Networking has always been a crucial element to one’s professional success, only that nowadays people make a fuss about it and sometimes mix up the subtleties of networking with bland self-propagation.
Like it or not, it is absolutely true that networks help you in your career. After all, they help you in every life situation: if a pipe bursts in your kitchen you are better off knowing someone trustworthy who will recommend you someone who is willing to come over out of hours and fix it both properly and for a decent price. If they give you their private mobile number, even better. Some countries in fact only work like this... And you might be surprised to learn that even here in Switzerland it helps to know the right people, just to make things simpler and faster… Especially when a pipe needs fixing…
I suppose it is totally natural: you would always ask your parents or siblings for advice, you might have an uncle or a cousin who is in a particular business and since you know him well and know how to take his advice, you automatically ask him, rather than google and talk to the person who pops up first in the internet and for what you know might try and cheat you.
So basically, I suppose, networking is about trust, reliability and efficiency.
There are many ways of networking, more or less refined. Even by reading this blog and surfing about this particular platform you are engaged in a kind of networking ☺
I myself am not very good at what one considers the most effective way of networking: turning up at prestigious events – premieres, receptions, galas -, going backstage after concerts to present yourself to people who might not remember you (or even know you), and especially to gatecrash at after-show parties that are considered crucial to draw attention to yourself.
In my self-deprecating way, I tell myself that most of these events are boring, embarrassing, humiliating. But sometimes you are positively surprised and it turns out you actually enjoy them! And sometimes you even get a chance to talk to someone about the matter you want to propagate. And you even meet nice people!
Often, it is actually not the person you had hoped to intrigue who grants you his or her attention but someone completely different. So be open to all encounters and make the effort to appear at such events. At least from time to time.
It helps when you already know a couple of people attending. So maybe just take a friend along. But be careful not to spend all evening talking to your friend. After all, the idea is to network.
Even simply to be seen by other people leaves an impression. If they never see you, they assume you do not exist or you are not interested. Like people studying opera at the conservatoire but never encountered at the opera house... For myself, I am prejudiced enough to think that those students simply don’t care and are too arrogant to understand how important it is to go to „real“ concerts and opera performances. Thus I would never ask them to take part in an event I am producing.
Often it is enough to nod to someone or say „good evening“. It builds your self-esteem. Try and talk to that person next time. But don’t lay it off for too long.
In general, be most aware of the fact that you are networking all the time. Often, it is simple things: be nice and considerate to everyone! My venerable great-aunt, Dame Fanny Waterman, says „everyone you meet on the way up you meet again on the way down…“.
Be conscientious and reliable. Take notice of people – greet them, thank them. Try and remember what they are called (there are techniques!). Make sure they understood your own name – sometimes simply by saying it slowly and clearly, or by repeating it discretely at an appropriate moment.
Remember with whom you were networking! I find that the older I get, I tend to not grasp names, to forget them immediately, and recently I’ve begun to forget faces… It is horrible! But I tell myself that with ever changing fashions, hairstyles and colour of hair, newly grown beards and shaved skulls, hipster spectacles and contact lenses, it is not so easy to keep up with the permanent make-overs of people. I mean, Karajan always looked like Karajan, right? Or Oistrakh like Oistrakh. Until very recently, our bodies were not art galleries sporting regularly changing temporary exhibitions…