1. Give Back
Wherever you are in your career there is someone behind you. Give back the knowledge that you’ve gained thus far where and when you can. Just make sure it’s accurate. You can do this through word of mouth to friends and students. Through blog posts or videos as well.
2. Drawing/Painting Groups
Join in on a group that gathers to paint or draw. Consider a local life drawing session, a plein air meet up or other class like activity in your field. This gives you the opportunity to meet others with your interests that might have similar goals. They might be leads for work someday or think of you if their workload is too much or the job isn’t suited for themselves. Plus, it keeps your skills honed and ever improving.
3. Face Time at Cons/Events
Get yourself into the mix. Go to these gatherings of pros. They are there to meet and be met. Putting a face to a name and sometimes works of art in our cases can go a long way. Show them your work so they know to respond to you. Are you there to get inspired? get critiqued? get a job? make friends? Probably a combination of any or all of these, but the people you meet want to know as well.
4. Continuing Education
My wife is an optometrist, every year she has to clock in a certain number of hours of continuing education to keep her various licenses. I don’t have to, but I probably put in 10 or more hours for every one she has to by law. This took me way too long to grok. When you graduate from school you have not arrived at the end but just started. Take a class that is designed around some structure. I’ve mentioned above drawing and painting groups, but those aren’t structured around educating you with specific goals a class does. So, how does this pertain to networking? Well, depending on the instructor(s) you might bring in interest to your stories being able to connect your experience with the prestige of the class.
5. Starting a Class/Group/Event/Meeting
You want to take advantage of the advice to join a group but nothing exists in your area. So, be the one to create it. Not only will you then have that event in existence, you’ll be at the center of it. Being in control of it has the responsibilities of course but also the power of being in charge and it really does make a difference to those participating. Even if you have access to quite a few of these options you can still start your own if you feel you have something different to offer. Even if you are a novice, creating the space might draw in someone with more experience, and there you have just begun networking.
When we are surfing the net a lot of the time we are lurkers on our favorite sites. On the content provider end what this looks like is a comment or two on a post but the post has hundreds of views. You really stand out to the author if you’re one of the few people who comment. And if you comment with something that adds value to the post or asks a great leading question you will be remembered by the author. But you’ll have to do this more than once. Where you can try to participate in the conversation. Don’t worry that every time you post that it has to have some grand meaning. You can certainly pepper you participation with the regular “great post” or the like. If you’ve gone the distance and posted some content with meat if will show you’re still around. If your comment has enough bite it also has the power to attract others to your own content.
7. Non-Industry Activities
One of the things we sometimes forget is that we want to network with people outside of our direct market. Sometimes these people will be the consumers of your work or at least fans spreading your flames. My personal experience has been with a running group. This activity is 100% not related to my field so I have no idea who I’m going to meet. But, these are the people who you also need to network with. maybe you’ll meet someone in a field that you didn’t know you might need to know one day. Like a doctor or a lawyer, or maybe even a financial planner. The point is you need to network with people who are not in your direct market.
8. Read All About It
Buy a book, look up info online, take a class on networking/marketing. Asking your peer in the industry is a great place to start but don’t forget about the people who make it their business to know about this specific subject. Combine the two in your research. Often times the books and classes will try to hit everyone as equals, so combine what might be working for your peers and what the networking professional has to offer.
9. Start Local
Be a regular somewhere local to you. This might even be something you already do, great! Just make sure they know what you do. Don’t just be Norm that comes in to get an extra-large coffee with cream and 3 sugars, be Norm the amazing illustrator that lives right here in our neighborhood. This might open up some local opportunities through word of mouth. This means you’ll have to strike up a conversation once in a while. Not dissimilar to the online participation suggestion.
This last idea isn’t so much about networking as it is about who people think they are networking with. You don’t want to have them remember to forget you ASAP. It’s a fairly simple idea, be nice. You don’t want a bad attitude doing some damaging networking for you. It’s not always easy, especially if you’re like me and wear your heart on your sleeve. It might take more thought and action than you might realize at times, but it will be worth it in the end.
As a final note, networking is an action. It doesn’t happen all by itself.