As I am preparing for my new role at the Yale School of Music as Coordinator of Career Strategies, I have been talking to a number of people in the field who are also devoted to helping musicians succeed in their careers. This week alone, I have had 3 conversations about networking and how critical it is to career success. Most musicians know this. Yet, so often they are reluctant to do start networking because of an underlying fear about networking. In my classes and private sessions, I often hear how scared people are to network because they think that they have to “sell” themselves. If that’s the predominant thought, no wonder people shy away from networking! So it’s important to come up with a new way of thinking about networking:
Connect + Share + Be Relevant
Not so hard, right?
In fact, when I introduce this concept to my students and my clients, I hear a collective sigh of relief in the room! And once they have a new way of thinking about networking, it becomes much easier to embrace the principles and start networking.
It takes time to create an effective network so be patient. You are investing in long-term results. Isn’t that how you became an exceptional musician? You know how to practice and prepare. Networking is another skill that takes time as you create an effective strategy and break it down into manageable bits.
Why is this long-term process important?
Many of my successful performer and composer friends had many a door opened for them by people whom they met at their conservatories and summer festivals. It was not simply meeting these people that did the trick. Rather, they made a connection, they kept in touch over the years and developed a relationship. And once that relationship was forged, it became a natural extension of the relationship for the older, more experienced person to help out and make an introduction or a recommendation when the appropriate opportunity arose.
In a nutshell, you can pave the way to effortless and effective networking by following these 4 steps:
- Be relevant to the people in your network
Let’s take a closer look.
I have previously written about how to create your network by thinking about the people whom you want to know and starting with the people you already know. Once you have decided on the type of people you want to meet through networking, it is important to be prepared.
When you attend events, do your homework! Know who is sponsoring the event. Read program brochures and see who the board members and sponsors are. These are the people who carry deeply about music and the arts. They want to meet you!
Decide on your goal. One goal is to target specific people whom you want to meet. Another goal might be to connect with a specific number of new people or to learn specific information. Keep that goal in mind as you attend events where you are likely to meet new people.
In your early stages of networking, start with someone safe, perhaps a friend or someone whom you have previously met, who is talking to someone new.
Find areas of common interest, ask questions, listen and show genuine interest in that person. If you do meet someone “famous”, tell the person what impact he or she is having on you. Many famous people enjoy hearing from their admirers. The more specific you can be about what you admire about this person, the more likely you are to continue the conversation
If you are not connecting with the person, shake hands and move on to someone else. You are not going to connect with every person you meet. In fact, some people are simply not receptive to networking. Remember that for such people, it is not about you so you need not take it personally if they do not want to speak to you!
Provide information and/or share contacts that could be interesting or useful to the person whom you are speaking with. If you feel that you have made a nice connection and you see an opening, tell the person something about yourself. It helps to have your Elevator Speech ready so that you can communicate in a few short sentences what you do that is unique and how you are connected to the person whom you are speaking with.
Above all, be authentic and be yourself!
4. Be Relevant
Once you have made a connection with someone whom you would like to stay in touch with, ask the person if you can contact him or her again.
- Have a business card handy with your name, title and contact information.
- Be sure to follow-up with everyone whom you made a connection with.
- Send out written thank-you notes to everyone who helps you.
- Keep the person informed about what you are doing.
And what if your efforts fall flat?
Move on. Figure out what part of your approach did not work and try something new the next time.
Networking takes practice so the more you do it, the better you will get! And remember that you are in it for the long haul so take it slowly and know that you are investing in your future success.