Who Knows You- A reflection on networking with relationships in mind.
Over the past few years, I've been vigorously applying to job after job in the animation industry. I looked at the term "networking" as though it were some holy grail that once achieved would open countless doors. I introduced myself to hundreds over the internet- extended my hand to thousands at various conventions including CTN expo, Wondercon, and various open houses and posted my work on each social media platform I could find.
But clearly, I didn't grasp the concept. My family and friends, many of whom are not in the industry tried their best to console me, " It's all about who you know." My response to them was that I would try harder to get to know more individuals while I devoted myself to improving my artistic education.
I can safely say that if there is one thing I have learned in my pursuit, in my many failed attempts at both networking and job applications- it is not who you know, but who know's YOU.
The communication between myself and those I had sought out advice was generally a short one. I would be polite, introduce myself, ask for any advice, and they would answer with advice, ignore me, or give a vague, quick response that didn't entirely answer my question. To their credit entirely, I think I approached them the wrong way.
It isn't so much that to email these individuals was wrong, but the way I was going about it was all wrong. Networking isn't about saying hi and leaving. It's about making new friends, getting to know one another professionally and opening doors by opening hands and sharing stories.
As busy people, these individuals were no doubt reading between the lines- they saw someone desperate asking for help, not someone asking for friendship.
Friendship extends the conversation. Asking them open-ended conversation starters, getting to know them as individuals, and inviting them to know more about you opens more possibilities than the one door you open when you simply ask them for advice.
Perhaps this seems like Childs play to others, but the more these individuals know you as a person, as an artist and as a friend, the more they'll do to help you and the more you can do to help them.
For me, the relationships that came naturally at school serve as a great example. In my school career, I've made many friends, and each of them exchanges opportunities they spot that fit my specialties in return, I do the same. We do this because we KNOW one another, and we trust one another. We would be willing to put ourselves on the line to recommend them because we know who that person is, and we trust that they would do a great job. That's the joy of networking the right way. You build relationships that last. You build memories that people remember fondly.
Don't leave your mark as " The artist that emailed me that one time." Leave your mark as " Oh hey that's Kristen- oh yeah she's great- she's a real dog lover and she's super passionate about storytelling- We actually had a story session together and we helped one another get through some ruts in our character development. It was a great night"
Leave them with a story. Leave yourself with a story. It's not about who you know, it's about WHO KNOWS YOU. So get out there and make some friends!
(( Speaking of which if you ever want to contact me to chat, or work on a project or pitch or you want to get to know me just send me a message and we can have a conversation by video chat, phone, or email! ))
(( That's me at CTN Expo ready to network!))