And every time they said it, I had to resist the urge to poke them in the eye.
Get yourself out there? What does that even mean?!
Though I received years of quality professional training in my craft, art school offered little assistance as to what to do when you ACTUALLY graduated and were sucked out of the space station and shot out into the Real World. (As if the world we'd been busting ass to achieve and survive in was the Fake World: living on PopTarts and cough syrup while working multiple minimum wage jobs was merely a fever dream endured as a result of taking the blue pill...)
Just get yourself out there.
It can be especially daunting for creative folks: How do we even talk to humans? How do we "get ourselves out there"?
Networking doesn't have to be scary, calculated or laborious:
It's about growing, making magic and building support webs.
Do what feels right for you!
After years of serious belly flops and sweet successes I have collected a pocket full of practical networking tips for creatives.
Make Meaningful ConnectionsAfter attending several "speed networking" events, it quickly occurred to me that exchanging numbers with a room full of bored vinyl siding salesmen wasn't a productive use of my time. But all connections are good connections, right?
Though it was exciting to wear a pants suit and practice my elevator speech, none of these people were ever going to call me, and I wasn't going to call them either. And that's okay.
Meaningful connections come through real conversations. In my experience, most of my truly valuable contacts grew organically.
Friend Harvesting Doesn't WorkHaving 8,000 friends on Facebook may be a confidence booster on a bad hair day of helpful if you've forgotten your birthday, but doesn't mean much on a professional level if none of those people contact you, refer you, purchase from you or are regularly inspired by you and partake in the conversation.
Social Media can be quite magical. However, don't forget to make friends in this dimension. :)
Professional Organizations Do WorkThere are TONS of free (or inexpensive) professional organizations available to help you meet real earthlings with real businesses. (One of my favorite resources is LinkedIn!) Networking isn't always just about meeting clients, but also about being part of a Brain Trust that can help you seek out mentors and collaborators.
Biz Card WizardryA well designed quality card with the correct information is a networking magic wand! That little card is valuable real estate: you can tell people what you do, what you're like, where you're from and where to find you and put it directly into their hand!
Personalization is KEY. Include your picture, an example of your work, textures, bedazzles, scratch'n'sniff holograms...
Make your card a pocket mirror version of yourself.
Whether they are printed from home, handmade or ordered from a service--give them out like candy.
The Elevator SpeechAn "elevator speech" is a brief description (usually 30 seconds or less) of what you do that can be whipped out at a cocktail party, professional mixer or in line at the coffee shop.
Example: "HerSpeak is a Girl Positive blog and line of handmade products designed to help women and girls exercise their right to a kick ass life!"
Write it down. Practice it.
That way, if you are nervous--you'll be able to tell them about your skills before you throw up.
What networking techniques do you use? Comment to share with the class!