building Bridges is Easier Than You Think
Much of the struggles that people experience related to networking are mostly due to their own lack of confidence in approaching others, or a sense that they are not worthy to talk to people with more experience than they have.
Always remember that networking is about making human connections first and foremost, and you will be on your way to profitable and exciting networking experiences if you seek to make friends rather than trying to foster professional relationships!